"Brogrammers," delirious valuations, elevator pitch ambushes at every turn—so far the only thing missing from HBO’s new comedy "Silicon Valley" is a bootcamp for novice programmers. In the last few years these intensive schools promising to transform dreamers into employed developers have been sprouting like daisies, with close to four dozen now operating in technology hubs around the world.
Now an established company is donning a hoodie and stepping into this increasingly crowded and still-evolving segment of the for-profit education market. Kaplan Test Prep has teamed up with thoughtbot, a leading web development firm, to launch Metis, a 12-week bootcamp for aspiring Ruby on Rails engineers. Kaplan dollars and expertise are powering the program, but on the surface Metis is driven by a startupesque, hacker philosophy.
"Changing your trajectory in a short period of time is the heart of test prep," says Jason Moss, vice president of strategy for Kaplan and cofounder of the Metis initiative. "It wasn't too much of a logical step to look into this new field of new economy skills training."
Moss says that Ruby is just one of the courses that could eventually fall under the Metis brand; data science, user experience, and other digital skills are also in consideration. His criteria: "Where are the hard-to-fill roles, and what roles do we believe lend themselves to this kind of immersive, outcomes-based type of learning?"
For Kaplan, that outcome is simple: entry-level jobs with the kinds of salaries that have made bootcamps’ tuition, typically around $12,000, a good investment for some (but not all) students.
Avi Flombaum, dean of the Flatiron School, one of the first bootcamps in New York, says he thinks about outcomes in a different way. "We're career-centered, not job-centered. Your first job is just a stepping stone," he says, pointing to Flatiron’s interview workshops and alumni programs. Flombaum says he’s skeptical that an organization known for teaching students how to "game tests" will be able to deliver programs of a quality that is good for the industry as a whole.
Moss says that Metis, backed by Kaplan’s pedagogical resources, is the product of educational research on everything from motivating behavior to sequencing lessons. His team is going so far as to videotape classes and provide feedback to instructors—all thoughtbot developers—in the hopes of sharpening their teaching skills.
In the end, regardless of method, it’s students and employers who will judge which bootcamps and models are most effective. Metis plans to open its first New York City program at a to-be-announced location in the Flatiron District this June; whether it can convince students to bet on their futures remains to be seen.
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