Professor & Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology at Royal Roads University

Thinking out loud about coding bootcamps, nanodegrees, & alternative credentials


Posted on June 29th, by George Veletsianos in scholarship. 2 comments

“The CanCode program will invest $50 million over two years, starting in 2017-18, to support initiatives providing educational opportunities for coding and digital skills development to Canadian youth from kindergarten to grade 12 (K-12).

The program aims to equip youth, including traditionally underrepresented groups, with the skills and study incentives they need to be prepared for the jobs of today and the future. Canada’s success in the digital economy depends on leveraging our diverse talent and providing opportunity for all to participate—investing in digital skills development will help to achieve this.”

The CanCode program is a new funding opportunity in Canada. Similar initiatives have occurred globally. The investment in coding to prepare youth and adults for the jobs of the future is an interesting phenomenon. In a past project for example, we worked with over fifty high schools and developed a dual enrolment course focused on computational thinking and the presence of computing in daily life. The ability to read, write, and tinker with code is one aspect of this course. Our course was about introducing students to computer science – and though coding is an aspect of it, computer science is not coding.

But, coding is a central feature of an ever-expanding market of emerging credentials. Badges. Nanodegrees. Certs. And so on. Providers offer these in many different ways, both in terms of modality (e.g.,  online courses vs. face-to-face coding bootcamps) and pacing (e.g., self-paced vs. cohort-based). Some highlight experiential components (e.g., industry partnerships) while others highlight the flexibility of adjusting to learner’s life circumstances.

In short, providers make a case that their credentials promise employment opportunities in a rapidly changing global economy where coding is in demand. This space seems to be an example of what certain aspects of unbundling may look like. The space configures alternative credentials, digital learning, for-profit education, skills training, and re-training in unique ways. I have a lot of questions around this space

  • What are learners’ experiences with coding bootcamps and nanodegrees?
  • Who enrols? Who succeeds?
    • To what extent do these programs broaden participation in computing?
    • To what degree and in what ways do these programs democratize learning and participation? Do they?
  • What do learners expect from these offerings and how do they judge the quality of their experience and credential?
  • What are the dominant pedagogical practices (within and across providers) in teaching people how to code?
  • What is the role of technology in these programs?
  • What do outcomes look like, and how do those align with providers’ promises? For instance, what proportion of participants find gainful employment and what does that employment look like?
  • What are instructors’ roles in these offerings? Who are they? What is their pedagogical background? Is this their main employment? Are there connections to the gig economy and precarious employment here?
  • How diverse are these offerings in terms of gender and race with respect to students (who enrols?), instructors (who teaches?) and content (are minorities represented in curricular materials? in what ways?)

I’ve been looking for some answers to my questions, but I’m not finding much.

Additional reading

http://hackeducation.com/2015/11/23/bootcamps-the-new-for-profit-higher-ed

https://www.wired.com/2017/02/programming-is-the-new-blue-collar-job

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/04/education/edlife/where-non-techies-computer-programming-coding.html

https://www.geekwire.com/2015/dear-geekwire-a-coding-bootcamp-is-not-a-replacement-for-a-computer-science-degree/

https://news.slashdot.org/story/16/08/22/0521230/four-code-bootcamps-are-now-eligible-for-government-financial-aid

http://www.chronicle.com/article/Coding-Boot-Camps-Come-Into/239673?cid=cp21

http://hackeducation.com/2011/10/28/codecademy-and-the-future-of-not-learning-to-code

Industry report: https://www.coursereport.com/reports/2016-coding-bootcamp-job-placement-demographics-report





2 thoughts on “Thinking out loud about coding bootcamps, nanodegrees, & alternative credentials

  1. Interesting questions. I am a graduate student at Brigham Young University heavily involved in research on Open Badges and I also recently began a Summer instructional design internship at a nearby coding Bootcamp (https://devmountain.com). I know the answers to some of these questions for our particular Bootcamp, but haven’t yet have not yet learned the answers to others.

    • What are learners’ experiences with coding bootcamps and nanodegrees?
    1. People who are looking for a career change. Usually from a non-technical related job background.
    2. People who already work as coders and need to learn a new skill (IOS Development, web development, etc.)

    • What do learners expect from these offerings and how do they judge the quality of their experience and credential?
    Generally students seem to be concerned mostly with obtaining the skill-set, not necessarily the credential signifying their completion of the course. They are more interested in the projects that help them build a meaningful portfolio. There are certainly critiques from high level employers. The most common I hear is that these students know how to code but not how to think through and plan in advance what they will code.

    • What are the dominant pedagogical practices (within and across providers) in teaching people how to code?
    Our courses are very project based and I know at least two follow a flipped classroom approach. From what I have seen, students are essentially expected to make the course their life for the weeks they are enrolled. Many have commented on 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM days.

    • What do outcomes look like, and how do those align with providers’ promises? For instance, what proportion of participants find gainful employment and what does that employment look like?
    I know this is a strong point at my particular coding bootcamp, though I’ll have to look into the specific numbers.

    • What are instructors’ roles in these offerings? Who are they? What is their pedagogical background? Is this their main employment? Are there connections to the gig economy and precarious employment here?
    The instructors at our camp are professional developers. They are the ones who founded this particular bootcamp and have little to no background in teaching or pedagogy. It was only within the last couple of years that the company has begun focusing on instructional design specifically. For many this is not their main employeement, however, originally it was something they did on the side to “give back”.
    I am not aware of any formal connections to other companies. Instead they have become a well-known skill resource in the local economy.

Leave a Reply to George Veletsianos Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *