Grokking On and On

Yasmin Clarke
Jul 6 · 7 min read

What happened on Grok during lockdown? A Down Under update 🇦🇺

‘Challenge’ is our middle name

At Grok we often joke that everything is named ‘Challenge’. We’ve got the NCSS Challenge, the DT Challenges, the Cyber Security Challenges…

Well, we’re midway through what has turned out to be a very ‘challenging’ year.

In Australia we ended 2019 in drought, had one of the worst bushfire seasons in history over the summer, the Grok office flooded in the big wet (but thankfully broke the drought), and then…well you know the rest. As we say Down Under, “all this stuff happened” (except we don’t say ‘stuff’ 😉 ).

At Grok, the core of our support for schools and teachers during the lockdown period was one hundred percent free access to Grok — no strings attached — from 23 March to 5 July 2020.

We wanted to reflect on how that’s gone, and share some of the lighter moments from the past few months.

Grok On then, eh?

Our mission at Grok is to reach as many students as possible and teach the next generation the skills they need to become the creators and problem solvers of tomorrow.

The past few months have been tough for our teaching community. We want to give a shout-out to all the organisations, big and small, who have been digging deep to support teachers and students in all the ways that you can 🙌.

Since March we’ve had thousands of teachers and students getting on with it, on Grok. Over 620 teachers have joined us in our new Facebook group, sharing tips and tricks to make teaching DT easier (join us!). Teachers have been hosting classes remotely, making use of our newly launched features, using our online platform to fill gaps in curricula, and help students stay occupied during otherwise empty time in lockdown.

It was the most requested feature, and we’ve received emails from over 40 teachers with feedback on Live Classroom, a live display of your student’s activity on Grok so you can keep tabs on student progress just as if you were walking around your classroom.

Our content manager Jane (along with the rest of our content team) worked super hard to push out our latest course, Python for Beginners 🐍, which we recommend for beginners of all ages. It only launched in May and already has over 7,600 students enrolled.

At competition time on Grok we have expert tutors on-hand to chat to students and help them with questions 🙋. In March we hired a squad of 24 fabulous tutors to answer student questions on *all* our courses, and over the past 3 months we’ve had over 46,000 posts across over 10,000 threads between our tutors and students. Thursdays are typically the busiest day overall, and the most popular hour for tutoring is Fridays at 2pm (end of the school week?), closely followed by Thursdays at 2pm.

While we’re here, let’s let you in on a little secret 🤫. In launching all of those new features and supporting you through this time, our development team has updated 844 files, added a massive 24,903 lines of code (and also deleted 8000 lines). We’ve created and resolved 138 tickets…and introduced a bunch of bugs, oops! Sorry Renee, and thanks for bug triaging 🐛 🏥 for us.

New mates

In a global sense, one of the biggest themes to come out of the lockdown period was “we’re all in this together”. We have noticed an atmosphere of collaboration, of “millennial good fellowship”¹. At Grok during this period we welcomed over 4,300 new teachers and over 114,000 new students onto the Grok platform 🤯.

Where are y’all from? Everywhere is the answer! Our home base is Australia but over 20% of our new students are from outside Australia, which is fantastic. Looking at school grades, 26% of these beautiful new students are in grade 7, 19% are in grade 8, about 22% are in grades 9–12 and 23% are in grade 6 and below.

And students have been active! We had a suspicion that coding might be the new sourdough 🥖 during quarantine (no? just us then?) but your students have really taken to this. There were over 324,000 new enrolments in courses on Grok during this time and students submitted over 2.3 million (yes million) submissions that passed our auto-marker tests — congrats!

Given the grade distribution of new students, it’s no surprise that the majority of new enrolments (almost 40,000!) are in our flagship course, Introduction to Programming, a course that’s popular from grade 7 to 10. Other popular courses during the last few months have been:

What about primary school students? At the lower end, grade 3 & 4 are enjoying one of our oldest but definitely cutest 🐱 courses, Monster Maker, and one of our newest courses, DT Challenge — Get Started: Scratch. Interestingly, grade 6 is the only grade without a strong course preference — new grade 6 enrolments are evenly split between Web.Comp, Introduction to Programming, Introduction to Programming (Blockly), and DT Challenge Space Invaders (Blockly).

Speaking of Web.Comp, what a blast to run a competition during our free access period!

Watching the enrolment numbers grow is always a thrill at competition time. The May 2020 edition of Web.Comp was our biggest competition ever, with over 17,000 competitors and 23,170 enrolments.

In this competition, 11.3% of competitors scored a Distinction certificate or better, which is a fantastic result. Even more impressive was the consistency of effort. We often see a drop-off towards the end of a competition, but each and every weekday competitors submitted over 3,500 passing submissions.

✅ Nailed it! 🙌

It’s Hello (World) not Goodbye

It’s traditional to begin your coding journey with “Hello, World!”, and so of course most of our introductory courses on Grok begin this way. From Python to HTML, from Blockly to text, students successfully programmed “Hello, World!” on Grok over 68,000 times during quarantine— that’s over 680 new coding journeys beginning each day!

We’ve loved supporting you during this time, we’re super excited to see where your students go with their new skills, and we’re everlastingly grateful for your support in return.

As we reach the end of Term 2 in AU and the end of the school year for many of our northern hemisphere friends, we hope you’re taking a well-deserved break.

Snaps to our whole Grok team for your incredible fortitude, creativity, good humour, brains for weeks and style for days: James C, Jess, Kylie, Rick, Tim, Jane, James H, Renee, Bryn, Christie, Tom, Dom, Saritha, Isobel, Alessandra, and our newest recruits (who battle-tested our remote onboarding process) Ana & Jo.

Can we take a holiday now? 🏖🌴⛵🍹

Levity in crisis is a renowned Aussie trait. However it would be remiss of us not to acknowledge the gravity of the worldwide situation, both with the continuing pandemic and with the #BLM movement.

These are challenging times (no pun intended this time) and we are committed to helping our staff, teachers, students, and all our other Grok friends and family. Get in touch with us at support@groklearning.com if there is anything we can help you with.

Grok Learning is based in Sydney, on the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. We acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded and pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging across Australia.

This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land ❤️💛🖤

[1] Quote from Pauline Jacobson about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. I’ve been reading about the sense of community developed within disasters in Rebecca Solnit’s book ‘A Paradise in Hell’.

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