In this exclusive interview with the founders of Coding Lab, Yong Ning Foo and Candice Wang share some insights on how Coding Lab coped with the Covid-19 pandemic and some words of encouragement for the Coding Lab community! 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Coding Lab had to go through several changes, one of it being the transition to 100% online classes throughout the circuit breaker. The strong online learning system that we have built and tested (since 2019) enabled us to continue having fun and enjoyable classes for our students. 

Let’s hear from our dear founders as they shed light on how they managed Coding Lab during these extraordinary times. May we never be deterred from the challenges that lie ahead and keep on persevering to face them head-on! 


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Here’s what Candice had to say!

1. Hi Candice, how has Covid-19 changed things for you? Was it for the better, or for the worse?

Covid-19 is unprecedented and like the rest of the world, we had to adapt to it quickly.

Personally, I appreciate the time I got to spend with my family as well as managing the shift from offline to 100% online classes not only at Coding Lab, but also for my kids’ enrichment lessons. My 7-year-old attended our own online Coding Classes during this period, and was able to figure out how to use the different functions of Zoom. To my surprise, not only could she do that, but she was also able to confidently navigate her school’s Home-Based Learning exercises entirely on her own even though there were close to 8 different portals.

If anything, we shouldn’t underestimate kids.

They are more capable than we think they are. This is evident in the joy my daughter derived from changing her user ID or private messaging her teachers on Zoom and arranging online meet-ups with her friends. It is a lifelong skill that she can now take with her.

2. Everyone has had to work from home due to the circuit breaker. What has been done to maintain a strong company culture?

Communication via video-conferencing was fun and smooth – even across countries – so much so that we even organised our first 100% online Young Coders Global Hackathon together with Coding Lab Japan.

The Coding Lab team were all involved in this one way or another. If you look at the event credits, you will realise that not only the Educators, but also the Marketing, Admin and Enrolment teams all came together to make it happen. The teamwork was truly amazing!

We also organised a couple of group workout sessions so that everybody could stretch their legs and keep fit at home. We even recorded a song and dance together! Sure… we missed our regular lunches and snack time, and birthday celebrations had to be done via Zoom and home deliveries, but hey! It was the new norm and we embraced it wholeheartedly.

The most important thing was that everybody was safe.

3. What is your most valuable takeaway from this experience?

“When life throws you curveballs, we will emerge stronger and be thankful for the small things in life.”

Having the team stay healthy and protected at home while adapting our processes to ensure the safety of everyone involved was critical, and taught us a lot about adapting quickly.

We also found our own special ways to continually engage our students; whether it was via regular WhatsApp chats to follow-up with them or a competition where they could express their ideas on solving Covid-19 related issues, we stayed connected.


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Here’s what Yong Ning shared with us!

1. Hi Yong Ning, how did you handle the challenges faced due to the Covid-19 restrictions?

We have been planning for this for quite some time, since January this year. It also helped that we had run online workshops for the region before, so the process was relatively smooth. 

2. What were the measures that Coding Lab had to take due to Covid-19?

The evolution of our processes started with Hybrid classes where we had a mixture of physical and online students (before circuit breaker), followed by 100% online (during circuit breaker), and now, a mixture again in Phase 2. 

Prior to that, we had invested in video-conferencing platforms, online practising systems, digital writing pads and other tools to make live teaching fun and easier for both our tutors and students.

“We spared no effort to build a strong and solid support system that provided our students with the avenue to give their feedback or review course material as often as they wanted.”

3. What are some of the significant changes that will be done to come back from this better and stronger?

Our online learning system was put to the test when we conducted thousands-strong seminars for the region for the Shopee Code League as well as various workshops with Smart Nation Singapore

We also understand that many parents and students enjoyed the classes very much and have requested for their child to continue their lessons online. We are excited and happy to announce that we will be launching Coding Lab Online (Permanent) classes*.

*for selected modules only

4. What is your most valuable takeaway from this experience?

“Be prepared, plan ahead, and have a strong team to support and execute decisions quickly. “

All of these are critical in ensuring that the experience of our students remains consistent and of a high standard. 

