The Future of Coding Boot Camps

What should we make of the proliferation of Coding Boot Camps? Do they threaten to disrupt higher education? Does the fact that so many fail temper the hype? Doesn’t that hype have a basis in reality when employers say they would gladly hire Boot Camp graduates? What about the reportedly questionable success of Boot Camp alumni–does that cast doubt upon the (alleged) increase in pay that most successful Boot Camp alumni receive?

That’s a lot of links and questions, but I think they are an honest place to start when talking about the role that Coding Boot Camps may play in the future of higher education. What will that look like? Maybe not so alarmingly different from the way higher education looks today.

James Bowring, Louise Ann Lyon and Quinn Burke, authors of “Earning a Degree to Go to Camp,” found in their own analysis that Boot Camps are most valuable as “auxiliary” educational experiences to traditional degrees: “Hiring managers … were collectively uniform on the necessity of requiring a college degree for entry-level software development positions to ensure [certain] soft skills are already in place. They found that students enrolled in the Boot Camps to “[make] themselves more marketable and economically successful,” but also that college degrees were still required for the great majority of jobs to which the students would likely apply.

Assuming they are right, the role of Boot Camps may simply be to fill a curricular niche that academies have not addressed quickly enough on their own–though some are moving to do so now that the gap has made itself known. Since the Boot Camp credential is (for the most part) only valuable when tacked onto a traditional degree, and many degrees may be more valuable with coding interpolated into the curriculum, folding Boot Camp content into traditional curricula makes sense for both academic and Boot Camp institutions.

Transitions are awkward, especially in education. Case in point: I was taught both coding and cursive when I was in third grade. My teacher–Mrs. Anderson, the best teacher of all time–was very comfortable teaching me how to loop my letters together into an illegible mess, but she was completely out of her depth with computers. The school hired a computer specialist on contract to teach us that stuff. I don’t remember his name. Nowadays I can’t even sign my name in cursive, but I code every day.

Anyway, the school adapted.

There is a lot to take from the Coding Boot Camps (their successes and many failures) as we higher ed institutions learn to teach this increasingly valuable set of skills to our students. Perhaps the remaining question is whether we do so by partnering with the Boot Camps or by developing coding curriculum in-house. I think either way would work out fine.

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