In recent years, coding bootcamps have been one of the most trendy ways to learn to program. These courses can condense years of practical learning into a short period of time and often put graduates on an upwards career path.
But in recent years, several coding bootcamps have shut their doors. Why were these bootcamps so appealing in the first place? Why are they closing? And what does the future of programming instruction look like?
Coding is an essential skill in many segments of the tech world, and can be an entry point to a lucrative career. However, many traditional instructional models are insufficient when applied to learning to code.
Many high schools and colleges treat coding like just another educational topic, to be mastered over the course of a semester or two. However, in many ways, coding is more like a skilled trade than a liberal art. Mastery is not based on what a coder understands, but on what they can do.
This is why many students have found coding bootcamps appealing. They shore up many of the weaknesses of traditional instructional models by focusing on function rather than theory, and helping students rapidly acquire skills.
2017 saw the closure of two prominent coding bootcamps: Kaplan's Dev Bootcamp, and Apollo Education Group's Iron Yard. The period between then and now (mid-2019) has seen even more closures of bootcamps, both small and large.
This has taken several industry experts by surprise. For a while, coding bootcamps looked unassailable. Now, even established operations are folding. Industry experts have several competing theories about what's happening.
The first is that there are too many coding bootcamps, and not enough students to fill them. However, it's unclear which end of the equation is most responsible. It's undeniable that recent years have seen a tremendous number of coding bootcamps open their doors, and it's possible supply outstrips demand.
But it's also possible that industry analysts have seriously overestimated the demand. There may not be as many open jobs as analysts think. Coding may not be as essential as received wisdom says, or workers may not yet be fully facing economic realities.
Finally, it's also possible that potential coders are realizing coding bootcamps don't provide the skills or experience they need. Many people may feel their skills are better reinforced in a classroom setting, or with more experience gained slowly, over time. Alternately, employers may be reluctant to hire a graduate from a coding bootcamp, compared with an applicant with a computer science degree.
With so many coding bootcamps going under, many instructors and entrepreneurs are wondering what's next.
While some camps may be closing, that doesn't mean the bootcamp model has no future. Many students will probably still seek out the valuable experiences coding bootcamps can offer.
Many companies may reform the coding bootcamp business model. When Kaplan closed Dev Bootcamp, it cited high overhead as a factor. Coding bootcamps require paying experts for their intensive attention over several weeks. It's likely companies will develop more cost-effective instructional models. It's also likely federal workforce development subsidies would make bootcamps more financially sustainable.
Finally, it's possible many potential students will seek out slower, more intensive models of instruction. While this doesn't have the same near-instant gratification as a coding bootcamp, it reinforces ideas learned over time and cultivates greater skill and versatility. Changing the instructional model may also allow instructors to give students more individualized attention -- something coding bootcamps have generally eschewed in favor of a one-size-fits-all approach.
The coding bootcamp industry isn't dead, but it is suffering. With several recent closures of high-profile bootcamps, industry experts are working to diagnose and address the problem. It's unclear what the future will hold, but it's likely students will see a proliferation of more financially-sustainable educational models that focus on more in-depth instruction.