Learn programming the agile way

02/11/2021

6 min read

The agile approach relies on self-organising, cross-functional teams, and is a reactive, flexible way of doing software development. Let’s see how it can help you when learning programming.

agile programming

The agile way of working is not just a buzzword in the world of IT, it’s a widely used development approach.

But what is it about agile that makes it so effective? And why is it so beneficial to use it while you learn programming? Also, how is it possible to incorporate it into your learning path?

First, let’s see where agile is coming from and let’s discuss what it really means.

Table of Contents

The world went agile for a reason

Agile is a collaborative approach to software development where the business needs and solutions evolve with time through iterations. Believe it or not, there was a time when this approach was not so universally accepted. More “traditional” development methods like Waterfall were the baseline, but these often missed out on the “human” element. Ken Schwaber, cofounder of Scrum and founder of Scrum.org famously said that Waterfall “made it so people were viewed as resources rather than valuable participants” and that it “quite ruined” his profession for good.

Around the time of the millennium, developers have long felt the need for a different type of method that could improve the way people develop software. So on a historic night in 2001 outside Salt Lake City, a group of 17 developers came together to discuss possible solutions. They were all representatives of different methods like Extreme Programming, DSDM, or Adaptive Software Development, and had one goal in mind: to develop an organisational model based on people and collaboration.

They wanted to find common ground among their different approaches, and the end result is what we now call the “Manifesto for Agile Software Development”, or the Agile Manifesto, which is like a Declaration of Independence for the coding community. Though agile had a very rich history long before the manifesto, this was the most defining moment for the methodology.

What does agile mean?

Agile relies on self-organising, cross-functional teams, and it’s a more reactive, more flexible way of doing software development. The four basic agile values in agile are:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

As you can see, agile prioritises the human element and holds customer satisfaction above all. And if we look at the numbers, it’s clear that it’s really working. More than 70% of companies worldwide adopted agile, and it helped 98% of those companies to reach their business goals.

Why? Because it enables development teams to create better products by changing specifications and designs on time. Teams can also get up-to-date feedback from customers, and test parts of the product as the development goes. Mistakes or changes in business needs can peacefully coexist with the initial plans, and everything can be dealt with on time.

This overall philosophy leads to more productive teams, higher quality products, and satisfied customers

Scrum is just the tip of the iceberg

There are a lot of different frameworks or tools you could use to implement agile values. You could use Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming, Lean, or Crystal – the list goes on. You might’ve heard about one or two, but the most popular one among companies is definitely Scrum.

Scrum is characterised by:
– cycles or stages of development – known as sprints
– high transparency
– better visibility, and
– the exceptional quality of the final product.

Scrum helps teams work better together and encourages everyone involved in the process to learn through experience while allowing time to reflect on wins and losses

Now let’s explore Scrum ceremonies and framework in detail by checking how Codecoolers learn and work using this methodology.

The benefits of learning with Scrum

Most companies do software development in an agile way now. If you want to start an IT career, consider learning the agile way of working too, not just programming. It could be super beneficial to be in the know before you apply for your first tech job. 

How? Learning by doing may be the most effective way to learn programming, too. We think that learning by doing programming in agile projects, along with agile principles and an agile framework is even better.

Besides building your hard skills and knowledge of technologies and programming languages, by working in agile projects, you can gain routine in the way programmers actually work at agile companies.

You can also boost your soft skills by practicing and learning agile time management, effective presentations, and assertive communication techniques. The method helps you adopt a growth mindset, too, and learn that making mistakes, fixing them, and learning from experience is a natural part of the development process.

Scrum in action at Codecool

At Codecool we use the below elements from the Scrum methodology applied to our Full-Stack Development course:

  • Sprints (with ceremonies like planning, standups, reviews, retros, demos),
  • the Sprint Backlog and the Product Backlog, and
  • the Scrum Master and the Product Owner.

Let’s see how we incorporate these in our learning methodology for the best results!

Sprints
A sprint is a time-boxed period when a scrum team aims to complete a set amount of work.

Just like professional development teams, our students work in one or two-week-long sprints to deliver their current projects.

On self-instructed weeks, they deepen their knowledge on their own with available help from mentors. This setup supports our mastery-based learning method because it improves individual learning and teaches how to take ownership.

After self-instructed weeks students work in teams where they get closer to the demands of a workplace. They plan, work, and reap the fruits of success together with teammates, and get to improve valuable soft skills like effective communication, conflict resolution, and more.

Sprint planning
Development teams do the detailed planning of the sprint together to kick off the project. During the planning, the team defines what they can deliver in the sprint and how they will achieve it. Codecoolers do the planning and create the sprint backlog on Monday. 

Product backlog / Sprint backlog
A Product Backlog is a priority list derived from the project roadmap and the requirements set by the team and the customer upfront. The most important tasks are shown at the top of the product backlog. At Codecool, mentors act as Product Owners, so usually they create and maintain the product backlog.

Sprint backlogs contain those tasks from the Product Backlog that are planned to be carried out during the specific sprint. Sprint backlogs at Codecool are created by the student teams.

Scrum Master / Product Owner
This title belongs to the person who facilitates Scrum to the team. A Scrum Master is committed to Scrum values and principles and ensures that the framework is followed.

At Codecool, students select a Scrum Master from among themselves, after planning the tasks and priorities for the sprint. This role will rotate weekly so that everyone can try their hand at it.

It’s the Scrum Master’s job to administrate the team’s progress and to keep in contact with the Product Owner. If there are questions emerging or unexpected difficulties, the Scrum Master administrates and moves things further. Scrum Masters in Codecool teams also do hands-on development themselves.

At Codecool, mentors act as Product Owners, and usually they create and maintain the product backlog.

Daily standups
From Tuesdays to Thursdays students have their implementation days when they get to do the development planned out for the sprint. Each morning, they have daily standups, facilitated by the Scrum Master, where they align on daily tasks and discuss where the project’s at.

Sprint reviews
During sprint reviews, development teams have a chance to check the sprint’s product, and demo the working app or feature to the customer.

Fridays are for Demo Days at Codecool, and these days provide an opportunity to reflect upon the work that has been done during the sprint. Students demo the result of the sprint in front of teammates, and – in the latter stages of the Full-Stack Development course – in front of real customers (guest from Codecool’s hiring partner companies).

The focus at demos is always on practising presentation skills, giving detailed, constructive feedback, and discussing learnings.

Retrospectives
Retrospective meetings are held to reflect upon the past. They give teams a chance to learn from the setbacks that they encountered, and an opportunity to improve for the future. They usually happen at the end of sprints.

After the Friday demos, students always hold a retrospective meeting facilitated by the Scrum Master, where they derive the learnings for themselves, from the project of the sprint.

Learn programming the Codecool way

Our Full-Stack Development course is designed to simulate lifelike work scenarios because our method aims to bring education closer to the workplace. And you don’t need any special skills or abilities to start. You can go for the course as a beginner, and even take advantage of our job guarantee and post-payment method combo to secure your future!

You’ll have the help of professional, experienced mentors throughout your learning journey. You’ll learn with a method that fosters deep learning and growth. And through real-life inspired projects and scenarios, you’ll learn software development in the most effective, fun way possible.

Reach out if you have any questions because we’d love to hear from you! Join Codecool, and get to a new IT career in a year.

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