Should Coding Bootcamps Face Greater Oversight?

Traditional academic institutions face a lot of formal scrutiny. In the United States, colleges and universities must submit to national accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, a host of publications and websites keep constant tabs on schools’ status; for instance, the influential U.S. News & World Report annually evaluates the “top” national universities and liberal arts colleges.

As coding bootcamps and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) evolve into established channels for tech pros seeking to improve their skills, the question inevitably arises: should these institutions collectively face the same rigorous examination as traditional schools?

That’s a very thorny question, and opinions vary. Although some bootcamps have attempted to seize the brass ring of accreditation by pairing up with universities, others have declined to submit their curriculums for external approval. The nonprofit Council on Integrity in Results Reporting (CIRR) has paired with bootcamps to develop a transparent framework for reporting graduation and hiring rates, and so has EducationQA—but with 95 full-time bootcamps currently operating in the United States (and an estimated 22,949 students enrolled), there are clearly gaps in reporting coverage.

In a bid to give the bootcamp industry a little more oversight, at least locally, New York City’s municipal government has issued a list of “voluntary” guidelines for bootcamps. “As demand for qualified talent continues to grow, New York City needs educators that are prepared to reliably deliver a broader pool of students into tech jobs,” reads the introduction to the city’s downloadable report, which includes those guidelines. “To help achieve this goal, TTP is sharing 12 key practices that promise to improve connections to tech careers for a broader student body, delivering successful results for bootcamps, students, and employers alike.” (Hat tip to Bloomberg for the link to the report.)

The key practices include “provide clear up-front information on all requirements” (practice 6), and “conduct assessments frequently and provide targeted support (practice 9). It’s pretty straightforward stuff, in other words, but potentially helpful as more bootcamps spring up across the city.

For New York City, bootcamps are an important element in maintaining the local tech hub. Although the city boasts a nice portfolio of startups and established enterprises, it faces fierce competition for businesses not only from Silicon Valley, but also up-and-coming towns across the country that want to grow a tech ecosystem (and the tax base that comes with it). And in theory, the more locals who join bootcamps and learn marketable tech skills, the more attractive the city becomes to tech firms.

If you’re considering joining a bootcamp, check out the downloadable report, as well as the EducationQA and CIRR websites (for example, CIRR offers a page of data from schools “committed to transparency”). That information can help you make an informed decision about the right institution to attend.

4 Responses to “Should Coding Bootcamps Face Greater Oversight?”

  1. Kool Harry

    Is this a joke? If you take a look at the fees charged by the so called online accredited institutions, it is a rip off for presenting recorded materials. Also it has been the failure of these universities etc to provide relevant education, relevant as in needed in the market that has led to the so called boot camps. Even the boot camps they charge something like thousands of dollars for a few weeks of mumbo jumbo. It is a good thing that online tutorials are cropping up on the internet and one can say with confidence that freshers from US universities hired after taking training from such boot camps/tutorials here will go a long way in helping US IT .

  2. Maureen Axtell

    Been doing this for 40+ years. Didn’t learn much useful in college. We didn’t have online back then. I learned by doing, with some very able colleagues.

    I think bootcamps are the only cost-effective extension and/or replacement for “accredited” coursework for the current period. Either way, what you learn now will be completely useless in 5-10 years. I think of it as the next generation’s version of continuing education.

    That given, governance and quality of program results is very important, of course. Otherwise you end up wasting even more money becoming a certified incompetent expert.

  3. Bob Richards

    The code camps are very worthwhile. I have been in Information Technology for my whole professional career. Technology has and always will move far more quickly than a University can keep up with. I can say that what I learned getting my degree has very little to do with todays technology. In my opinion the code camp concept needs to be further refined with an alliance with corporate. That is the educational requirements are established by corporate entities and the cost is either in part or in whole payed by the corporate entity with a payback in the terms of employee’s signing an employment agreement. The current method of students entering the work force with over a $100,000 dollars in student loans is not working! Many coming out of Universities are lacking the required skills of a very general education.

  4. Coding Dojo is no small investment. If you’re already a strong Developer and want to learn a new stack, network, or strengthen your portfolio, the Dojo might be a good fit! If not, I’d encourage you to continue looking for a program better suited for you!

    The program is rigorous and fast-paced. You should be a disciplined self-teacher as you’ll need to study a few hours each night. The instructors will typically let you struggle through the remaining material in groups before explaining the most difficult topics. At just under $1K per week, you might expect periodic feedback from your instructor. Well, you’d be wrong. Staff offer to review code; but, rarely make themselves available. Coding Dojo pays plenty of lip service to the idea of molding students into self-sufficient developers. With the exception of one or two staff and student leaders, I wouldn’t characterize the culture as accessible or committed to student success. Beyond open house sales pitches and a weekly all-hands meeting, you’ll be largely responsible for seeking assistance and sustaining morale. On top of the heavy coursework, you’ll need to build your portfolio and initiate conversations with career services. That is if you plan to find a job after graduation.

    With that said, if you’re lucky enough to get an engaged instructor, you will likely grow during this program. I had an awesome instructor for my first stack. Thanks to the great mix of personalities in Dojo cohorts, lecture tended to be entertaining! My second instructor was a knowledgeable programmer who seemed uncomfortable teaching. She seemed better suited for a cubicle farm with little to no social interaction. For this review, I’ve changed the instructor’s name to Becky. To say Becky was a poor communicator would be generous. She rarely covered a concept from start to finish. Even more disappointing was lecture Q&A. Her answers to student queries showed little consideration for her students’ knowledge gap; rather she highlighted her gift for crafting snarky quips. With a lecture schedule as unpredictable as the instructor’s mood, she’d routinely hold 20-25 minimal working sessions to help students.

    I didn’t know how fortunate I was to have quality teachers in school. I’ve only studied under dedicated teachers, professors, and mentors, naively leading me to characterize all educators as “student-focused.” I was afforded not-so-small services like office hours, personalized feedback, I even benefitted from one-on-one sessions to clarify concepts. If a student consistently demonstrates their commitment, I’d argue instructors have an ethical duty to champion them across the finish line.

    Who knew these would be considered luxuries at Coding Dojo? At $11-13K, the Dojo’s as expensive as a 4-year private university. Coding Dojo advertises their accessible instructional style. With classes between 10 and 20, you might be inclined to believe their interests lie with you, the student. If you’re already a capable Developer and want to learn a new stack, network, or strengthen your portfolio, you should continue exploring this program! If not, I’d encourage you to look beyond this option to find a path better suited for you.