18 September 2020

Education meets digital through Isobar’s Guarda Academy

The Isobar Guarda Academy in Portugal serves as a Learning Hub for undergraduate and graduate students to learn, exchange, connect, and complete their internships required by the university. The aim of the academy is to encourage students to stay within the area, provide jobs for future generation, and boost local productivity in the IT sector.

After the first academic year of partnership between Isobar Switzerland and the Polytechnic Institute of Guarda (IPGuarda), Luís Baptista, first time professor and senior consultant at Isobar Switzerland, recalls his experience with undergraduate Computer Science Engineering students during his course: Introduction to Salesforce.

What challenges did you face?

“The biggest challenge I had to face was teaching, which I had never done before. I found myself spiraling with never-ending questions: how do you get across subject and content students had never heard of? How can I make it interesting and motivating enough to keep them from leaving the room and participating?

Although the answers to these questions seemed unachievable, I knew that if I used accessible language that related to things the students had already learned and came over prepared to class to make sure it was understandable to all, I would be able to attract them into my subject, consider it in their future careers and make a good image out of Isobar Switzerland. I was hoping to be able to offer them hands on experience in our offices after all.

How did you create classes that were tailored to their needs?

Together with António Alvim, Fernando Gavinho, Tiago Coelho and Ana Brites, we defined the structure of the classes. I was responsible for doing my research, summarizing and creating content adapted to the students who would read and study the material including all examples and steps.

Fernando and Tiago worked on the practical project of the course.  We found that our seniors like to see the results of their work as well as the developmental phases and how everything comes together.

What happened during lockdown?

Whilst teaching on campus, we were happy to see a total of 22 students show up to class, and the interaction was great. Gavinho and I supported the practical tasks and watched firsthand how our students were learning the content we provided. Unfortunately, once the pandemic kicked in and our classes moved online, we lost this perception and had to adapt to a new way of teaching. Online classes were a new adaptation we had to carry out. Every day we go to work talking to colleagues remotely, have meetings online, do workshops for our Practice, and then to give classes online during 4h to 5h became all very exhausting. Fortunately, through rigorous preparation with my team we were able to coordinate and find the right tools to make it all work. After all – these students dependent on us for their degrees and we weren’t going to let them down.

How did you transition from a physical classroom to an online one?

We found that many students had connectivity problems from home, therefore we recorded each lesson, edited and made it available to all our students through a private YouTube channel to make sure nobody missed out on the content. We had to make sure our material had much more detail to allow for autonomous study and clarity on the subject. Sixteen students ended up completing the course through their final project, and over half passed with excellent grades.  We received very positive feedback and evaluations as well as what improvements we can make for next year, which we will of course be taking into consideration.

What’s next for Guarda Academy students?

We’re happy to be taking on two students as interns at Isobar Switzerland, who are ready to start working on projects within Salesforce and we plan to take on more once they’ve successfully completed their degrees. The success of this initiative has opened opportunities up to other practices to teach courses to IPGuarda. We’re excited to see what future collaborations will come from this synergy that we achieved with the University, which also benefits Isobar Switzerland and the city to kick start young people’s careers.” – Luis Baptista, Senior Consultant at Isobar Switzerland.

Thank you Luís and colleagues for your achievements. We’re proud of our team in Portugal who made education a top priority on their agenda and brought two new interns to our offices in Guarda and Leiria. Congratulations to all the students and welcome Amanda Santos & André Pedro on board – we’re honored to support you through the first steps of your career. We would like to extend a special thank you to Luis for taking on this challenge and following through his aspirations of becoming a university professor.

If you’d like to find out more about the courses offered by Professor Luis Baptista, do not hesitate to contact him at Luis.Baptista@isobar.com. Visit our careers page, here.