RC is online-only until at least May

We have made the difficult decision to temporarily close our space. Starting Monday, our operations will be fully remote. We’re planning and expecting to keep our space closed until mid-May, and possibly longer.

From everything we’ve read, the time to take action is now. Limiting travel and large gatherings of people is one of the most important things we can do to slow the spread of the COVID-19, protect the health and safety of the RC community, and minimize our contribution to the wider outbreak. Additionally, making this decision now gives us more time to prepare and figure out how to run RC remotely before our next batch starts at the end of this month.

Reimagining RC online

For nearly nine years we have consciously chosen to run RC in person and not online. We’ve considered what a remote version of RC would look like several times. Each time we decided not to do it: the obstacles to creating something up to our standards and the cost to the rest of our business were too great. As a team of only seven people operating solely off revenue and not VC funding, we are judicious about what we prioritize and focus on.

Now, our priorities have been changed for us, and our new focus is clear: We must build an excellent, online-only version of RC. It must embody the most important parts of the in-person experience, reflect our core beliefs about education, and be something we are proud of.

We face different challenges running RC online than most educational institutions because our beliefs about education are radically different. The basic building blocks of schools and universities are teachers, classes, curricula, grades, and tests. While moving those things online isn’t easy, there are well-established analogs for doing all of these things online, from giving lectures to publishing educational materials.

RC’s beliefs about education and educational model are entirely different. We have neither lectures nor a curriculum to put online. Instead, the core of RC is our community — that is, the people who participate, the connections among them, and the creative and intellectual exhaust they generate.

At a glance, the educational value of RC seems, in many ways, tied to physical space. RC’s value to our community comes from being surrounded by a diverse range of people who are all similarly motivated to become better programmers, regardless of their current abilities. It comes from creating an environment that fosters the chance encounters that lead to productive collaborations, new ideas, and close friendships. RC’s value comes from the friendly social pressure of growing alongside peers who are also working at their limits. It comes from having a psychologically safe environment where people can focus their energy on learning instead of showing off how much they know or worrying about whether or not they belong. And most importantly, it comes from our shared sense of purpose and community, which supports all of our growth and work.

These things are all just as important online as they are offline. In figuring out how to best support Recursers as an online community, we believe we can do a good job of fostering the same kind of environment outside of our physical space as we can within it, by ensuring we preserve the things that are valuable about RC and the things that make the experience special: the serendipity of meeting wonderful people to work and create with, the time and space to focus on your own projects, and a community to support you as you learn.

And so these are the things we will be focused on in the days, weeks, and possibly months ahead, as we work to reimagine RC as an online experience.

Logistics for our current and upcoming batches

We shared the details below yesterday with all current Recursers, as well as people who are interviewing or who have been admitted to our upcoming batches.

If you have applied, are thinking about applying, or are confirmed for an upcoming batch

There are two options for attending attending our next batch:

  1. Participate online. You are welcome to confirm for Spring 2/Mini 3, and attend RC remotely during their official dates. We will work hard to ensure that these remote batches feel as much like RC as possible. Doing a batch will still be a full-time commitment. We’re determining logistics and will have more details to share in about a week.

    We may extend our online-only policy to the the full 12 weeks of the Spring 2 batch if we need to. Otherwise, you’ll have the option to attend RC in-person during the second half of the batch (May 18th - June 26th). We’ll make a decision about when to reopen and will send an update in mid-April.

    We’ll have a first day orientation on March 30th, software to support video chats and remote presentations, opportunities for collaboration, and core hours we’ll expect folks to commit to. If you attend remotely and want to additionally do an in-person batch in the future, you’re welcome to attend any batch that starts within the next year.

    If you’ve been admitted and requested a grant: Because of this change, we’ll be adjusting all grant requests for remote batches. Please email us at ops@recurse.com to let us know if you still require a grant to attend Spring 2 now that it will be held remotely, and how much you need (you should include what you need to set up your space for video, audio, and livestreaming if you need to purchase anything to do that comfortably). If we do not hear from you before March 25th, we’ll assume you no longer need a grant to attend. We are currently unable to offer grants to anyone in batches happening after Spring 2.

  2. Come to a later batch. You’re also welcome to defer to a later batch, if you prefer to do RC in-person. You may delay your attendance by up to one year. You can do this via the link we sent to you when you were admitted to RC. If you want to do this but aren’t sure which batch you want to attend, click “Join a different batch” and select a new batch when you’re ready.

If you’re in one of our current batches

If you’re a member of the RC community, please see yesterday’s internal announcement (RC Zulip login required). To recap:

  • We’ll be locking the doors and turning off Doorbot at 5pm on Saturday. You will not be able to access the space after that so make sure you take all of your belongings with you. Check your cubbies, your workspaces, side rooms, etc. Alums, we chose Saturday to give you extra time to pick up anything you have in the space.
  • If you’re around on Friday afternoon, we’ll collect your keys then. If the faculty isn’t here when you leave, please leave your key on one of our desks.
  • Please stop having mail and packages sent to 397 Bridge. Faculty will take turns coming to the space while it’s closed to check on things, but we will not be able to get your mail to you.
  • The space will be locked and not be cleaned. We’ve paid our cleaning person in advance for his normal hours for the next eight weeks, but we do not expect him to come in during that time. Please remove any and all food from the fridges, pantries, and your cubbies to prevent pest problems while the space is closed. We will throw out anything we find at the end of the day on Friday.
  • RC is still in session online. The Winter 2 batch will continue to meet remotely until March 27th, and Spring 1 will continue to meet remotely until May 8th. We’re working hard to figure out what tools and practices will help us stay connected, ensure a good day-to-day experience for Recursers, and especially keep the things that make the RC experience special. We’ll be using Zoom, with support for dedicated rooms to host workshops and events, as well as one-on-one meetings like coffee chats and office hours. We’ll provide more details on that on Friday.
  • A lot of how-tos remain and we know more will arise as we embark on this experiment together. Thankfully, many in our community have extensive knowledge about remote work and there’s been some great conversation on Zulip already about this. We welcome your ideas for how to make remote RC a success, and we’ll have an open meeting over Zoom next week. See Zulip for details.

We’ll get through this together. We know that many of you are sad or disappointed that you won’t be able to finish your batches in the space — we are, too. We’ll do our best to make the end of your batch as productive and valuable as possible. We’ll also look forward to seeing you all back in the space after it’s safe to reopen, and to having you as lifelong members of our community.

Never graduate,
Nick, Sonali, Dave, Rachel, James, Sydney, and Mai

This is a followup to our initial public response to the COVID-19 outbreak.