5. Do share with us a few words of advice/final message for the Coding Lab community!

Thank you for your support throughout this period. It means a lot to all of us. We hope you will enjoy using the materials and systems we have built and we look forward to welcoming you back, be it online or physically. Thank you!

Sarah will be starting her first year as a Computer Engineering student at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) – which is ranked #18 globally for computer science subjects – on a 4-year scholarship! Read on to find out how she managed to achieve this incredible feat. 

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From our previous interview with Sarah Go in 2018, we got to know about how she clinched the Honourable mention at the National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI) within just less than six months of learning how to code! Fuelled by her passion for coding, Sarah spent her winter holidays as a student tutor volunteer at Coding Lab to inspire the next generation of coders.


Q: Hey Sarah, it’s been a while since our last interview with you. Congratulations on getting a scholarship to UT Austin! What were your feelings when you first got to know about the scholarship?

Sarah: I was definitely very happy! Initially, I wasn’t expecting a scholarship because I was applying as an out-of-state student to UT’s Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) program. 90% of spots are reserved for in-state students, and UT’s ECE program is considered prestigious in the US. So even admission is very competitive – not to mention a scholarship! – and this knowledge makes me feel incredibly fortunate and grateful to my school as well. 

Q: What did you do to ensure that you stood out from the rest of the other applicants?

Sarah: There were many other qualified applicants, and even the admissions committee can’t specify what ensures an applicant will receive a scholarship.

I didn’t have to go for any interviews or submit any additional materials as I was automatically considered for a scholarship with my application to UT. I can say that I put a lot of effort into maintaining a good academic record and producing quality work in school, especially in my research projects.

And outside of school, my extracurricular activities – particularly my experience in Coding Lab, which I wrote about in my college essays, certainly contributed as well. 

Image of Sarah Go and student
Sarah as a student tutor volunteer explaining a concept to her student.

Q: What were the Coding Lab classes that you took and how have they brought you to where you are now?

Sarah: I took the Python Meets Mathematics course and honestly if I didn’t take that course I wouldn’t even have chosen ECE as my major! I went into Coding Lab as a total coding newbie and honestly was feeling quite ambivalent towards coding when I went to my first lesson.

I found the course material accessible and easy to understand, and I got to use the programming knowledge I learned in fun mathematical applications right from the start.

At the end of my first lesson, after just a couple of hours, I was so enthralled with coding that both my parents and I were surprised! But beyond the course material, what truly sparked my interest in coding was my teacher Mr. Yong. He’s an incredibly dedicated teacher, and his guidance and enthusiasm towards coding not only made me look forward to every lesson but, three years later, has ultimately motivated me to go into computing in college and maybe even as a career. 

Image of Sarah Go and her class
Sarah and her bright students!

Q: How do you plan on making the most out of your time, now that things have changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic?

Sarah: Well, like many other students around the world, I am pretty much stuck at home this summer due to Covid-19. Fortunately, there are so many readily available resources be it educational and recreational on the internet that I have hardly been bored! I’m reading ebook versions of classics that have always been on my reading list, and have also been self-studying Chinese. I have also stuck to my goal of learning at least one new computing-related thing every day, which has definitely helped keep me busy and productive. Today, for example, while doing some problems I encountered a neat algorithm called the Boyer-Moore Majority Vote Algorithm. While reading about the algorithm, I learned that it was a UT professor that co-invented it, which is super cool!

Q: What are you looking forward to the most when you start university?

Sarah: I really look forward to meeting other students at UT; not only ECE students who share the same interest in computers as me, but also other students in different majors, all of whom have very diverse cultures and backgrounds. I also look forward to meeting professors at UT, who have done amazing work in their fields! As for my classes, I’m quite excited about learning more about the hardware aspects of computing, because I’ve really immersed myself in programming these few years. I believe these aspects of my university experience will be a real eye-opener for me. 

Q: Any words of advice for budding programmers out there?

Sarah: My first advice to budding programmers is, honestly, to keep coding! That may sound kind of silly, but coding is one of those things where the best way to learn is by doing, or in this case, programming. Every time you learn something new, grab some problems or projects off the internet – or maybe think up something yourself – and create a program to try it out! I also think it’s good to keep challenging yourself. Sometimes, easy programming problems can be tempting, but you learn the most from hard problems – problems that seem complex and maybe even beyond your abilities.

