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📓 Asking For Help

Throughout your programming career, and especially at the beginning, you're going to need help from other people. However, it's important to build up your self-reliance as a developer and to learn by trying to solve problems on your own.

If you have a question or issue, research as a pair for at least 20 minutes but try to go no more than 30 minutes. It's important to strike a balance between self-reliance and knowing when to ask for help.

Getting Help from Other Students

If you and your pair are unable to find a solution after debugging and doing your own research, reach out to other pair groups. A big part of learning is sharing and collaboration. Don't be shy about going into another group's pair channel (online) or going to another group's desk (in-person) to ask for help. Use these tips to explain the problem and use the following formula for asking questions:

"When I {do thing}, the program should {do response thing}. But instead it {does unexpected thing}. I've tried {debugging and research}."

Here's an example:

"When I click the link to my Home page, it should take us to the home.html file, displaying it in the browser. But instead it displays an empty page. I've double checked the curriculum and googled 'DOM not displaying page.'"

Asking good questions and describing problems clearly is an essential skill that you'll need both at Epicodus and on the job. You and your peers are your greatest resource at Epicodus.

If the group is unable to come up with the answer, this means you have a good question that will help you all learn as a team. The next step is to post the issue in your class questions channel. This way, other students can offer possible answers and assistance. This is also especially useful because students often run into the same problems and it becomes easier to crowd source a solution or find another student that has found an answer.

Getting Help from Teachers

As your developer skills grow, it becomes increasingly important for you to learn to find answers through your own research. For this reason, we have a specific format for asking teachers for help on Discord. This way, we can ensure that students have taken the time to try to solve the problem on their own and have also provided relevant information regarding the coding problems they are facing.

Staff Availability

Full Time Students: Your teachers will be available during the full time classroom hours (not during independent projects).

Part-Time Students: Your teachers will be available during the part-time classroom hours (not during independent projects).

If you see a teacher on Discord outside of your class hours, they are likely working with another class. Please do not message them unless your class is in session.

Formatting your Request for Help

The more information you can give, the easier it is to know how to help. That said, sometimes it's hard to describe what you need help with. Don't let that stop you from asking for help! Always do your best to describe the issue you are facing, and remember that there are no dumb questions and you shouldn't feel badly if you can't perfectly articulate the issue you are facing. Like in the rubber duck debugging method, the act of describing what issue you are facing can often help point to the source of the issue or what research or debugging steps you need to take next.

To help format your request for help, we suggest using this template:

Looking for instructor help in: {Insert room name}

We have debugged on our own and checked with: {Other pair groups you've checked with}

Issue: {A quick explanation of what the issue is and what your hypothesis is}

Research: {A brief of what you have researched, either in the lessons or online}

Code: {A Live Share link to your code}

Example question for teachers following the above suggested format.

Following this template will make it clear that you have:

  1. Debugged your code and done your own research for at least 20 minutes.

  2. Reached out to other students, had them take a look at your code, and walked them through the issue.

As you progress through the program and start teaching yourself items covered in Further Exploration sections, we will expect you to reach out to more groups and do more research on your own.

Getting Help via Direct Messaging on Discord

All students have access to Discord. On Discord, you have the option of sending a direct message which can be very useful for sending links to your pair for the day. However, it should not be used as a way to ask teachers for help.

Instead, it's important to post questions in the questions channel for your class. Doing so has the following advantages:

  • Other students may be able to help and collaborate.
  • Teachers don't check the DM channel as regularly.
  • Students can see what questions have already been asked. That way, the same questions aren't asked over and over.

If you have an urgent or time-sensitive matter you need to discuss, such as issues with your pair or anything that makes you feel unsafe, excluded, or unable to complete the day's lessons, you may direct message your instructor. For technical issues and other matters, please put in a ticket or email your instructor.

Sending a Direct Message

Follow any of these options to send a direct message:

  1. Click on a user's name which will bring up the user's info and a message input. If you enter a message and click enter, it will take you to your message chat in your Discord Home section.
  2. Right click on a user's name and select the option to Message them. This will open the Home section of Discord with your message chat.
  3. Click on the Home button (the Discord logo in the top-left corner of the screen).
    • To message one person, type their name into the box that says Find or start a conversation.
    • To start a group message, click the + next to DIRECT MESSAGES. Next, you will be able to add any users that you've added as friends on Discord.
      • To add a friend, go to the Home section and click on Friends. Click on the green Add Friend button and type in their Discord username, not their nickname. The username will always end with a # followed by four digits. Click Send Friend Request. Once the user approves the request, you will be able to add them to a group message.

Getting Help by Email

If you need help outside of Discord, would like to schedule a meeting, or need to discuss an issue that's not time-sensitive issue with staff, you can reach out via email.