Lambda School knows that becoming a software engineer or data scientist is a challenging journey, much like reaching the summit of a mountain. Each climber moves at their own pace and requires specific equipment to get to the top. But Lambda knows that with flexibility, anyone determined enough to reach the top can do it.
To help students on their journey, Lambda School’s Flex Program gives students the extra time needed to build a solid foundation of knowledge and master skills before moving forward to a new unit.
When students flex, they repeat a unit. This means the Lambda Flex Program allows students to repeat content as needed, allowing students to learn at their own pace if a particular concept has been challenging or if life gets in the way of their learning. Students can repeat each unit a maximum of two times, allowing for a more immersive and supportive experience the second time around. In this way, the Flex Program functions as a self-paced coding bootcamp within Lambda School, giving students the extra time and support needed to repeat content as necessary.
During flex time, instructors will give a student extra help and guidance including support hours and academic success planning to achieve the necessary skills to progress to the next unit. Although this will extend a student’s time at Lambda School (four weeks for full-time students and eight weeks for part-time students), moving students conclusively into the cohort behind them, it will not impact the terms of their Income Share Agreement (ISA) and will give them the time to focus on the skills needed to avoid being withdrawn from the program.
According to Lambda alumni Xander Bennett, Client Data Onboarding Specialist at AfinTech, an educational experience should demand a certain level of flexibility.
Lambda School is an online coding program invested in student success. Lambda aims to “unlock potential regardless of circumstance,” meaning industry leaders on staff do everything they can to help students succeed and prevent them from withdrawing, even if it takes two attempts to pass a unit. Further, flexing is common. Fifteen percent of Lambda alumni have flexed at least once, and it is seen by students as an opportunity to deepen skills rather than a failure. After all, knowing students have a safety harness while climbing the steepest parts of the mountain can grow their self-confidence and let them climb more challenging and rewarding trails as an aspiring software engineer or data scientist.
“The Flex Program helped a lot because if I missed a week or was behind on a set of projects I knew I had a landing pad,” said web developer and Lambda alumni Jerrard Smith. “While I knew it was available, the staff continuously encouraged our growth and did everything they could to keep us on track.”
Additionally, Lambda School wants students to feel confident in their skills and abilities every step of the way, knowing that making consistent progress and mastering each skill builds upon the next and is essential to crafting top engineers in the field. As long as students are putting in the work and making progress, Lambda will consider students right on track.
“I flexed week three of unit two. I already knew stuff in the early weeks but being able to see it and go through it again was amazing,” said Lambda alumni Ryan Cooper, Apprentice Software Engineer for Maestro. “I was like, ‘how did I struggle with this the first time? Now it makes sense to me,’ because I got to take time to study and process it. That was a great feeling. I just needed a little bit of extra time and breathing room to feel comfortable moving forward and beat back that impostor syndrome.”
Lambda School instructors will help gage whether flexing will be helpful or appropriate for each student related to a specific subject matter. Instructors will use data from various checkpoints in each unit such as:
1. Sprint Challenges
2. Build Weeks
These markers help Lambda instructors gain a more complete understanding of a students’ knowledge base and whether they may need additional support and practice to achieve learning objectives. Once instructors know where the learning challenges are, they will proactively reach out to the student to make a plan, giving each student who chooses to flex concrete unit level expectations for passing the unit the second time around.
Conversely, students do not need to be falling behind to flex and can proactively choose to flex at any time if they feel they need additional support or if things happen in a students’ personal life and they need to take a temporary step back to manage a medical, personal, or family issue. If students wish to flex, they can reach out to their Student Success Coordinator in their Slack cohort channel who will help coordinate flexing the unit.
Lambda School student expectations for moving forward through each unit checkpoint typically include:
While at Lambda School, students are encouraged to treat attendance, participation, and assignment deadlines like they would in a real-world work environment to better prepare them for future workplace expectations. If students require extra time to complete an assignment, however, Lambda will accept some resubmissions on a case-by-case basis in order for instructors to best gage a students’ learning and progress toward mastery. Of note, Lambda will only accept resubmissions prior to the deadline of Sprint 4, unless otherwise communicated in a particular unit such as CS, Labs, or Unit 4.
Based on where students are in their learning objectives, Lambda instructors will recommend one of three flex categories:
Typically, students fall in the first two categories, putting them in charge of the pace of their hike up the mountain. Will students choose to push themselves and walk faster to learn the material and catch up with their cohort, avoiding flexing altogether? Or slow down to consult the map by flexing? Lambda wants students to do what’s best in order to learn and retain the information so they have the stamina to reach the top and get hired as a developer, data scientist, or engineer.
If flexing is the best option, students will still be encouraged to finish out the remainder of their current unit before repeating the unit for the second time. This is for the benefit of the student who is flexing and can help prepare them for the material ahead. By showing up, participating, asking questions, and submitting assignments to the best of their ability, instructors will best be able to see how to support their learning the second time around.
Many students at Lambda School view flexing as an added bonus – a chance to get more individualized instruction with concepts that were too complicated to grasp the first time but too important to miss.
According to Bennett, the fact that Lambda School is focused on mastery-based learning is a great asset in comparison to traditional college where repeating curriculum demands significantly more time and financial resources. This makes the Flex Program a great asset.
Other Lambda students recognize the value in self-directed learning when you need it most.
“I’ve never heard somebody say they regret flexing. Not once. If you flex, it’s an opportunity in so many areas of your life to learn, to tackle something that has taken you extra time, to demonstrate your diligence, and to ultimately exercise your ability to learn at your own pace,” said Bennett. “I love it. I think flexing is a great idea, and many people who have been hired out of Lambda have flexed. It’s not a badge of shame. It’s a badge of honor.”