At Masai School, it was day 1 for Nrupul Dev, the Cofounder and CTO. On the 10th of June, 2019 when the team was looking forward to hosting Masai School’s first class ever, the problem statement on paper was pretty simple – skill the students until they reach an employable level.
Keeping the industry standards and requirements in mind, Nrupul had planned the curriculum accordingly. He built his first class’ structure which was for about one hour. The class was about using Git and writing command lines, and any typical student should be able to follow the instructions and learn the desired output within this one hour’s class. Or at least, that was what Nrupul had imagined.
But this one-hour class went on for 8 hours straight, and the students were not able to complete the objectives. This was only the first batch of students on their first day at Masai School.
Nrupul says, “We thought it is only going to be an easier task to skill these students and the problem statements were not that hard on paper. The reason was also simple – our understanding of the skill levels with which the students would come, was nowhere close to the skills actually turned out to be.”
The skills he might have expected from the students was not what was in reality, but it only came off as a surprise about the whole education system. He understood that it is an entirely different ball-game altogether, to be able to take these aspiring developers on a Zero-to-One journey.
That wrapped up the first day for both Nrupul and the students alike. He built a course structure for two weeks, and had no choice but to rehash it completely before he started the second day of the course. This led the team to build a system that runs on Mastery-based Progression (MBP).
Masai’s Mastery-based Progression
If a Masai School student is climbing a mountain, the summit he or she would reach has a job of Rs 5 LPA. Students who climb it are often from diverse backgrounds and many different circumstances and walks of life. Some may already have a bit of experience in mountaineering, while some may hike with a child, and some may have trouble breathing at higher altitudes.
But for all of them to reach the summit, they would need the asynchronicity to finish their journeys in their own time. The result was Mastery-based Progression (MBP), with which every Masai School student moves ahead during the courses. This means that the students are allowed to continue working on a learning objective until they achieve it and before they move on to the next challenge.
Rather than having the students withdraw from the programs, Nrupul and the rest of the team wanted to offer flexibility and opportunity to students who need additional time or support to develop the skills that are taught.
But building a structure like this has not been easy either.
When ex-developers became teachers
Allocating the necessary human resources for every batch, who would rightly adapt with the mindset of the students was a challenge. In every batch, there were students who came with zero skills and those who came with enough knowledge. Streamlining this process while bringing all the students under one roof meant that a lot of external factors also had to be taken into consideration.
Besides, the instructors and the teaching faculty were first-time teachers. It was initially hard to get good technical faculty as practitioners while making sure they were already working as full-time developers. It was a conscious choice to go with developers who know and understand what it takes to survive in the industry, and how to keep up with the ever-evolving trends.
The staff at Masai School were all previously working as software developers, and this was their first time venturing into teaching as a profession. Aligning these unique job roles with the students is what led to the birth of the curriculum team at Masai School, led by Nrupul.
“For people who had spent anywhere between 4 to 15 years as senior software developers, to get out of their comfort zone and spend hours trying to teach coding to students with zero teaching experience, was definitely an uphill task.” ~ according to Nrupul.
The auto-pilot mode
But as the curriculum evolved and as the team expanded, Nrupul’s biggest learning was around developing surplus amounts of patience. For a long time, Nrupul was busy aligning the team members together, while trying to ensure that the pace at which the students are learning is also evenly balanced.
Thanks to most of these efforts, things largely run on auto-pilot while Nrupul continues to focus on the larger vision and objectives, like helping students get into newer careers.
The current team that Nrupul handles is the largest he has ever handled in his professional career so far. As the cofounder and CTO, he certainly had to push his own limits, delve into uncertainty, and get his hands dirty.
“But the kind of impact we were creating through all this hard work, the success of our students at the end of the course, and how well they are able to perform, it just makes it all worth it. There are obviously some days when I am low on energy levels. But there are also some messages once in every 15 days from the alumni that say that we have changed their lives. If not anything, it only pushes us to do more and more everyday.”