By continually pushing your boundaries, you’ll expand your knowledge and eventually problems that you once found difficult will become doable.

And also – it’s completely fine to encounter difficulties and spend hours debugging a program. Just keep in mind that coding is a lifelong journey, and like a rollercoaster ride, while there may be ups and downs, it’s a lot of fun as well! 

With effect from 2 June, Primary and Secondary students who are in graduating cohorts will attend school daily while other cohorts will rotate weekly between Home-Based Learning and returning to school for lessons. 

With the circuit breaker stay-home measures for the past 1.5 months, your child will have learned to navigate 8 different websites, key in the zoom password effortlessly, and type his/her name confidently for all the HBL and online classes they attended! Indeed your newly minted digital native will still be putting these skills to good use as he/she shuttles between school and the demands of HBL. Here are some specially curated tips that we hope will aid you in making your child’s digital journey the best that it can be. 

Check them out below! 


1. Ensure good digital security habits

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), children aged 7 to 12 can have close to 2 hours of recreational screen time daily. With their daily Home-Based Learning demands, your child will definitely be logging in and out of multiple websites! Do reinforce the importance of digital security with him/her.

Enhance your digital security through simple cybersecurity steps such as regularly changing passwords, enabling two-factor authentication (it’s as simple as registering a phone number or installing an app) and keeping your software up to date.

Don’t forget to encourage your children to inform you if they come across anything suspicious online!


2. Differentiate between Good and Bad screen time

Parents must learn to differentiate between Good and Bad screen time so as to maximise their children’s learning and development. 

Good screen time refers to children producing content – which can be in the forms of working on their projects, schoolwork or even coding on Scratch! Bad screen time refers to children consuming content – like watching videos on YouTube and playing games that do not contribute to their development. 

As Michel Resnick (MIT Media Lab) says, “Rather than trying to minimize screen time, I think parents and teachers should try to maximize creative time.” So give some encouragement for your children to be productive and make the most out of the screen time that they have.

You can check out #ScratchAtHome for many fun learning activities that can be done with Scratch’s free coding environment! Your child can partake in the many coding projects they have on their page.


3. Proper sitting and typing posture

Not inculcating a proper seating and keyboard typing posture from young can lead to negative consequences in the long run – such as back pain and finger strains. 

For good sitting posture, make sure that your child rests his/her back against the chair for maximum support, with shoulders relaxed and eyes looking straight ahead towards the screen. Their feet should also be resting flat on the floor or on a footrest. 

For proper keyboard typing posture, the elbows should be in an open angle (90 – 110 degrees) so as to relax the forearms and shoulders. Keep the wrists straight, neither flexed upwards or downwards and resist resting them on the desk as this puts pressure on the tendons and cuts off blood circulation!

With our Basic Computer Skills course (Ages 6-8), students will not only learn how to type with the correct posture and method but also learn how to type efficiently and gain computer and web navigation skills! It’s the best start for your child’s digital journey.


4. Be Productive with Digital Technology

One of the ways in ensuring that your children’s time with digital devices remains productive is through engaging in its use together. For example, you can take online courses with them – which can lead to both educational achievement and productive bonding with your child!

Coding Lab’s Mother’s Day Workshop that was conducted earlier this May saw many mother-child pairs having a whale of a time while learning how to program everlasting flowers! So why not try one with your child too? (Psst, we have our Father’s Day Workshop coming up in June – be sure to check that out!)

If you’re unable to engage with digital devices together, you can always monitor their online activities with them close by – ensure that they use a shared family computer that is placed in a common area of your house!


5. Take Frequent Eye Breaks

Parents are a child’s first teachers and role models. With an increased screen time for your children, don’t forget to enforce regular eye breaks for them throughout the day to reduce blue light exposure. 

Here at Coding Lab, we recognise the importance of eye breaks to prevent digital eye strain – that’s why we make it compulsory for our students for every hour of coding! 

Well, that’s all from us! We hope that you benefit from these tips and while things may look glum now, know that every cloud has a silver lining. Stay safe and sound with your families at home and we hope to see you real soon!