Learners Guild is a 10 month, full-time full-stack web development learning collective in Oakland, CA. Learners Guild is a creative learning environment that uses the principles of cognitive apprenticeship to design a system for effective software development skills training. Nearly all learning takes place in team projects, much in the way that actual software applications are built. Therefore, there are no teachers telling students what to study. Instead of many students learning only from one person, every learner is learning from others and, in turn, passing on their skills and knowledge.
At Learners Guild, a new cohort joins every 10 weeks so there is always a dynamic range of skills and experience in the room that students should use to their advantage. The learning system helps students to choose projects and goals that are both relevant and challenging, so that students are working on interesting problems that push them into "Proximal Zone of Development".
Recent Learners Guild News
- 3 Months vs 2 Years: How Long Should Your Coding Bootcamp Be?
- Episode 12: March 2017 Coding Bootcamp News Roundup + Podcast
- Episode 11: February 2017 Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast
Recent Learners Guild Reviews: Rating 2.75
Learners Guild Reviews
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My 4 weeks at Learners Guild have taught me close to as much as I think I could have learned in any other system. See my weekly blog entries for details. This is especially true if you consider that the Guild aims to help us learn not only coding, but also teamwork, organizational finesse, social-impact assessment, and, above all, learning as an ongoing effort amidst fast-changing technologies and markets. This combination might be taught in a “curriculum”, but my guess is that its failure probability for any given student would be high. The Guild is a work in progress, and it seems that some enrollees feel it was misrepresented as more stable, less experimental, and more tech-support-rich than it is. For me, at least, those attributes fall into the range of my prior expectations. As for hostile or discriminatory attitudes from above, all I can say is that I have not noticed any. I do belong to an underrepresented minority in IT, namely the geezeriat, and at least in that regard I have felt fully respected as a colleague.
Currently enrolled, Week 27 / 40 at Learners Guild.
This place is a radical, fresh alternative to the extreme cram-in-12-weeks model--much more sustainable pace. At a certain point in the program, you end up working on larger teams, building commercial-scale sites (think Trello.com), and it feels like working at an internship. Collaborating with others on these large-scale projects mirrors the scrum workflow of professional software teams.
There's a lot of intentionality around fostering the culture here. The Guild offers a lot of supports that allow groups underrepresented in tech an opportunity to learn this craft in a safer, inclusive, loving environment. Learning, failing, and exposing your ignorance are all very vulnerable acts, so it's helpful to have a culture that helps people feel held and supported through this process.
Plus, the folk you'll be co-learning with are a pretty brilliant, fun, soulful bunch.
You should probably apply.
Learners Guild is a huge scam. They make people sign contracts to pay up to 21% of your salary for three years if you make over $50k a year. It doesn't matter if you actually become a software engineer after the program- and everyone knows that is pretty much any entry level customer support job in the Bay Area.
During my time in the program, I saw a change in the learning model every ten weeks. When I signed my contract I thought this was going to be a finished program! As of last week, the program is now just a longer version of Dev Bootcamp. You can be kicked out if you don't pass their 'interviews' every 8 weeks. Yes, you will likely still be under the contract! However, they don't answer ANY questions about the contract while you're in the program. Especially not in writing.
Also, they closed enrollment abruptly a couple of months ago, leaving everyone who was in the application process in the dust. So if that doesn't say anything about how much they really 'want a dignified livelihood for everyone' I don't know what does.
I'm very concerned about a number of graduates that have not gotten jobs, which will most likely include me and many others.
Ok, the pros, because my gramma always said to say something nice first: no upfront tuition, stipend paid promptly through direct deposit every two weeks, lifelong friendships, unconventional support in the form of house/player support meetings, individual therapy available at no additional cost, learner-led brown bags (meetings focused on a fellow learner teaching you what they know about xyz0, location is safer than much of Oakland and a lot of cool shops and eateries around.
Two BART stops are in close proximity, as parking is limited and expensive in this increasingly gentrified part of town.
Cons: no formal learning structure or curriculum, minimal to zero support from the "software engineering practitioners/pro players", other students are coaches when they themselves don't always know what they're talking about. Yes, I can Google it and I have debugged. These students also have a lot more experience and time spent at Learners Guild than I have, and it makes me feel uneasy. Again, lack of curriculum and formal checkpoints.
It's not that I regret being accepted, but this is a very expensive gamble for many of us. 12 to 21% of our next three years' salary is at stake, and this is definitely not worth it in terms of value.
Many of the resources that are placed into the goal library (aka the projects that we are allowed to vote on depending on what levels we are in) are common but nevertheless paid resources. If we do not have these certain accounts, we are told to just go to SF public library and sign up for library cards.
Frankly, there's not much difference between sitting at home going through the tutorials on FreeCodeCamp or wherever vs. being required to attend Learners Guild between the hours of 8:30 or 9-6 Monday through Friday.
It's the people I interact with that help me feel like I'm not wasting my time (I hope).
Would I do it again if I knew what I know now? No, but I'm hoping for the best for myself and my friends.
Overall experience is really 2.5 stars, not 3. Curriculum is 1, as there isn't one.
Instructors are 3, and this is hard to blame on them. I believe that they are doing their best with what they have as the founder constantly changes things every week. Seems like a lot of pressure and time constraints.
