2014-04-09

Co.Labs

Can Coding Bootcamps Integrate With Colleges?

Coding schools see a future in the traditional higher education world, but each side has different expectations.



In the world of STEM education, coding bootcamps fill an important niche, re-educating the workforce to fill the growing number of vacant software engineering jobs in Silicon Valley and abroad. Now these bootcamps have their horizons set on traditional four-year colleges. Are the two antithetical, or will the college experience of the future be an amalgam of bootcamps and traditional semesters?

Take as an example a coding bootcamp called Hack Reactor. At the beginning of April, reps from the company met with the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore to discuss how its brand of STEM education could work in the university system of that country. And now, Hack Reactor has chipped the tip of the iceberg of university partnerships stateside, in a new project with Harvard.

"We hosted a visit from a curious professor a few weeks ago, which has developed into a collaboration on Harvard's MOOC-like MCB80x," says Shawn Drost, cofounder of Hack Reactor.

Now, Hack Reactor is building a new Q&A video functionality for the neuroscience professor’s course offered through the site. But a project that aims to integrate the curricula of both institutions seems further away—and one major issue is reputation.


Read the post that kicked off this discussion: Do Coding Bootcamps Produce Inferior Engineers?


Potential Student Pipelines

"We've discussed deeper partnerships with others, but universities move at a pretty slow pace, and we haven't moved on this yet," says Drost. Jeff Casimir, business manager of Jumpstart Lab and executive director of the Turing School of Software and Design, has also thought of partnering with the University of Denver but says his team is moving slowly on it.

"I see the big potential with university partnerships to be a student pipeline. Programs like ours can build skills that allow someone to become really valuable within their passion domain," Casimir says.

"Maybe you love American history and get a degree in it, but the jobs where you can apply those skills are pretty limited. Come to a program like ours, become a proficient developer, then you can go work with great teams at places like the Smithsonian or the National Park Service," says Casimir, referring to a former map-loving student who now works for the U.S. National Park Service.

Reputation Battles

Casimir notes it is difficult to win a respectable reputation in the market without the traditional entrance exams that define many universities’ prestige.

"The issue there is that, given that there are no standardized tests in computer programming, it’s all based on our word and our reputation. If we say you’re good, everyone else is going to say you’re good, too," says Casimir.

Even so, established education providers seem to overlook coding schools’ main educational element and regard them more as an accessory. In the Harvard-Hack Reactor partnership, Hack Reactor provides technical support, not technical instruction about programming.

Similarly, Kaplan Test Prep had recently contacted both Hack Reactor and Jumpstart Lab to start a partnership. In fact, Kaplan reached out to many more coding bootcamps. In the end, it chose to partner up resources with the software consulting company thoughtbot, to start their forthcoming bootcamp Metis.

Although thoughbot developed the curriculum based on its in-house Ruby training programs, its expertise still lies in software development. The programming education experts are, invariably, the instructors at the coding bootcamps.

[Image: Flickr user Gavin St. Ours]




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