Looking Back at the First Year of Creating the DockYard Academy

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Brooklin Myers

Elixir Educator

Brooklin Myers

I’m Brooklin Myers, the lead instructor and creator of the DockYard Academy. The DockYard Academy exists to bridge the gap between aspiring developers and the demand for Elixir talent.

When we first met in January 2022, DockYard CEO Brian Cardarella and I recognized a shortage of junior Elixir developers to meet the industry’s hiring needs. The Elixir talent pool is top-heavy, and companies struggle to find qualified candidates. To address this gap, we launched the DockYard Academy to train and empower more Elixir developers.

After months of planning and building a new curriculum from scratch, I started teaching a beta cohort in 2022, followed by our first full-time cohort in early 2023. Over the course of several months, we’ve taken student feedback and community input, adjusted the DockYard Academy curriculum, and formed it into a course built by Elixirists to prepare a new generation of qualified Elixir developers.

As we prepare to wrap up our first full-time cohort and launch our second on June 1, I took the opportunity to reflect back on the past year of the DockYard Academy.

Where did it all begin?

In the early stages of developing DockYard Academy, we recognized the value of engaging with the community to shape our vision for preparing students for successful careers in Elixir development. Through this process, we gained valuable insights into the community’s expectations and requirements for our graduates.

One key takeaway from these conversations was the emphasis on problem-solving ability and communication skills as critical competencies for success in the field. While technical expertise is essential, the broader ability to approach complex problems with a clear and creative mindset, and to effectively communicate solutions to team members and stakeholders, is universally valued.

At DockYard Academy, we take this feedback to heart and prioritize the development of these foundational skills in our curriculum. We designed our program to not only equip students with technical expertise but also to cultivate problem-solving abilities and communication skills that will serve them well throughout their careers. This holistic approach to education is key to producing well-rounded and effective Elixir developers who can excel in a variety of professional contexts.

From the beginning, we’ve open-sourced the DockYard Academy curriculum so that anyone can work through our comprehensive and structured coursework. With it, students learn the fundamentals of Elixir development and progresses to advanced topics such as OTP, Phoenix, and LiveView.

To support our vision of a freely available curriculum and to help expedite the learning process for folks who want to dedicate themselves to learning Elixir with the support of an instructor and a cohort of peers, we also offer a paid three-month full-time course.

The Beta Cohort

Our beta-cohort students graciously gave their time to attend half-day classes five days a week and provided invaluable feedback that allowed us to refine and improve our curriculum. We experimented with different teaching methods and relied on feedback to determine what worked best for our students. This process taught us how to pace and best deliver our material.

We found lectures and passive forms of education to be ineffective. Instead, we focus on active and collaborative education methods such as group projects, pair programming, and mob programming to maximize learning outcomes. Students engage with interactive reading materials before spending most of their day working together on real-world -inspired problems with teacher guidance and support.

Our beta testers not only helped us improve the curriculum but also grew into mentors who now support the next generations of students. These students now run regular review and support sessions with the students and remain an active part of our community. We are grateful for our beta cohort’s contributions and their impact on our program. Their willingness to help us build a better academy is a testament to the spirit of collaboration and community that we strive to cultivate at DockYard Academy.

The First Official Cohort

In February 2023, we launched our inaugural cohort, who will complete their three-month course this month (at the time of writing). Unlike the beta, these students have had the privilege of a full-time course and more personalized instruction.

As a result of our beta testing, we shifted our focus to collaborative learning and real-world project development. We transformed the Phoenix Blog project from solo work to a group effort, providing more time for students to gain hands-on experience in working on a team. This increased class time dedicated to group collaboration and discussion had a huge impact on their learning outcomes. With more time to delve deeper into the subject matter and consider it within professional scenarios, they not only mastered the material but gained practical skills that will benefit them in the workforce.

We’re incredibly excited to introduce these students to the Elixir community and the Elixir community to them. We hope you can join us for the May 6 demo day, where students will demonstrate the skills they’ve cultivated throughout the last three months.

Working with Livebook

Livebook features such as OTP Diagrams, powerful visual tools, and documentation tests have enabled us to create highly interactive and engaging material that would have been impossible otherwise. We’re incredibly proud of our growing list of 200+ Livebook notebooks full of lessons and exercises that are freely available for anyone to benefit from. We’re tremendously grateful for the support of the Livebook team, and we’ve been excited to incorporate the new features from every version into the curriculum.

Final Thoughts

After a year and a half and two successful cohorts, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of our full-time course for public applications. Our team has worked tirelessly to create the best possible educational experience for our students, and we’re excited to continue doing so. Our mission is to equip our students with the skills they need to succeed in their careers and help meet the growing demand for Elixir talent. If you’re interested in joining us, applications are now open for our June Cohort.

Thank You

We’ve benefited tremendously from the gracious and thoughtful feedback and support of the community. This post serves as a thank you for all of their hard work and as an opportunity to reflect on everything we’ve learned together in the past year creating this course. We could not have done this without our incredible students, beta-testers, mentors, contributors, and community collaborators.


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