By Katie Bouwkamp
If you’ve spent any time researching online programs that teach you how to code, you’ve probably discovered that there are countless options available. The good news is that there’s something for everyone, and asking these four questions will help narrow down the best fit for you.
How long is the program, and how many hours are required each week?
Online coding boot camps vary greatly when it comes to length and intensity. Some offer flexible scheduling, while other schools require you to be online during specific class times. Additionally, lessons offered by schools like Code School are completely self-paced, whereas other schools require the course to be completed during a certain time period (typically ranging from four to 12 weeks, although some extend to 36 weeks or more).
Some coding boot camps, such as Bloc.io, offer flexible, full-time or part-time options to accommodate busy schedules, although in this scenario, plan on the part-time options taking longer to complete.
Do I get to work 1:1 with mentors and/or instructors, and how often will they be available?
Mentorship is key! Not only does it provide guidance, but also a level of accountability that is harder to come by given the nature of an online program. Make sure to ask the boot camp up-front if you would get to meet with a mentor or instructor and, if so, how often. Having a forum or access to teaching assistants is also vital, as they are great resources if you get stuck on a particular problem that keeps you from moving forward in the program. Net-net: make sure the boot camp you select will be invested in your success, and will go the extra mile in helping you define and execute whatever path you define as a priority.
What are my personal and/or professional goals?
Are you a coding hobbyist trying to learn the basics of programming, an experienced professional developer who wants to pivot to a more modern stack, or an aspiring developer starting from ground zero? Perhaps you’re a high school student looking to get a head start before heading to college, or a recent college grad with dreams of launching your own app.
If you have no coding experience whatsoever, you’ll want to look at online courses such as General Assembly, geared more towards beginners; Coursera, Code School and Codeacademy, all a bit more advanced, are excellent starting points for anyone looking to get a feel for multiple coding languages. None of these options will provide the depth of knowledge required to get hired as a full-time working developer. Still, these courses are great for anyone looking to get their feet wet in coding, get up-to-speed on the basics of programming, or to see if it’s a career that they might be interested in pursuing.
Additionally, are the languages offered in-line with the type of projects/products you want to work on (e.g. Web vs. enterprise vs. consumer vs. mobile vs. startup)?
If you’re already a professional developer, or have a good baseline of programming knowledge, you’ll want to look at online programs that deep dive into specific stacks like MEAN and Ruby on Rails (without spending a lot of time covering the frameworks, languages and Web basics that you’re already familiar with).
What is the learning format?
Does the course consist of online video lectures presented by instructors, video tutorials, interactive exercises, projects or offer a variety of formats? While video lectures and tutorials may be great at breaking down programming concepts and theory, interactive exercises and projects are what actually build the brain muscle needed to become a developer and improve your practice. Some examples of this include working on mini tasks that you would actually do if you were building a website.
It’s important to keep in mind that enrolling in an online coding boot camp isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires dedication, perseverance and self-discipline to successfully complete (and master) the program.
Make sure to do your research; it’s imperative to choose an online boot camp with the right coursework/curriculum, depth, flexibility, and support so you achieve your goals, whatever they may be.
Katie Bouwkamp is Director of Engagement at Coding Dojo.