At Boot.dev we’ve launched “community insights”! Insights make it possible for our students to drop comments at the bottom of any step in our coding courses. We’ve quickly found that we have amazing students, and it’s much better for everyone if we give them tools to help each other more directly.
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🔗 Why insights?
We’ve been tossing around a few different ideas for awhile, including:
- A generic comment system
- Making the course content editable by students
- Pushing exercise-related conversations into our Discord community
Instead, we decided on this “strict top-level comments” version of insights for our first version for a few reasons that we’ll explore below.
🔗 Generic comment systems deteriorate in quality
It is important to us that when a student sees user-generated comments that relate to the exercise they’re working on, they only see the best and most relevant comments. There are 2 reasons a generic comment system doesn’t provide the best experience in a learning environment.
- The comments will frequently be off topic. Someone will inevitably start reporting bugs or providing unsolicited solutions.
- The conversation drags on, and it’s hard to get the terse, high quality insights to the top.
Our approach with insights is to prompt our students to only leave comments that provide additional insights into the material being learned in that moment. We also have future plans to crowd-source the quality of the insights on any given exercise via an upvote/downvote system.
🔗 Editable course content doesn’t solve our primary need
We may still go down this path in the future, we love the idea of Wikipedia-style openness in the curriculum. The trouble is that it doesn’t solve the immediate need of our learners: they want to hear multiple-perspectives about each given topic. It’s great that we can teach how a binary tree works, but it is so much more powerful to hear from others how they sped up a production application by 10x at their dayjob by implementing a BST instead of a list.
🔗 Discord conversations
We do have a Discord server that we love, but the majority of students miss the best insights because they are only posted once in a chat channel, and then effectively disappear forever. We will continue to grow and use our Discord community, but we need to be realistic about the its limitations. Not every online conversation is best had over real-time chat.
🔗 How this fits into our methodology
Two of the points we make in our methodology, which you can read all about here, are:
- Learning the “soft lessons” from mentors is as important as grokking cold-hard facts.
- There is something magical about learning with others.
As always, we’ll continue to update our methodology as we learn from our students, and we’ll continue to update our platform to better align with it.