re: What's your opinion on Coding Bootcamps? VIEW POST

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Coding boot camps are an epidemic that must stop or change how they're approaching this! They are created by people who're capitalizing on the helpless souls that simply want nothing more than a career in software development.

I have taught close to a hundred students this year alone and roughly 90% of them have attended boot camps and were completely lost. They have spent anywhere between $5k - $20k for these programs that promise something like 12 things in 12 weeks (an absolutely ridiculous proposition!).

While boot camps continue to produce clueless programmers, business has been flourishing for me because I continue to get these students who still need help in solidifying their knowledge and preparing them for interviews. I'm deeply saddened and enraged at all these boot camps that have shattered so many dreams and stolen people's time and money in broad daylight. Every boot camp has a handful of students who get showcased on their website without ever mentioning their previous exposure to programming. Now, I'm sure there are exceptions and you might be one of them. However, every individual I have worked with has had the exact same story!

I recently received a call to teach a boot camp at a very prestigious university and I went through a couple of interviews only to realize that an intermediate educational institution was conducting these boot camps across many universities in the US. Several of my students have gone through those same programs and felt helpless after completing them. Anyway, I refused to work on that gig because I didn't like their curriculum and how it was affecting students.

Consider that most people attending boot camps have learned React at a boot camp within a week. While you can cover quite some ground in a week, a new programmer will never be comfortable enough to start a project or work on their own. I have been programming for over 25 years and used Javascript for 21 years. It took me almost two months to learn React well enough to be able to build large-scale projects and be comfortable enough to know my way around it. On top of that, it took me six months to master the React ecosystem to a point where I could start teaching it.

What was your experience like? Did you like it? What did you dislike about it?

 

If you don't mind me asking, where/in what context do you teach? Are you a professor?

 

No sir, I'm not a professor. I came across an opportunity to teach but I had to pass up, unfortunately.

I teach Computer Science and programming in Javascript / Node / React. Occasionally, I also teach Python, C++, and C#.

I work as an independent consultant.

Thanks! I really appreciate your perspective on the matter.

 

You might be surprised then to find that many fresh engineering grads are no mpre qualified than these people. Bottom line is that you won't learn it until you start working.

 

A lot of the university programs are also very questionable lately. I was appalled to see what a Computer Science degree constitutes in some universities these days. The bar has been lowered at so many schools and one of the reasons is that people are looking at other types of education (online courses, coursera/udacity, 1:1 training, boot camps, etc.).

I agree that you learn a lot on the job. However, that only works when you can get hired at a job like that. I'm seeing a lot of boot camp attendees struggle at their jobs. The fact that they got a job in the first place was quite astonishing in some cases.

After reading most of your comments on this thread I’m rather mortified as a current bootcamp student. A lot of what you say has a lot of validity and I know I’ve got a gigantic mountain in front of me. If nothing else however, it’s been a big nudge to push my self more than ever

Sorry that it made you feel like that. On the bright side, there's a community here ready to help. If you need anything, please don't hesitate to reach out.

Thank you for your response. I definitely have the drive but living in Seattle, the job market is extremely competitive, and I always fear I’ll be lost in a sea of more qualified candidates!

The Seattle area is tough indeed! However, there's still a lot of demand.

You can also look into remote jobs off LinkedIn, StackOverflow, and other sites.

I live in Redmond. Where are you at? I'm thinking we should start a DEV meetup here. ;)

Good advice!

Oh cool, I’m from sammamish but live in Mukilteo now. I’d absolutely go to a DEV meetup!

 

I used to do pair programming with people working through the FreeCodeCamp curriculum. The number of people who do not understand the concept of a file path vs a URL or file extensions is too damn high!

 

Were these people who you worked with coming out of boot camps? Otherwise, it is understandable if they're confused about it.

Why were you pair-programming on fCC? Was it to learn yourself or teach them?

2 people said they had recently done a bootcamp that was almost $5000 and more than 5 had done a bootcamp that was somewhere between $100 and $1500.

I was on FCC to learn myself. I'm very rusty/inexperienced with JS and Bootstrap.

