Revolutionising Education — Chapter 4: Web Development Competition, Teamwork & Prize Money!

Quick recap of what happened so far — I’ve been collaborating with RVN School, a unit of Udavum Karangal, for the past 4 months, conducting free courses in web development to their Class XII students. So far I’ve conducted 3 courses, the first course introduced them to HTML & CSS, second one to WordPress, and now, a third one, which is more of a project-based competition than a course. This article is about the third course.

Quick Summary

  • The competition started on the 9th of October 2019 with 14 students in total and lasted until 2nd of November 2019 with a total of ~20 active hours.
  • The purpose was to get them to not only exercise the knowledge they’ve gained so far but also to get them to take initiative, exercise problem-solving skills and teamwork skills.
  • The students were allowed to form their own teams and the competition had a prize money for the winning team.
  • The teams were asked to build a website for an initiative that Udavum Karangal runs. The specialty of the competition was such that it not only let the students compete, learn and grow, but also would yield in a real world product that Udavum Karangal could use.
  • The school was so pleased by the outcome of these courses so far that they enthusiastically invested in some WiFi adapters so that the students could each have an individual machine with internet connection to work with.
  • One of the other highlights of the past 60 hours that I’ve been assisting these girls learn is that I’ve gotten them to spend a considerable amount of time learning to touch type (the ability to type without having to look at the keyboard). With just less than 30 active hours of training, that too on and off, over the past few months, the girls have come a long way in their ability to type. They can now type using all their 10 fingers and slowly type without having to look at the keyboard. They may need more consistent practice to improve their speed.

The girls learning to touch type with the help of typing software and games.


As part of the final project for the previous course the students were asked to build mock websites for their school. I provided them with some content and told them that whoever built the best websites will be shortlisted for a more advanced course on WordPress. When they were done I picked 5 of the 14 students to form a team and then had them build the actual school website. The results were impressive and everyone was appreciative.

We decided that we’ll have another course and for this one I asked Pappa and the school administration if they have any other website that they’d want to be built for their organisation. My intention was to provide the students with more opportunities to apply their knowledge. I was told that Udavum Karangal also runs a community college which would benefit a lot from having its own website.

The Proposal

I proposed that we can have the third phase be a competition where students will form teams and each team would have to use whatever they’ve learned so far to build a website for the community college. The intent was to foster in the students two key skills that are necessary in the world — 1) The ability to follow instructions but take initiative and operate autonomously without constant supervision; and 2) The ability to play a constructive role in a group, acting to further the interests of the group besides one’s own.

When they’re done, the school will form a panel to identify which team built the most appealing website and then use that team’s assistance to build the actual website. Besides the opportunity to build a real world website, the winning team also receives some prize money from the school, as a token of recognition of their skill and talent. Meanwhile, the organisation gets a website for free that they can use, which could otherwise have ended up costing them money if they were to outsource the task. Also it is a matter of pride for the school to have the site be built by their own students. It was a win-win situation. Everyone was thrilled by this idea and we were all excited to see what could be achieved here.

The Competition

The girls divided themselves into 5 teams and each team was supposed to come up with a name and a logo for their team. The teams also had self-appointed leaders (marked in bold here).

The first step was to let the students form their groups. The students were asked to pick a name and a logo for their team. This was intended to ensure that their group had an identity of their choice, something that they related to and wanted to represent. The students were also allowed to pick their teammates. There were a couple of restrictions here. Each team should have only two or three members and no single team can have more than one of the 5-member team that built the school website in the previous course. This was intended to let the teams have a fair starting point.

As the teams were getting setup, we had a representative from the community college come in and give us all an orientation of their operations. As Mrs. Kavitha, the Head of Department of the Jeevan College of Nursing oriented us, we learned that it wasn’t just a community college, but a group of initiatives undertaken by Udavum Karangal and the website was meant to cater to all the several initiatives, with special emphasis to the Community College. So it turned out to be more sophisticated website than we had previously thought.

The students divided themselves into 5 groups of 3 members each and each team had a total of 15 days to complete their submission. Each team also had a self-declared team lead. While the teams were to operate autonomously and follow their own instincts and internal decisions, I did offer them some exposure to few useful best practices in the industry.


I gave them an orientation into the Software Development Lifecycle, which is a sequence of processes involved in building any software product. First they had to create a blueprint for their website, which was intended as a documentation of their vision of the final product. I instructed them to visualize all aspects of the final website, think about the target audience for the website and the concerns/points of interest that each target audience group may have. This was meant to get them to think critically about what they were doing from the perspective of the users of their product. This part involved a lot group discussion, documentation, asking questions, engaging in independent research and planning solutions for anticipated problems among other things. I introduced them to Google Docs for this and they quickly began using it fairly efficiently. The blueprint document took each of the teams a whole of 1 week to complete and it was still not fully comprehensive in addressing all aspects. This was the major chunk of the process.


The girls collaborating with their teammates to get the job done.

By the time that students were done with their blueprint documents and were about to start development, we received our shipment of WiFi adapters and each team was able to make the most of their time by sharing their work amongst the team members so that everyone could be productive.

The development started and went on for close to two weeks, a little longer than we’d initially planned for. Throughout the process, my role was to not interfere with their work. I let them work unsupervised and advised them to tackle problems on their own and do their own research. My job was to ensure that they understood the instructions and they could work without any obstacles. I hadn’t even looked at their work until they were ready to submit it.

The results

Group photo of the students and school admin team after the website launch and offering of reward to the winning team. The three students from the winning team ‘Blossom Girls’ (From left to right: Udaiyammai, Rosy and Lavanya) are standing at the back.

After about 10 hours or so or development, the students were done and they had submitted their work for review. The administrators of the school and I formed a panel to decide the best submission. The choice was difficult since each team had done considerable amount of work and the end product looked refined in all the submissions. We chose one that stood out in terms of features of the WordPress template that was used.

The resulting team spent additional hours with Mrs. Kavitha, who had prepared content for the website in the meantime. Here again, I simply instructed the team of 3 students as to how they should go about organising their work. I did not tell them what to do. I just showed them how. And on their own, with inputs from Mrs. Kavitha, who is our client in this case, completed adding changes to their work to suit the client’s needs.

Finally, the site was launched on 9th Nov 2019.

So, what’s ahead?

The 3 months that we had spent together was extremely productive and was an unparalleled opportunity for these girls. There are a lot of people who would not be able to afford this learning experience even if they could pay for it. Through these courses most of these girls are exposed to more advanced technology than I was at their age, which is testament to how productive this has been.

I was in talks with the school to conduct further courses. I had a proposal from something that would have taken this up several notches, but ultimately it didn’t materialise because these students are now in class XII and their academic responsibilities are tremendous. So we ultimately agreed to postpone this to another time when the circumstance is more conducive.

We’ve already discussed plans for next year when we will be conducting programs with classes 6–8, who aren’t in the same kind of crunch as class XII students are in, which will let us conduct more extensive programs.

Update I — Some links originally in this post are now not available and have been removed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *