JumpStart into Coding: Nashville Software School
Before I took the Nashville Software School’s JumpStart class, the most coding I had done was on my calculator in 9th grade. The course is a mere three weeks long and totals 33 hours of one’s time. It meets Saturdays from 9:00 am-2:00 pm, Monday and Wednesdays from 6:00 pm-9:00 pm.
Who takes this class?
My JumpStart class had ten students, one teacher, and four TAs. My classmates ranged from bartenders trying to learn a more stable skill in the time of COVID, to marines returning from duty to me, a former teacher looking to switch career paths.
What does this class teach?
The class provides front-end development in the languages of HTML, CSS, and JAVA. I had no idea what that meant either when I started. HTML is the language that tells computers what words are displayed on a website. CSS is the language that tells computers what those words should look like (font, borders, backgrounds, etc.).
And Java is the language that allows people to interact with a website. For example, Java enables people to click on items on your website. By the end of the three weeks, I was able to create my very own website from scratch.
What is this class like?
The class has no homework, no out-of-class reading, and no grades. You get out of it whatever you put into it. It is structured perfectly for true beginners who just want to dip their toes into coding.
The teacher spends about 15 minutes going over a few commands and explains what the commands do and how to use them. Then the teacher takes about 15-30 minutes coding themselves and plays around with those commands.
For instance, one small section of a class was spent on the CSS commands for creating borders around the text. The teacher showed everyone how to make the border solid or dotted, how to increase its thickness, and how to put a background within that border.
After the demonstration, its time for the students to work. There is a 30 min individual mini-challenge. The challenge walks you through using the commands and makes you think about how you can apply it.
There are always TA’s available to help if you are confused. One mini-challenge for Java had the class create a button that displays text when you click on it. When about 75% of the class finishes the assignment, the teacher goes over the answer.
Nashville Software School uses the group messaging app Slack. It provides every member of my group, the teacher and the TA’s included, a platform to chat. Slack was a great way to ask questions when not in class and is an even better way to network when the class is over. NSS is upfront about the importance of networking in finding a job, and Slack allows people to stay in touch without exchanging numbers.
Lastly, I should point out that the course emphasizes how to self-study afterward. NSS provides tools and websites to learn and practice after the three weeks are up. There are thousands of YouTube tutorials online, but part of this JumpStart course is to give you the vocabulary and the agency to watch those videos without feeling overwhelmed. It is well worth the $650 price tag.