Instructional Associates are former Masai students who have been through the curriculum and are ready to impart their learnings to students from the next batches. They assist the instructors in all facets of classroom management from helping students in breakout rooms under IWY sessions to holding daily standups and summarising the overall learning. Their prime purpose is to make sure students have no doubts left.
At times, while studying in a good batch strength of over 300-400, a student might not get individual attention for their minute-level doubts.
These doubts can further hinder their understanding and flow and they wouldn’t be able to master the concepts - something Masai prioritizes upon.
And that’s when Instructional Associates(IAs) come into play, connecting on a personal level with students and being a lifeline in their journey.
Depending on the batch strength, students are divided into equal groups, each group headed by an Instructional Associate. Each IA works with 60 students on average and thus they have the bandwidth to connect with students for their smallest of queries.
This concept of having IAs has worked wonders for us as most of the alumni we talk to, credit a lot of their success to their Instructional Associates.
With that being said, let’s take a sneak peek into their lives and how they deeply impact the students’ growth at Masai-
How does a student become an IA?
When students are in their 4th unit of the full-time full-stack web development course, the Masai team rolls out forms inviting applications for Instructional Associates. After interested students submit their details, they go through technical and HR interview rounds.
The Masai team ensures that students are well-equipped with the technical skills, and are also dedicated to teaching and helping students.
As Nitesh Goswami, one of the Star IAs at Masai puts it - “It can be quite difficult to handle the students initially because of their diverse languages and educational backgrounds. One has to have that commitment to helping students in whatever way possible. I had previously worked as a teacher for an NGO and that’s when I felt inclined to teach.
Why do Students choose to become an IA?
There are multiple reasons why a student is willing to skip the placements and become an IA at Masai.
- To become leaders - Working with a group of 50-60 students enables these IAs to become thought-leaders. Over a period, they develop a habit of taking initiative to challenges, and this further carries into their careers.
- Willingness to help- First is the sheer intent for helping and being a support system for students. In their journey, they receive the same support from their IAs and that acts as a strong influence on students.
As Nikita Parekh puts it - “You know that feeling when someone is there to help you 24*7 if you get stuck in a problem or a concept. My IA made me feel that level of assurance and I wanted to pass that on to the new students joining Masai.
- Masai’s team culture- The second moving factor for students is the work culture at Masai. Having been through the program and made bonds with the team members at Masai, these students start enjoying the culture and they want to be a part of it even after the course.
- More learning & better opportunities - The contract for an IA lasts 9 months. In this period, IAs strengthen their core concepts by helping students solve their doubts. By the end of the contract, they’re highly skilled professionals with advanced problem-solving skills; as they have seen the problems from different perspectives. They can either choose to sit for Masai placements or take an external route. In both cases, their resume speaks to the companies and they end up getting high-end offers.
A day in the life of an IA
- The day starts with Calendly sessions that students book to solve their doubts about assignments and projects and even issues related to their productivity or time management. Each session runs 15 minutes long and an IA handles 4 such sessions every day.
- There’s also a separate slack channel where students grouped under an IA post their queries related to coding and DSA. An IA’s job is to solve these queries either on the channel or personally with the students.
- Starting at 6 PM are peer programming sessions that go on for an hour. Peer programming is when a team of two people writes the source code of a program together and each member examines the code being written by the other member. Two students are selected by the operations team basis their performance and shortcomings in the assignments, and each student gets half an hour of 1-on-1 interaction with their Instructional Associate. Students can also self-nominate for these sessions.
- Their day ends with a 1-hour stand-up with all the students within an IA’s group. The stand-up concludes the overall learning of the day and the IAs try to solve the most common problems regarding the concepts.
Apart from these responsibilities, Instructional Associates can also take up evaluation and scoring duties.
A student connects on a personal level with their IA as the IA had also been a student once. If the students feel stuck at a certain point in the curriculum, they take motivation from the former student who has already done the hard yards.
As Nitesh says - “It is like a friends’ group, where they have respect for me and at the same time they’re also free to share even their personal concerns with me. We’re their guide, their motivator, and we act as fire-brigade for them at times”
Throughout the journey, IAs provide extra study materials, references, and resources to students. They also help them build their LinkedIn and GitHub presence, things that are gospel for today’s tech job sector.
How do IAs impact students?
Having a friendly figure who understands a student's concerns from a similar perspective, and solve problems in more relatable ways, turns out to be a big plus for students.
Compare that to any conventional teaching institute where students just receive lectures day after day and they often can't get their doubts solved as the curriculum keeps moving forward.
IAs at Masai make sure that students get enough chances to raise their doubts before getting on to the next topic.
Many of the alumni we've interviewed state - "We could reach out to our IA at any point of time, be it 12 PM-midnight or 6 AM in the morning. If they’re available, they'd help."
This gives aspirants a breathing space that even if they aren't able to understand something, they'll have more attempts to clear it.
Simply put, Instructional Associates are the key pillars and the first point of contact for students.
Placements for Instructional Associates
From the IA's perspective, being an IA builds skills outside of the technical domain as well. Qualities such as leadership and management come naturally to them after having spent so much time with the students.
After the contract expires, these IAs are better equipped to get placed with desirable jobs in top tech companies.
Case in point, Himanshu Dwivedi worked as an IA for 9 months and got himself a software engineer role at the food delivery startup - Swiggy with a handsome package.
There are many similar stories of Instructional Associates such as Siddharth Kaushik and others who have found placement in unicorn startups.
Also, there are IAs like Sourav Das who continue on their journey and become full-time instructors at Masai.
The concept of having Instructional Associates at Masai is a product of first-principled thinking. When we put a ‘WHY’ in front of the statement - “Students are left with doubts”, we felt the need to have people who can relate to students’ doubts and solve them then and there. And who better than our ex-students to take up this task.
We at Masai are always looking to innovate ourselves in order to provide our students with the best learning experiences and enable them to achieve mastery in each and every concept.
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