Skillab is three courses old.

The following explains some of what we learnt through running the first three iterations.

Course one: November 2012

The curriculum structure was designed by a small group of mentors. The course style was designed by Octavia Hirst, who led the first iteration – a 6 week course, with one two hour class each week.

Successes: Everyone enjoyed the programme, both the mentors and participants. It was experimental and engaging. The ‘problem-based’ sessions worked well. The mid and end-of-course feedback was effective at communicating the necessary improvements.

Failures: The price point was too low causing attendance to drop off sharply, with only 2 out of 8 participants making it to the end. The curriculum needed refining and more structure.


Ben Greenaway working with a student on a difficult problem.

Course two: January 2013

This time, Ben Greenaway was brought on to design the curriculum and session plans, to improve the structure and give more rigour to the programme. The price of the course was increased in order to improve attendance and retention.

Successes: We changed the session plans midway through the course to account for feedback, and to make them more problem based (having reverted to a more lecture style as a backlash to the previous). This was hugely better, and the feedback was fantastic at the end. Several students went on to use the skills they learnt in the workplace, from a QA professional who passed an internal exam, to an advertising exec who felt more able to manage a technical project.

Failures: The material still needed some work, and the space that we were donated was a little too small for our needs.


Brainstorming ideas on how to write a technical brief.

Course three: June 2013

We moved in to a new space at Makers Academy (where one of our ex students now works!) which was a great and welcoming new home. In class, we switched browsers for the extra debugging and development tools. We also developed a simple animations and HTML document training tool called ‘Skillib’ which we have yet to show to any students. You can find it in our Github.

Successes: An article ewas written about us in Web & PHP and as a result, three new mentors volunteered over the following four months having found us through the free advertising that they also provided us with.

Failures: We found that students struggled to use the forum to ask questions which is something we will continue to explore. We did learn that 6 students were enough to keep the classroom conversations and support structure going.