Howdy Aaron! Can you run us through a typical day for your student at Bloc?
Because we offer part-time and full-time tracks, many of our students put in a full day of work, and work on Bloc for a few hours each evening. Others quit their jobs and take Bloc full-time. A typical day for a part-time student might include reading an assignment which introduces a new concept, then having an online mentor appointment where the student and mentor pair-program as they try adding a new feature to the student’s project.
Is there a unique feature or distinct motivation for your bootcamp or teaching philosophy?
Bloc is unique in that we offer both (1) a custom-built, rigorous, project-based curriculum, and (2) teaching by one-on-one mentorship. Group bootcamps have a number of problems: it’s possible to fall behind (or accelerate ahead) of the class; students need to compete for time with instructors; commuting is a hassle; they’re more expensive; you often need to quit your job; the curriculum can’t be customized for your skill level. Our online one-on-one model resolves all of these issues.
As far as I know, we’re the only company that offers both high quality, regularly updated curriculum and remote one-on-one mentoring with seasoned professionals in varied backgrounds.
What backgrounds do you find your applicants usually coming from? Is there a particular kind of student or learning style that excels in your programs? Is there a kind of student or learning style that is not well suited for your programs?
Bloc actually doesn’t have applicants: we accept everyone who is desirous of learning software development and design. Obviously, having some sort of transferable skill - scripting, spreadsheets, algebra, QA work, etc. - will make it easier to learn. Our curriculum doesn’t assume any of this knowledge, so beginners are encouraged to sign up. Most of our students are bright, motivated, and have tried Codecademy, Code School, or Treehouse in the past, but decided they wanted a bootcamp to accelerate their learning.
If you’re not sure, get in touch, and we’ll discuss your background and give you an honest opinion.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the online learning model and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge is student procrastination. Our flexible scheduling makes it easy to push the work back when it gets hard, and you don’t have cohorts to push you along. Self-discipline is very important. We solve for that by asking our mentors to be direct with students about their progress, and to hold students accountable for doing the work and showing-up.
Since your first cohorts, how has the direction of your curriculum changed over time, if at all?
We update the curriculum weekly with new technologies, projects, bug fixes, improved explanations, and more. Students get lifetime access to their roadmap, even after their course has ended.
Combining our curriculum with one-on-one mentorship allows us to tailor the curriculum to each student. The first third of the curriculum is required; during the remaining two thirds students select projects based on the skills and technologies they want to learn. For a student’s Capstone, they come up with their own idea from scratch, spec it, and built it.
What kind of roles, jobs, and/or companies do your programs ready your students for?
Student have graduated and gotten hired at great companies like Autodesk, Groupon, Starbucks, Sephora, and One Kings Lane. Beginners who do well can expect to be ready for an entry-level developer job. More seasoned engineers, for example a web developer who takes Bloc to learn mobile, can expect to qualify for a mid-to-senior level mobile job after graduation. Some students have turned their Capstone Projects into startups that either raised venture capital or got acquired.
Some people don’t take Bloc to switch careers. Product and program managers take Bloc to better understand the people and work they’re managing. Entrepreneurs take Bloc and launch their own company.
Students with specific goals should know that in addition to a mentor and a thorough curriculum, Bloc offers each student a Program Coordinator who can help personalize their experience. For example, if you let us know you’re planning on starting a company, your Program Coordinator can pair you with a mentor who has entrepreneurial experience.
What’s the best advice for students who want to attend your coding bootcamp?
Self-doubt and procrastination are your two biggest enemies. Suppress and ignore your self-doubt at whatever cost necessary. Plan at least two hours a day to work on Bloc, and fight with vigor the urge to skip even one day.
Writing is your best friend. When something confuses you, try to write out an explanation of what it is - either in code, or in English (or your native language). Writing will help you see what you understand so far and clarify your understanding.
What’s the best advice for people who want to start teaching code?
Teaching code requires many different skills than writing code. Get your toes wet first to see if it’s good fit - spend some time answering beginner questions on Stack Overflow, volunteer to mentor a new student, write a few blog posts.
Can you share a favorite teaching moment or the best student project you’ve seen?
One of our students, Łukasz Kowalski, received two promotions during his Bloc course (he worked with mentor Phil Wright). He started off as a UX designer, got promoted to iOS developer, and then was finally promoted to the team lead. He worked on a number of really cool projects, including a beautiful note-taking app. He’s featured on our alumni page (http://bloc.io/alumni).
How do you see the learn to code movement and the bootcamp industry changing over the next one to five years? Where do you see these programs fitting into the larger picture of education?
High-paying software development and design job openings are appearing faster than qualified candidates on the job market. So, for the foreseeable future, dedicated new developers will be able to get great jobs, and senior-level developers will be able to command especially high salaries.
There’s also been a sharp increase in software bootcamps, and they vary in quality. The job market has many junior developers who know just enough to be dangerous. If you’re picking a bootcamp, it’s important to pick an education that’s rigorous, thorough, and project-based - so you have experience building actual products.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Yes, two things:
1. One of our core goals is to promote diversity in the tech industry. If you’re reading this, you want to learn to code, and if you belong to a class that’s underrepresented in tech, please get in touch. We have scholarships and additional resources to offer towards your goals.
2. Learning to write code is a difficult but enriching journey. Aside from the doors it’ll open for your career, you’ll practice intense, collaborative learning with your mentor. The logical, structured nature of writing code will hone your ability to reason effectively and think creatively, and you’ll develop a deeper perspective on the world around you.
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