Coding boot camps position themselves as an effective way to learn new technology. But are they the most effective way to do this?
Aaron Skonnard doesn’t think so, though he’s not without bias. He runs Pluralsight, an online training destination that offers courses for developers and other tech professionals. Writing in Venturebeat, he contends that boot camps can be valuable, but are limited in their approach. He thinks online learning is a better alternative because:
- Boot camps require students to be on-site during specified times. Since most of them are located in major cities, this can be a problem for anyone who lives outside an urban center. Online training, on the other hand, can be done from anywhere.
- A boot camp can run into the thousands of dollars (Skonnard claims an average of $9,900). Online training is cheaper, sometimes costing less than $100 per course.
- Boot camps focus on a single language at a time when developers need to know multiple skills. With online learning, students can take more than one course at a time, exposing themselves to different viewpoints and learning a set of skills, rather than just one.
- Instead of being tied to a specified schedule, online learners can work at their own pace. This is a particular advantage for career changers, Skonnard says, because they don’t have to quit their day jobs to attend a 10-week boot camp full-time.
Skonnard also claims that online programs give students an advantage when it comes to marketing themselves by offering help with job-hunting skills. But that ignores the fact that boot camps, under pressure from students and the increasing eye of regulators, put an awful lot of emphasis on trying to help their graduates get jobs.
Skonnard’s list does identify some of the things to consider when you’re thinking about getting yourself training. My checklist looks like this:
- Need: What will completing the course bring me?
- Cost: Will the benefits be worth the money?
- Location: Do I need to be on-site or can I work from home?
- Schedule: Am I tied to a structure, or will I be able to explore and pace myself?
- Reputation: What kind of reviews has the provider earned from past participants? How do people talk about them out in the field?
- Resources: What does the provider offer to students besides the course itself?
Whether a boot camp or online course is right for you depends on a lot of things: how self-motivated you are, how much flexibility you have and how much money you want to spend are just a few of them. Some people need the structure of a classroom to really focus on developing new skills. Others are better off exploring on their own.
Then, there’s your goal: If you’re moving into a whole new field you may like the idea of a hard break with the past, which a boot camp will give you. On the other hand, that hard break costs real money, and reality may dictate that online training is the only option.
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