My wish is that they would have put more preparation into the curriculum instead of all of the social supports if it had come down to that.
If people don't get jobs, then I don't believe Learners Guild will be around for very long. Do your specific research into these non-traditional learning environments and figure out what works best for you as you know yourself well. If something sounds too good be true, it probably is.
Another gem from gramma.
There is a need for more tech staff to help students. Non technical staff is very supportive, and the SEPS(Pro engineers are really helpful) If more tech staff was hired to work with students, things would be much better. It's a self learning environment but would be better if incorporated with a few classes taught by pro engineers. Environment is warm and friendly with lots of diverse types of people. Lot's of adjustments are made because it's growing so fast, but would've been better if it growed gradually and had less changes, which happen consistenly. Lots of positive changes have been made and hopefully will continue. If you are a social person who has a good understanding of how you learn best, and are willing to put in the hours, you will do well.
Don't be bamboozled by the rhetoric preached by the staff (nontechnical and founder). Learners Guild is an extremely discombobulated place to learn. This review will solely be focusing on the curriculum and lack of resources available.
The curriculum is in need of a major over hall it was just a bunch of repo’s(called the goal library) created by other students(the irony many of the creators did not attempt the goals they created) not fully vetted by the staff. The curriculum lacked foundational material to ensure all students had a solid foundation before moving on to more difficult technologies like frameworks. (When they did implement foundational goals in February most were free resources available on the web)
Another interesting major resource the students lacked was a syllabus detailing what we should learn during our 10 months, which was non-existent until February because the founder insisted the students did not need one (even the SEP advised the students should have one but were overruled by the founder, which really sucks for older cohorts).
You are paired weekly in teams of two or three with the goal of completing a project, however there is a caveat at the end of the week you review your teammates(contribution percentage, team player, hours etc.) vice versa to update your ‘game’ stats(with the goal of getting to the next level), unfortunately it’s all subjective. Because its subjective you can get screwed
With over 90 plus students and three software engineering professionals(SEP), it makes it extremely difficult to get ‘quality’ help when you request it via the coach queue. The protocol is to get help from other students on a certain level, and if they can’t figure it out after X amount of time they request help from the SEP. Most of the time the coaches wasted a good portion of time because they could not figure out the issue before I was able to access the SEP. The SEP are great at teaching but are very difficult to get a hold of when you need help.
Another aggravating fallacy the staff(non-technical and founder) makes here is they make drastic changes weekly without fully vetting/thinking about the consequences, I can’t recall how many times they changed the ‘game’ and it messed something else up and fail to properly disseminate the updated change. Also you will spend a lot of time outside of coding in mandartory 'support' and 'culture' meetings.
When I first started the Guild, it was a great place to learn and surrounded by people who looked like me. It was for people who was kept out or not accepted into the tech industry. What felt like a safe place is slowly but surely turning into a toxic environment. More and more women are leaving the Guild whereas more men are being brought into the Guild, mostly white men. As much as they claim about support for women, I feel that our words and complaints are being ignored and no one seems to care. I'm not saying the Guild is a bad place because it's not. It has good intentions but you can't to market towards POC/LGBT communities, claiming it's a place for them to learn and feel accepted but it's a total opposite. But I guess this is the harsh reality of what the tech industry is like.
‘Accessible & Inclusive
Everyone is welcome at Learners Guild. We especially encourage historically underrepresented groups in software engineering--people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, persons with disabilities, and veterans--to consider joining us.’
When I applied to Learner’s Guild last year, there was a repeated emphasis on creating a welcoming environment for women and people from diverse backgrounds, from the marketing found on their website through the interview and orientation process. After I started, we were encouraged to help the guild live up to its potential by offering the staff feedback on what parts of the program were and weren’t working, and reassured repeatedly that the feedback we offered wouldn’t be held against us.
In reality, the guild has a massive problem with misogyny and ableism from the top down, and has consistently been almost entirely unresponsive to feedback on things that matter the most. The founder, Shereef, has been consistently hostile to criticism from women and has bullied several to the point of tears during mandatory ‘support’ meetings. Those who have tried to share their concerns about the power dynamic at play have been regularly shut down with language like ‘don’t be a hero’ and ‘not everyone belongs here’, and the most outspoken among us have consistently been asked to leave, discouraging those of us who are still around from speaking up further. Women who have been kicked out of the program have also had their stipends immediately cancelled fewer than 48 hours before they were expecting to be paid, which is beyond cruel for an organization that knows its learners are mostly from low income backgrounds and reliant on that money while spending more than 40 hours a week working here.
After the staff were disappointed by unfavorable feedback on the last organizational climate survey, they simply haven't accepted for any more anonymous feedback on the subject, and all of the cultural changes have been in the direction of decreasing flexibility, more blatant refusals to listen, and even more women being kicked out of the program. The only full time technical woman on the staff also resigned recently, and the writing on the wall for me is that the Guild is rapidly giving up on the pretense of being interested in being anything other than another place in tech meant for men. The increasing toxicity of the climate here and witnessing the way my peers have been treated has turned this program into a traumatic and exhausting experience, and despite the talent here it isn’t going to last without major change starting at the top.
Our latest on Learners Guild
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