When it comes to choosing a coding bootcamp, the options can be overwhelming—especially if you’re a true beginner (e.g., brand new to coding). There are an array of coding languages you can learn, a variety of career prep services, and tuition that can range from expensive to even more expensive. To determine whether you’ll be getting a quality experience at a coding bootcamp, where should you start your research?
At Launch Academy, we advocate starting with the curriculum. The heart of any coding bootcamp experience will be the quality of your newly developed skills, imparted via both the teaching and learning experience. A strong curriculum is based on a set of core lessons that cover essential coding fundamentals, and lessons that evolve over time based on market demands, student feedback, and industry changes. A good coding bootcamp’s curriculum will make you the adaptable and ambitious coder you never knew you could be. You’ll learn how to learn—how to pick up skills quickly, ask the right questions to tackle a variety of problems, and be both a strong collaborator and independent contributor.
When evaluating your potential coding bootcamp’s curriculum, use the following questions as a cheat sheet:
Is the Curriculum Agile?
The Agile methodology is an approach to software engineering that focuses on individuals and interactions, customer involvement, and the ability to change and adapt, all in the service of building software that works.
“As we were rolling out the first version of our education experience at Launch Academy,” says co-founder Dan Pickett, “we considered how can we apply Agile principles in the delivery of education?” At Launch Academy, we practice Agile education by revising our curriculum before each new cohort begins, conducting regular retrospectives where all team members can submit feedback and suggest experiments to improve, and having daily stand-up meetings to encourage in-the-moment troubleshooting.
When speaking to admissions or instructor representatives at the coding bootcamp that interests you, ask them whether their curriculum is refined over time, and how updates are suggested and implemented.
Will I Be Required to Complete One or Several Coding Projects?
When you start interviewing for your first job as a junior web developer, you’ll want to be able to show examples of your work in a professional portfolio. Your potential coding bootcamp curriculum should include one or several coding projects that you’ll be able to build, refine, and present to prospective employers.
“At Launch Academy, we define a student project as a deployed application,” says Justin Huynh, Senior Experience Engineer. Students who graduate from Launch Academy build two projects: a group project and a solo capstone project (aka a “Breakable Toy”).
Software engineers are expected to master both communication and translation skills, says Eben Lowe, Experience Engineer at Launch Academy. “With the group project, we have students imagine that a product owner has given them certain specifications for an app. They then have to turn those specifications into user stories and turn those user stories into code. The Breakable Toy as an independent project has the student act as their own product owner. They decide what to build, they come up the specifications to turn into user stories. That’s super valuable for those who go out to the workplace because it means our graduates can both communicate and translate.”
When comparing coding bootcamps, look at the specific project requirements for graduation. Will you be completing tangible projects and/or products that you can showcase to hiring managers? What will the requirements for the project(s) entail? The more project details you can get in advance, the better prepared you’ll be not only for your coding bootcamp, but also for your new coding career.
Will I Get Practice Working on a Team?
Pore over the course catalogs for the coding bootcamps that interest you. How are the lessons structured? Will you be getting experience working collaboratively across a variety of settings?
“At Launch Academy, we experimented with having students facilitate the first half of mentor group lessons, instead of the supporting instructor,” says Pickett. “With guidance and clarification from our instructors as needed, students were able to describe their understanding of the reading material in a relatable way, so overall comprehension improved. It also brought the group closer together, which is always great to see.” This “flipped classroom” experiment has become a key part of the Launch Academy teaching method.
When it comes to the group project, says Lowe, “several people work together to create a fully functional deployed app. It’s as much a simulation of actual workplace experience as we can make it, which is why we have them work in teams. It gives them the opportunity to program as part of a team, which many of them are going to be doing [at work], using a source control like Git, which most of them are going to be using. They get code reviews so they can be sure their first project is coming along smoothly.”
When evaluating coding bootcamp curriculum, ensure you’ll have the opportunity to both learn and code as part of a team. It’ll be an essential skill once you enter the workforce as a junior software engineer.