The man who wants to transform the way we teach code

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“If you look at how car mechanics are trained,” says Aubrey Malabie, “There’s always a car in the middle of the room that they climb into and work on. At Cotribe there’s always a model that students can work on to try things out. We use real products that we’ve built in house and that will go live in a few weeks.”

Malabie is “entrepreneur-in-residence” at mLab and the founder of Codetribe, a new training institution based at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria. He’s adamant that if we’re going to produce the number of high quality software engineers we need to stay competitive and and create new business and jobs, the way we teach developers has to change. Training has got to be more individualised, he says.

“At Codetribe the class is just an organising principal,” says Malabie, “We deal with individuals.”

Unlike traditional training courses, Codetribe”s student cohort is not expected to start together in January and finish in December. Lesson plans and materials are stored in its cloud/mobile app, CourseMaker, and students can drop in and drop out as required simply by logging in on their smartphone or tablet. It’s designed to run concurrently as self-directed study on top of traditional classes and working as part of a professional development team.

CourseMaker is designed to help students learn on the job with class notes and teacher interaction.
CourseMaker is designed to help students learn on the job with class notes and teacher interaction.

Malabie says that the emphasis is on “on the job” learning and preparing students for the world of work, and he describes the course load as “pretty intense” compared to similar initiatives like Coachlab – which is also hosted by Innovation Hub. The advantage, he says, is that by taking part in a live project and proving their skills, there’s quite often a full time job for them at the end of it, if they want it.

“At the end of a year I want to create a professional developer ready for employment,” he says, “Or their own entrepreneurial activity.”

Startups are a big part of the ethos at Codetribe, and the idea came from Malabie’s work at nearby mobile app accelerator Mlab. With 20 years experience in software development, he found himself regularly called in to mentor students on the various courses affiliated to Mlab and Innovation Hub.

“Most of the people I worked with were people who had won app-building competitions,” he says, “They were the best of the best. But what I discovered was that they really really needed to upgrade their skills. They had ideas, but lacked the ability to take that idea through the process.

“They don’t have the necessary skills to move that to production. So I proposed that we create an academy that produces the skills to build these ideas.”

Right now, there are around 20 students based out of Codetribe, all of whom are fully funded through bursary programs and already have tertiary degrees under their belt. Malabie says that hopes the model can be repeated elsewhere.

“We need thousands of these youngsters every year,” he says. Here’s to a good start.

Malabie with be speaking this week at Mobile Web Africa, which is happening at JoziHub on Tuesday and Randlords on Wednesday and Thursday. There’s still time to register here. htxt.africa is an official media partner for the event.

Adam Oxford

Adam Oxford

Adam is the Editorial Director at htxt media. He has been writing about technology for almost two full decades now. In a previous life, he was the editor of PC Format and Digital Camera Shopper in the UK, before going on to work as a freelance journalist for seven years. His work has appeared in or on Stuff, The Guardian, Linux Format, TechRadar, Wired.co.uk, PC Gamer, Green Futures, The Journalist, The Ecologist and The Review. Adam moved to South Africa in 2012 and loves 3D printers, MakerFairs and tech hubs. He hates seafood. None of his friends remember this when cooking.

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