Alternative course format ideas

@mkopinsky tweeted this interesting idea at me today:

I think this idea makes a lot of sense, particularly because I’ve noticed that a number of folks are completing the course at their own pace anyway (I’m fine with that, by the way).

What do you think of the following for v2 of the course?

  • There is no fixed schedule with emails going out M-F. Instead, you have a progress dashboard where you mark a lesson as complete. This unlocks the next lesson, regardless of time. We remove the “30-day” part of the challenge. It’s on your schedule now.
  • You still have unrestricted access to the forum.

Do you think this change would make you more or less likely to complete more of the exercises?


Some thoughts:

  • I think the timeboxed “30-day” idea probably gets more people in the door of the course, since it’s appealing to focus hard on something for a set period of time.
  • Making the course self-paced might mean more people complete it because they don’t feel guilt about falling behind. Also, more people might binge their way through the whole thing (this would also be a win).
  • Maybe self-pacing would upset some of the “we’re in this together” community feel?
  • Providing a dashboard that can be shared might make the course more appealing to teams. You can “race” each other.
  • Maybe there should be an overall leaderboard too?
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Here’s my thoughts about this:

  • Would lower the churn rate through the course, but feeling behind, even without time-constraints, can cause quitting.
  • Agree with the fact that “30-days” will get more people in.
  • As I’m doing this alone, I cannot say if a “race” would be more fun for teams, but I do not believe it should be implemented for individual users.
  • Leaderboards should not allow to get past the current day count. I believe it should display which users are on-par with the 30-days course. Having users power-game through the course would probably be demotivating to the rest.
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  • Also agree the “30 days” gets more people in the door.

  • Personally, I like having a small tasks each day. I feel like even if I can continue to make small improvements to READMEs or tests or anything else beyond the 30 days, it’s a huge win for the code I work on and the people who I work with. I like the pattern I am building into my day. But I see the value of taking it in bulk to make improvements and learn things. Any forward progress toward maintainability is a win!

  • Totally agree with @grasseh about only having a display that doesn’t get past current day count. I would be one to be discouraged if I saw many people who had plowed through, while I worked at a pace.

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It would not impact my attitude towards the course. Happy to trial this as part of the course we’re running through. We’re sort of half way, doing the second half in a different way might give you enough data to make a choice. Or you could run a second cohort in that model and see the difference.

I think having a dashboard and the forum might be confusing if in the forum there are all the exercises. Where’s the surprise in that? But that might just be me. Setting up a full on dashboard with an embedded forum for each challenge sounds like quite a bit of work.

What I like about the daily exercises it that’s it’s building an habit of doing something little every day to make the codebase better. The compound effect of that will be huge.

Sort of like Katrina Owen’s Therapeutic Refactoring or your daily tool sharpening.

This is the biggest takeaway of this course for me right now.

That and the people I’m getting to know in the forum :smile:.

If I put myself in your shoes @ben, and think about what would get the most people in the course, maybe making the format more flexible makes sense.

What about something like Coursea does? You can go through the challenges at your own pace, but there are still deadlines, so that people can get that extra kick of motivation?

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I like the 30 day time release schedule, but the move at your own pace is kind of appealing. However, I do think the move at your own pace removes the community aspect and make this more of a lone wolf kind of challenge. It is already but I enjoy seeing a bunch of posts on each day and receiving an email prompting me to do something. It feels more like personal training and less like you bought a gym membership and there are machines you can work when you feel like it. Also I think seeing 1 or two posts trickle in over the entire 30 days for each topic would ruin the feel of logging in an seeing 10-15 posts in a thread for that day, that feeling of seeing everyone else crushing it motivates me to do more, and participate.

Just my thoughts.

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I disagree with the new approach tweeted personally. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be right for others.

Here’s the biggest core-competency of this cohort for me: it gets me to think about code quality at least for a little bit every work day for thirty days. It also gets me to engage with others about code quality a little bit every day for thirty days.

Hopefully after this cohort finishes I not only know the new techniques but have a built up habit of taking time to think about code quality.

If I bust out 15 of these in an afternoon I sort-of gain the learning of the fifteen but lose the good-habit building. It would be like working out for 10 hours instead of half an hour for twenty days.

Also, secondarily, binge-consumption would effectively eliminate 90% of the community aspect. If people want to hop in at their own pace they can, but I see the biggest value in the 30 day approach.

Just my two cents.


I agree 100% that the challenges should remain small, approximately 20 minutes in size. I also think that there should be some sort of gamification incentive e.g. streaks encouraging people to do it daily. But for those of us who struggle with daily habits in general, it feels a WHOLE lot better to say “today I did a CQC exercise and now I have 3 green checks instead of 2” than “today I did last Wednesday’s CQC exercise, now I’m only 8 days behind instead of 9”.

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I also agree with others (e.g. @schwad) in the thread, that for some people the 30-day approach is better. All I’m saying is that it doesn’t really work for me.

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:thinking: I like that - the “3 green checks instead of 2” concept. Currently, I am kind of in that boat. After a solid 7 days unplug vacation with the family for the holidays, I am feeling behind on last week’s CQCs and honestly a little bummed. Having it be less bound to days and more to accomplishments could definitely alleviate this.

Also agree with @mokagio’s thoughts on “@ben’s shoes”, that if I were running this I would want as many people as possible to participate, learn, and really get something out of the exercises.

I am probably suffering from my own cognitive bias in terms of what works for me and what I like, rather than what might be the best solution for the general development community.

Might even be worth trying in the latter half of the month with this group. The enthusiasm and participation of this group has been phenomenal! And we are already here, so you know we are likely down to try new things.

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I’m personally getting a lot out of seeing the same faces in the forum day after day. Doing this in a self-paced way could be fine if I feel like I’m getting good encouragement from my colleagues at work, but it’s also nice to see what other people are doing daily.

TL;DR: I’m seeing a big benefit from the daily deadlines and community and don’t believe I’d be as motivated in a self-paced environment.


I’d echo what nick is saying here, I think the community is a big part of why I’m sticking with it (though I’ve fallen a bit behind) - if it were self-paced, especially this time of year, I’d surely have dropped out by now.

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