Virtual learning amid increased demand: How DC-area bootcamps are teaching coding skills now - Technical.ly DC

Software Development

Nov. 23, 2020 5:00 pm

Virtual learning amid increased demand: How DC-area bootcamps are teaching coding skills now

Coding Dojo and Flatiron School are meeting an influx of interest in technical upskilling with revamped remote programs during the pandemic.
A group of women coders during an online Coding Dojo course.

A group of women coders during an online Coding Dojo course.

(Courtesy image

Technology is a sector that lends itself easily to continuous upskilling.

But amid the coronavirus pandemic, tech education programs are seeing more interest than ever, as current technologists find themselves with more free time to dedicate to skills development — and those aspiring to join the industry see a more urgent need to transition to a stable profession.

Earlier this fall, Technical.ly published a list of coding programs in the region for beginner or expert developers looking to spruce up their resumes during the pandemic. Executives at local bootcamps told us that demand for a wider variety of online programming continues to increase as tech professionals prepare to work through another pending shutdown.

Coding Dojo and Flatiron School have suspended in-person instruction at their local campuses, but the organizations have continued to serve students virtually. Here’s how the two prominent coding bootcamps in the region have been answering the high demand for online coding courses.

Coding Dojo

This bootcamp, which has sites around the country and a local campus in Arlington, teaches three different stack tracks in its curricula — Python, .NET Core and MERN — as well as an online program to introduce developers to data science. The company has always offered online courses but when the pandemic hit, Coding Dojo trained all of its onsite staff for online instruction within days back in March, cofounder and CEO Richard Wang told Technical.ly. By April, Coding Dojo launched four new online programs and relaunched its full-time online program to meet the increased demand.

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“It was a tough adjustment for some near the beginning of COVID with the quick shift from onsite to online, but overall our students are handling it well and tackling the curriculum like they normally would,” Wang said.

An online Coding Dojo course in action. (Courtesy photo)

Coding Dojo has been using Zoom for online lectures and a combination of Mattermost, Discord and Walkabout Workplace for chat communication. Walkabout Workplace is a virtual office space software that the coding bootcamp uses to provide parts of its onsite experience digitally.

“Each student has a desk and can collaborate with classmates, pop into their instructor’s office for questions or one-on-ones, and even play games like ping pong like they would on our physical campuses,” Wang said.

Since its curriculum was already formatted for remote learning, Coding Dojo’s main focus initially was on training staff for online instruction to better serve students virtually. Though Wang declined to share specific enrollment figures, he said Coding Dojo has seen “tremendous growth” with its part-time online program.

“I can disclose that we’ve hit historic all-time highs in monthly enrollments and applications multiple times throughout 2020,” he said.

Richard Wang. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Coding Dojo’s programs normally run for about three and a half months each with tuition starting at $14,995. Wang said the coding bootcamp hasn’t discounted any of its programs through the pandemic, but it has launched new offerings to cater to students of all experience levels and those who want to work at their own pace. Coding Dojo now also offers self-paced programs for developers looking to add a stack to their portfolio and part-time flex programs which include 10 hours of of instruction per week for 28 weeks.

For beginner coders, Coding Dojo always suggest learning Python once you pick up the basics since this language is in high demand with employers. Wang said the coding bootcamp is constantly tracking the rise and fall of popularity and demand of given technologies using the TIOBE Index and other internal resources.

Above all, Coding Dojo is fully equipped to continue teaching student online long term, Wang said.

“We do have a plan in place, but don’t foresee returning to onsite operations and instruction in the foreseeable future,” said the CEO. “The logistics of keeping students and staff safe and adhering to social distancing guidelines at a bustling campus with a lot of students is a huge challenge.”

The Flatiron School

“The root of our challenges is the same as many organizations and individuals are facing right now: We are navigating an unprecedented scenario driven by circumstances that are out of our control,” Su Kim, Flatiron School D.C. campus director, told Technical.ly.

Flatiron School also swiftly moved to virtual instruction in March. Kim said students often sought the coding school out because it has built a strong sense of community, an important aspect of the Flatiron learning experience that can still be found online.

“We are fortunate to have years of experience building collaborative learning communities for students in our online programs,” she said. “Our campus staff and students alike have demonstrated a willingness and commitment to invest in community while virtual, and it’s been remarkable to see cohorts graduate with the strong bonds we’re accustomed to seeing from cohorts that get to work together in person for months.”

Su Kim. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Flatiron has always used Slack for quick communication and Zoom for virtual lectures, where the coding school has been able to replicate curriculum-related tasks and activities. Flatiron hasn’t made any adjustments to its standard curriculum or tuition prices and continued to deliver all of its programs through the pandemic.

“Our tuition rates have remained the same, as our program content and staffing support haven’t changed,” Kim said. “We are an outcomes-focused organization and compete on value, not price.”

To help with the costs of its programs, which LendingTree’s Student Loan Hero put between $9,600 and $15,000 for online courses as of May, the coding school has expanded its NexTech 100 Scholarship, a full-tuition scholarship program sponsored by the Cognizant U.S. Foundation. Flatiron is also partnering with Arlington-based Excella again to offer a full-tuition scholarship for the third year in a row. Applications have already closed for this opportunity for women or underrepresented individuals who want to study software engineering or data science at Flatiron’s D.C. campus.

Since going virtual, the coding school has received an increased number of application and admissions nationwide, and specifically in D.C., Flatiron has seen an increased interest in its software engineering program. In its 2019 Jobs Report, Flatiron School reported that 100% graduates who studied at the D.C. location in 2018 landed employment after finishing one of their programs, with an average starting salary of around $72,000. This includes graduates who landed full-time salaried roles, full-time contract roles, apprenticeships, freelance roles, and part-time roles during the reporting period, Kim said.

Flatiron plans to continue remote instruction until at least May 17, 2021.

“Navigating 2020 in general has been immensely challenging, and to add a career-changing educational experience is no small feat,” she said. “I’ve been in awe of our students’ successes while in the virtual program and in their job searches after graduation.”

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