I can think of at least a dozen times when I never got as far as actually pair programming with a person because they could not tell me if they were using Windows, OSX, or Linux. Another dozen times I told people to e-mail me whenever they decided what program they wanted to use to connect with but they insisted we talk through facebook because they haven't been able to get into their e-mail account for months and didn't want to make yet another new one.

Sadly there's a lot of truth to what you've just said. One of the biggest problems I have observed is the plethora of terrible advice out there.

 

So how would you suggest to solve the technology gap? There has to be some disruption on the field as universities are too expensive and offer too little compared to boot camps. IT needs more brains.

 

That's a very good question. I agree that we need disruption in this space. I have in fact been working on designing a boot camp to solve this issue, but the biggest challenge manifests when you try to scale. As you alluded to earlier, we need more brains, not laborers.

While I might not have an answer to all the problems, I have identified potential areas of concerns with boot camps:

  1. Cramming too many topics and being too generalized

  2. Over-committing and under-delivering on various fronts - job placement, providing 1:1 support, etc.

  3. Sub-par instructors with very little experience and professional background

  4. Making it appear like it is legit - vetting applicants

  5. Combining this as a destination boot camp

  6. False advertising. Showcasing students as case-studies without revealing that they have had prior exposure to programming.

  7. Focusing on irrelevant things. Frameworks instead of fundamentals.

In my opinion, we need to focus on fundamentals, problem-solving, and relevant topics. We should make them highly-skilled in one or two areas and cultivate a culture of just-in-time learning. All that needs to be coupled with hands-on experience.

That's true, unfortunately, if you want to make quick bucks you have to oversimplify, cut corners and hide the scary stuff. That's why coding in bootcamps should be done as part of a holistic plan and not as the only way to learn programming.

 

I think perhaps you might be asking too much of bootcamps and bootcamps graduates. The goal isn’t to produce programmers ready to architect some complex accounting system. They’re not even going to be expected to create large-scale react apps. The end goal is for them to contribute meaningfully on a development team.

I’m glad they don’t spend more than a week on React. What happens if the perfect entry level job for them is a vue shop? Frameworks will change like the seasons, but the process of learning and growing is like time always marching on.

If they learn how to read documentation, how to be curious and how to ask good technical questions then the bootcamp has done their job. The rest can be taught on site in my opinion.

 

I have very low expectations of someone coming out of a boot camp. That's not to say that they can't be good. It's just that these programs are not geared towards teaching them meaningful skills. Most of them have just been taught how to Google literally. I don't think anyone should be paying 12k for something like that. You can get way better content on YouTube and Udemy.

If you want to teach them how to be curious and ask good questions, you start with the fundamentals and cultivate a self-learning mentality. There's no substitute for basics. Why is anyone even doing React in their first 12 weeks? On top of that, you want them to go through Vue and Angular and Backbone - many of my students have. That's a recipe for disaster. You're not teaching them anything by trying to show them so many frameworks. Besides, learning to program is not the same thing as learning a framework.

I'd rather they learn one thing well. Then, they're able to pick up the next thing systematically. If the perfect entry-level job is a Vue shop, I'd rather they know Javascript very well than having a preview of everything under the sun.

 

Thanks for sharing your experience, I find the concept of Bootcamp really interesting. There are hundreds of institutions offering these types of courses and I wonder if there is consistency with content. I'm not sure any other industry has stepped into this model for education, is it just Web Development?

The course I did wasn't an immersive bootcamp but 10 weeks part-time. I had done online learning before the course but that did not prepare me for the pace. The rest of my cohort were all developers by day so it was a tough ride trying to keep up, but I'm glad I stuck with it. I've come out the other side being able to talk the talk, if nothing else, and have stepped into a more technical role. I was not expecting to become a JS developer after a part-time course but it was a good way to get more hands-on with new technology.

