The typical narrative of a coding bootcamp goes something like this: “Quit your job, say your goodbyes to your friends and significant other, learn to code around the clock for three months, and graduate job-ready.” Much of the appeal of coding bootcamps (versus, say, an undergraduate Computer Science degree) is their short turnaround and high return on investment. The average bootcamp is 10 weeks long, which represents less of an opportunity cost in terms of paychecks and time. A 10-week class can also easily fit into a summer break, making it an ideal option for students and teachers. So why are some future bootcampers opting for coding programs upwards of 7 months long? Turing, one school leading the long-form revolution, gives us their perspective.
Turing Strikes a Balance
There are several notable examples of bootcamps choosing the long-form model, as outlined in Course Report's Guide to Longer Coding Bootcamps. gSchool’s web development program runs for 6 months. Ada Developers Academy has a 12 month program divided into 7 months of instruction and a 5-month internship. Turing, a software development school in Denver, offers a 7-month program, and the team behind Turing didn’t make the decision lightly.
Founder Jeff Casimir has plenty of experience when it comes to designing code school curricula. He started LivingSocial’s Hungry Academy in 2012 with Chad Fowler, a 5 month internal bootcamp to turn non-technical employees into LivingSocial developers. After Hungry Academy, Casimir helped found gSchool, the 6-month-long educational arm of Galvanize in Denver. When asked about the evolution of his bootcamps since LivingSocial, Jeff says, “Hungry Academy felt a little too short at 5 months, gSchool needed more time for revisiting and personal projects, so now Turing is 7 months. I think that’s the max a student can take.” On the other hand, “if Turing was 12 months long, our students wouldn’t really learn more than what they learn at seven. And they also need to get out into the workforce.”
Why the Extra Time Matters
Students graduate at a professional level
Turing is committed to taking beginners and helping them reach a professional level of web development. Many intensive programming bootcamps insist on pre-requisite classes or weeks of pre-work before starting, or advertise that they are for taking hobbyist developers from “20 to beyond.” With extra months of instruction, Turing is able to offer a comprehensive program and doesn’t cut back on material on the front or the back-end. Student Kristina considered program length when making her decision: “The length of the Turing curriculum ... had a lot to do with it. I showed the curriculum and syllabus from other schools to the engineers who worked at my company, and they said those just didn’t compare to Turing’s.” The Turing program is meant to set students up for a successful long-term career, not just to pass a single technical interview. In an ever changing marketplace, adaptability and a solid foundation are key.
Allows for rolling start date
Admissions at Turing operate on a rolling schedule, with a new group of students starting every seven weeks. There are several benefits to this set up. First, the cohort sizes are smaller (15-25 students) allowing for more individual instruction, but there is also a larger community of students at play. Each cohort has students ahead of them and/or behind them in the material who can help them if they’re struggling, or help them to solidify what they’ve learned by teaching it to someone else. Student Miriam Moser told Course Report that one of the defining features at Turing is their work in Posses: “Every morning we meet with our posse, which consists of people from across different modules, and we work on logic problems together.” With cohorts starting so often, students can also repeat a module if necessary, or talk to other cohorts about the upcoming material.
Strengthen and build on skills
Turing holds demo nights regularly during their course, giving students at various points in the program the chance to see what their peers and the cohorts ahead of them have been working on. Seeing the final projects tends to drive home the massive gap between what people know at the halfway point and what they’ve learned by the end. This is not to say that 3 months isn’t enough time to learn a skill, but having the additional time makes it possible to reach a whole new level.
The Power of Intermission Weeks
Another key aspect of the 7 month schedule is the ability for Turing to build intermission weeks into the program. Many programming bootcamps talk about the need to step away from the computer now and then to avoid burnout. Why shouldn’t this be a part of the program itself, for a few days instead of a few hours?
Jeff Casimir views the intermissions as a chance for students “to do what they need to do most,” whether that’s visa renewal for international students, a visit with family or significant other, or even a personal project or a little brushing up on something in the course that passed them by.
Just as importantly as giving students a chance to attend to other matters in their lives, the material solidifies further when students are given a chance to reflect on what they’re learning. As grad Emily Davis said, “I was right in my assumption that the intermission weeks offer a great opportunity for new knowledge to marinate and be absorbed.” Interviews with other Turing students turn up the same thing. Most of them haven’t experienced burnout and they attribute it to the intermissions. When we talked to Alex Scott during her time at Turing she identified the week off between modules as a key to her not getting burned out. “With a week off, I already feel refreshed and ready to go for the next module,” she said.
How to Make your Decision
Of course, there's no definitive answer to how program length may affect an individual student’s ability to learn. While the decision depends on a student’s background and time-commitment, Turing is a great example of a longer bootcamp that takes advantage of the extra time, both in terms of the ability to absorb more material by going at a slower pace with breaks built-in, and by virtue of the foundational skills and preparation that students are able to lay down in seven months.
To learn more about the Denver coding bootcamp, check out the Turing website! Remember, the Course Report community is eligible for a $500 scholarship to Turing!