Sponsored Content

The ideal way to upskill: How accessible P2P learning helps developers worldwide

Learning new skills has never been easier for developers, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is no “one size fits all” approach to upskilling. Developers of all ages learn through a variety of intersecting methods, including online resources, books, school, certifications, and coding bootcamps, according to a Stack Overflow survey published earlier this year.

If you look closely at the smorgasbord of popular resources, a common thread emerges: peer-to-peer (P2P) learning. The appeal of P2P learning is clear, especially to those who’ve had the opportunity to try it for themselves: When students or professionals learn directly from each other’s experiences, they can support each other in an environment that nurtures continuous learning and a chance to upskill a wide range of roles in the workforce.

Developers, in particular, are some of the most curious people out there, so it makes sense that they would seek out like-minded communities where they can learn from somebody who’s solving similar problems. But not everyone who chooses P2P learning environments has the same background, learning style, or access to resources. That’s why it’s important for P2P learning environments to account for the different ways developers choose to learn, from code challenges and hackathons to tutorials and other forms of community-oriented education.

The rise of P2P learning for all

Image Credits: Getty Images

When hackathons and code challenges first emerged decades ago, they were directed at hardcore developers. But in the years since, P2P learning has evolved to lower the barrier to entry and embrace educational opportunities for all backgrounds and roles. 

“We want to design code challenges and hackathons in a way that a person can do them over a lunch break,” says Thomas Jung, SAP’s head of developer advocacy. “You’ve got to design for the right venue and the right audience. That’s hugely important. Not everything needs to be a multiday, incredibly deep challenge.”

The popularity of events like Devtoberfest from SAP, a multi-week training program in developer-focused content, show how accessible P2P learning can encourage upskilling, recognition, and career-building opportunities. Devtoberfest is a prime example of how P2P learning can deliver upskilling at a global scale. The program is designed with ease in mind, so participants can digest the material at their own pace without needing to take too much time off from their work. Participants can access each piece of educational content online when it fits their schedules, even after Devtoberfest ends. 

Weekly activities bring Devtoberfest participants together to solve coding challenges, allowing for community-oriented learning and collaboration. The program also hosts SAP Community Groups for chat and discussion about educational tutorials, panels where participants can learn directly from the experts, and hands-on sessions where they put their new knowledge into practice. For networking and socializing, there’s a gaming night and other fun activities planned every week. (#Petoberfest, where attendees share photos of their pets, is a big hit.) 

Lowering the barriers to entry

What’s the secret to success in P2P learning? It all comes back to accessibility. Lowering the barriers to entry means not just expanding the reach of a learning program, but also making the introductory lessons simple and straightforward. If a person takes a long time to get started on a tutorial or coding challenge, they’re less likely to keep participating.

“Our motto is make it as simple as you can and then make it simpler again,” Jung says. “If it takes people half an hour to get started before they feel like they’re actually participating, you’ve probably lost a lot of them.”

In a recent monthly code challenge, for example, SAP used an open-source, free coding platform called Exercism to make the experience as frictionless as possible. Rather than mandate participants to install a piece of software or a set of development tools to get started, all they had to do is open a web browser and begin typing. 

By lowering the entry threshold, SAP has also seen greatly increased participation rates in its learning programs. Last year, 85% of Devtoberfest attendees participated in the program’s weekly activities, and an event follow-up survey found that 94% of respondents liked the weekly approach. 

Connecting coders worldwide

Image Credits: Getty Images

Devtoberfest 2021 drew attendees from around the world, thanks to SAP’s global reach and the accessibility of its tutorials, educational sessions, and coding challenges. One participant, a farmer from India, completed the entire program on his phone and used the skills he learned to break into the IT industry — a career goal that he previously thought was unattainable. 

Inspired by these stories of success, Jung predicts that the next step in P2P learning will push accessibility even further. “The future is community authored content,” he says. “That’s going to be a healthy thing. We’re not quite there yet, but I think we’re on the verge.”

When communities can build and share their own educational programs, Jung believes, they will be able to support their peers and help fill in their knowledge gaps. If developers can layer their own knowledge on a P2P learning platform, they will help create a much more thorough learning experience for everyone.

Ultimately, community-oriented learning ensures that people without formal coding training can access resources and build up their knowledge. For developers at any experience level, accessible coding challenges — in addition to other community-oriented programs like tutorials and learning journeys — are a way to boost their skill sets and their career opportunities.

Want to see how P2P learning helps developers build and upskill their careers? Register for Devtoberfest from SAP.