 

You are right that there is no consistency with content which is potentially one downside of not being accredited. I have talked to people who have gone through various boot camps around the world and the breakdown is in how these boot camps are being marketed. They're essentially deceiving most of the students. It's one thing to be upfront about what you will and will not learn and another to promise a job after the boot camp, which is ridiculous. If someone attends a boot camp knowing what to expect exactly, then that is one thing. However, I think if most people knew what to expect from their $12,000 loan and time, it could deter many of them. That's what these boot camps don't want to happen.

The biggest issue I see is that they're promising these people that they will become Full Stack Developers after the program. Just because someone has sat through a session and done a standard project doesn't make them a Full Stack Developer. The grading is extremely lenient and so is the acceptance process.

I have been researching a lot about this space mainly because I've noticed this emerging pattern and I've felt really bad for these students.

You seem to have set the right expectations ahead of time. What are you doing now and what are your goals for the future (in Software Development)?

Have you found in your research that there are more courses that offer to defer fees until course completion? Do you feel this is a step in the right direction?

My only expectation was that I'd come out the other side with a better understanding of scripting, be able to use the command line and have a better grasp on concepts like loops and functions. We whizzed through the content and could have spent a lot longer delving into some areas, but as it was 10 weeks part-time (not an immersive Bootcamp) it was the right amount of time to get a taste for it.

I've never heard of deferred fees at a boot camp. However, in the past six weeks, I came across an individual at a boot camp who was kicked out after mid-terms and refunded half the money. Prior to that incident, I had never heard of such a thing. I'm not sure if it is a common occurrence. The individual was devasted (had recently lost one of their parents and was genuinely trying to get back on track) and I was trying to help them as best as I could prior to the test, but I didn't have enough time to work with them and cover enough fundamentals so they could effectively work on a project. The whole boot camp was just rushed.

I have heard of some place that takes 10-20% of your salary for two years. That is definitely an interesting angle, but we need to understand the fine print as well.

Have you come across such courses? BTW, may I ask how much you paid for that non-immersive boot camp?

The article I found while looking into this is Here -> studentloanhero.com/featured/codin...

It's over a year old and I didn't click every link to check it was still the case, but the concept of deferred fees sounded like an interesting proposition, for better or worse.

The 10 week part time JavaScript course was £3000

There are some bootcamp style courses out there that offer deferred fees. Not many. I run Mayden Academy in England. Our bootcamp industry is very different to that in the US, and is still fairly young. At Mayden we offer interest free loans to be repaid after our students start earning. We do this because we whole heartedly believe in the course we have created and are dedicated to maintaining our 100% success record for placing our graduates with good companies.

 

One of my best friends and another girl i know went through a bootcamp. 7 months ago they couldn't code at all. Today they are a pair of brilliant front end developers who continually seek to improve. They were taught by an awesome teacher and in 5 months they did absorb very well going to school EVERY DAY.

I don't think all bootcamps are awesome or wrong. But for what i saw in first person it does work. A Bootcamp will give you the basics, well enough to get you motivated to keep on learning on your own. I mean, i am a self taught programmer with 17 years of formal experience. I attended to one of those bootcamps for full stack dev and it was a great idea. I don't think at this point of my life i would start an undergrad programme in CS... so bootcamps can be a solution to many who discovered a passion for development later in their lives, or those who don't have access or means to fund a full time education.

You can't just generalise....

 
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I concur that the teacher makes a huge difference in this equation. One of the problems with many boot camps is that they employ people who have gone through their own programs or have 1-2 years experience goofing around with programming stuff. You're not going to learn much from people like that. They just don't have enough real-world experience to truly teach you to the extent you should be taught.

I'm not suggesting that anyone consider an undergrad program in CS - that is beyond most people trying to attend boot camps because they're looking for a quick fix. People can very well get a full-time education via Coursera/Udacity, so I don't buy not having the means to fund a full-time education as an excuse.

I'm also not trying to generalize, but I have talked to a wide range of people and worked directly with all of them to get enough insights to form an opinion here. We're talking about ~100 students from various boot camps around the world. I do this daily.

At the end of the day, I'm trying to help these people get out of a mess that they got into. Many of them had to take out loans. Almost all of them have been feeling like they're worthless and not cut-out for this which isn't true at all. These institutions (small and large) have played them.

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