[As of October 13, 2017, The Iron Yard will no longer be operating.] Since 2012, The Iron Yard had been offering immersive back-end and front-end bootcamps around the US. After getting feedback from students and the community who had different goals than their immersive students, they are now launching two part-time offerings – Foundations Courses and Sprint Courses. We talked to The Iron Yard CMO Eric Dodds and Director of Front-End Engineering Tim Whitacre about the differences between these short courses and the immersive courses, the ideal students for these courses, and how to get the most out of your part-time course at The Iron Yard.
Is this the first time The Iron Yard has offered part-time courses? That seems surprising!
Eric: Yes, until now, we had not offered part-time courses, and that’s because we wanted to perfect our immersive courses for career changers – that was The Iron Yard’s goal from the beginning.
Along the way, we’ve encountered many students who have different learning and career goals than our Immersive students. We want to help those students on their journeys as well, so we've been carefully planning expansion into part-time Foundations and Sprint courses.
The initial feedback we're getting from students is great, so it was worth it to take the time to make sure we go everything right.
Who are the ideal students for each of these courses?
Eric: We have actually built these courses based on a ton of feedback from actual conversations that we've had with students about what they're looking for.
Foundations Courses are built for people who are just learning to code, and are interested in going beyond online tutorials. Maybe they’ve done some tutorials and built a basic website or done coding exercises in the browser, but many of those people are running into dead ends, and they just can't seem to break through that barrier.
At the same time, they're also not necessarily sure that they want to launch a whole new career in programming. They're trying to get their head around it and understand the craft enough to know if it's something they want as a career. Going through our Foundations course will give them a taste of what real programming is really like.
Give us an overview of both the Foundations and Sprints.
Tim: Our Sprint courses are made to help developers get to the next level. All of these courses will have some prerequisites, and will focus on specific topics rather than a range of them. These courses will be ideal for anyone who is already a developer or comfortable with programming tools and is looking to add a new skill to their toolbox.
Eric: Our Sprint courses dig past the visual aspects of building websites and teach you the basics of building web applications that run in the browser.
Will Sprint Courses work for somebody who's graduated from an immersive coding bootcamp and wants to level up in a specific area?
Could the Foundations Course function as prep for the full-time Immersive Course?
Eric: Absolutely. Our Foundations Courses are a great way for someone to get a feel for what it's like to learn in a classroom environment and complete homework or assignments at a fast pace. We’ve already had several Foundations students decide they wanted to explore a career in programming after completing the course.
Taking a Sprint Course could also be helpful, but students dive much deeper than foundations and aren’t starting from ground zero. Sprint Courses do assume students have some knowledge of HTML and CSS beforehand.
That being said, our immersive program is really fast and really intense, so even if a student comes in with some background in development, we find that everyone is on a level playing field by about week two because we push everyone super hard so they are job-ready by the end.
So then what are the prerequisites for those Foundations and Sprint courses?
Tim: For the Foundations courses, the only prerequisite is basic computer skills. We teach everything else! We’re still, of course, looking for students that show problem-solving skills and are excited to learn. But the Foundations course lowers the barrier of entry to experiencing The Iron Yard.
Tim: Sprint Courses are designed for people who already have a little bit of knowledge about coding and want to level-up in their career. You don’t have to be an expert or a developer at all, but you should be familiar with HTML and CSS and have idea of what version control tools like Github are used for.
For Sprint courses, will applicants need to take a coding challenge?
Here’s a good gut check: if you have a basic skill set that you would get from graduating from the Foundations course, then you are a great fit for the Sprint course. The ideal candidate is someone who probably has had exposure to these things in their professional experience.
Is job placement included in the Sprint or Foundations courses?
Tim: No, and that's a really critical distinction. The reality is that if you want to get a developer job in three months, then then Immersive format is the best way. Format has a really big influence on outcomes and we hear time-and-again from our Immersive students that there’s no way they would have accomplished what they did in a part-time course. We don't compare the Foundations and Sprints to the Immersives at all. They're completely different experiences, and they're courses designed for students with completely different outcomes goals.
Even though it’s a deep-dive, there's no career support element to our Sprint Courses because they’re designed for someone who's advancing a career they’ve already started by adding a very specific skill to their skill set. Sprint Courses are a part of a career path that students have already put themselves on, whereas an Immersive student is usually using The Iron Yard as the launch pad to a new career path.
We’ve already run several Foundations Courses and they’ve been great. Some of our students determined that they wanted to continue to pursue coding as a career. And for others, they walked away saying, "I feel better because I know how to build a website, but I don't think I want to do this as a job," and that's also a great outcome.
Will these new Foundations and Sprint Courses be taught by the Immersive instructors too?
Tim: Neither of those will be taught by our Immersive instructors, and for good reasons. Our Immersive instructors are full-time employees, so asking them to also teach on nights and weekends is too much and would take away from the attention they commit to students pursuing a career change. So we'll be hiring new instructors for Foundations and Sprint Courses.
Tell us about the teaching style for these courses? Will there be a lot of homework? Projects? Lecture?
Tim: Foundations Courses are seven nights over a two-week period, roughly three hours per night, so ~21 hours total. Those three hour classes will be broken up into a mixture of lecture and instructor-led lab time. We're shooting for an hour or less of take-home homework.
Sprint Courses will look very similar to Foundations, but are longer—16 nights over 4 weeks and about 50 hours total.
Both courses take commitment, but we are doing our best to respect the fact that students are most likely working full-time jobs. So far we’ve received great feedback on the balance between the amount learning that happens because of a fast pace and the ability to manage the workload.
Which cities can students expect to start seeing Foundations and Sprints in?
Eric: They’ll be in Charlotte and Salt Lake City in February. Then Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville in March. You can keep up with future cities on our locations page.
What is your advice for students embarking on a part-time course? Any tips to get the most out of it while balancing other commitments?
Tim: The preparation is not quite as heavy as the Immersive– you don’t need to tell your family and friends that you’re going off the grid. But you still need to have a level of discipline, and we still stress that during the registration process – even though this is part time, you still need to give 100% to the course to get the most out of it. We still have specific outcomes we want our students to be able to achieve at the end of their course and one part of accomplishing that is for students to complete the exercises and the assignments in a timely fashion.
For the Foundations course, there is one weekend session in that class, so don’t plan a weekend trip then- use it to get your homework done and get ahead.
Eric: My advice is to step back for a minute and think about what your goal is, no matter the course you’re taking. Have a conversation with one of our team members at the Iron Yard about what you want to accomplish. It’s really excited that we now have options for people who have different goals than changing their career.
As with all courses at The Iron Yard, you're going to get out of it what you put into it. Our goal is to help people learn real skills, and that requires practice, not just listening to lectures (which is why so many people are frustrated with online tutorials). The key for us is our instructors, though—so students can be confident that there’s a passionate professional committed to helping them every step of the way.