Learners Guild is a 10-month, full-time full-stack web development learning collective with no upfront tuition cost 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". Students do not pay tuition until they have secured job placement.
Recent Learners Guild News
- Guide to Deferred Tuition and ISAs at Coding Bootcamps
- 3 Months vs 2 Years: How Long Should Your Coding Bootcamp Be?
- Episode 12: March 2017 Coding Bootcamp News Roundup + Podcast
Recent Learners Guild Reviews: Rating 1.85
Learners Guild Reviews
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Learners Guild, they are not a coding bootcamp, but I think that your chances are better off if you were to attend a bootcamp instead.
I attended Learners Guild for approximately three months, I decided to buy into their culture and give them a chance, but the longer that I stayed, the longer I realized that they didn't know what they were doing. And I decided to leave. Here is my opinion/experience.
Although their intentions are good, they tried to scale too quickly and now lack both instructors and resources to help the large population of students that they have. I signed up for the program because they promised apprenticeship, but instead, it was pair programming with people similar to my knowledge - not necessarily a bad thing, but the learning was much slower. The tipping point for me was when they decided to change the program completely, they decided to add 'levels', you start at level 1 and move onwards with an assessment. In level 1 and level 2 you are basically working on your own, working through material that is free online, and that's when I decided that this was no different from me going to a library and coding. On top of that, if you did not advance out of a level within 8 weeks, you can get kicked out of the program, and if you get kicked out, you'll still owe them a percentage of your salary (should they really get a percentage of the salary if they failed to help you learn?).
My conclusion is that you should definitely do your research prior to attending Learners Guild, reach out to any of the current students, see how they feel about the program.
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.
Being a 'lean' startup does not work when implementing an innovative model for education and Learner's Guild is proof.
We all know that education in the US has needed an overhaul for quite some time. US Government has tried to reform education by incentivizing schools and students to compete harder. BUT in areas that have been historically underserved, this competitive model DOES NOT work. Black, brown, immigrant and TLGBQI students have experienced minimal success in that model.
Learner's Guild set out to provide a talent pipeline for underserved communities. I am a member of those underserved commuities. I was also part of the first cohort.
The early apprenticeship model was successful. Our learning increased exponentially having direct access to Senior Engineer Practitioners (SEPs). The ratio of SEPs to students at that time was 1:4. The model also did not use over testing and competitive based learning. It was purely exploratory and applicational. I believe that Learner's Guild at this time had nailed part of the formula for a successful education model.
Unfortunately, the program began to fail once its administrators decided to increase enrollment at a fast pace before the model had been proven successful.
From a business standpoint, I can understand the desire to grow fast in order to gain revenue. However, when it comes to developing people using this business standpoint is faulty. It shows short term insight, and lack of knowledge in how to develop talent in underserved communities.
As soon as the program began to enroll new students en masse, the product began to fail. Changes were constantly being implemented to leverage failing areas--new students had stopped learning, the first cohort were not passing technical interviews, and most learners were watching tutorials on line rather than learning while doing. At that time, the ratio of SEP to learners were 1:30 and the model had turned into competition based.
The continued implemented changes have left current learners with little trust for the administration and its systems. The administration is grasping for methods that will take hold, reverting to the traditional bootcamp model. However, since this program IS THE ONLY ONE in the country that provides a monthly stipend AND deferred tuition, aspiring developers from underserved communities and socioeconomic backgrounds really have no other choice. So, as we have done for so long, we have made the best of what we have been given.
I have hope that new coding schools will be established using an apprenticeship model with the right amount of resources and managed by folks who have a DEEP understanding of education and how to successfully develop talent in underserved communities. Unfortunately, Learner's Guild is the first iteration of these types of programs and still have a VERY LONG WAY TO GO.
When I first encountered the guild's marketing materials, it seemed great. Not too-good-to-be-true, but an honest attempt at creating a social enterprise to help marginalized people break into the industry.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
I was in the second cohort, and should have listened to the voice in the back of my head from day 1. The first day we were there, Shereef Bishay (founder/CEO) exhorted the learners to work 40 billable hours per week. Someone with contracting experience raised their hand to protest the idea that this should take precedence over self-care. Shereef then targeted that individual with bullying and gaslighting the entire time they were there.
I rarely saw Shereef show basic human compassion. He treated learners like cogs in a machine. The moment we were past our "trial period" at the Guild, he seemed to see us as disposable. He routinely treated women and POC in ways characteristic of a chronic abuser. He yelled at people, interrupted them in meetings (often repeatedly, to the point at which I more than once saw him bring someone to tears), refused to lend credence to their concerns, and gaslit them.
Several learners expressed displeasure at this behavior, and Shereef invented excuses to kick them out. I overheard a conversation at lunch one day between several other learners, talking about how one person had been treated horribly for being vocal about this problematic behavior:
"Maybe we should organize around this. If we get ten people together at once, they'll have to listen to us."
"Nah, we'll just get what she's getting."
One person who had a trained service dog (not just an emotional support animal) was denied their disability accommodations for weeks, with the cited reason "someone [anonymous] is uncomfortable with dogs."
It also took them four months after the second cohort started to have any procedure for formally requesting disability accommodations in place, even though several learners expressed the need for such things. When implementing such procedures, COO Briana Kromper started off by requesting non-standard paperwork (including doctor's notes) for standard accommodations that would have an immediately apparent benefit to the individual. I am not a lawyer, but I would be concerned that they may have potentially violated the Americans with Disabilities Act with how they treated these people.
When these procedures were finally implemented, staff would routinely discourage learners from actually seeking accommodations or having any kind of dialogue around them. Learners were told, "We're too busy to have a conversation with you about this. Ask for something, and we will either tell you yes or no."
This requirement that learners do labor that should have fallen under the purvey of the school itself was consistent throughout the time I was there. They were consistently understaffed, and did not seem to funnel any resources into fixing anything but cosmetic problems. I had personal conversations with staff members that indicated Shereef acted as abusive to the staff as he was to the learners.
The curriculum itself was nonexistent for most of the time I was there. It was at that point described as a "game," but did not measure anything to do with technical skill or personal improvement. The only thing that it measured was how well you could communicate with the particular individuals on your team (which changed weekly, giving learners little time to figure out how to adapt to new people) about a few broad sub-topics related to working together.
Recently, I have even seen LG staff going on a former learner's personal Facebook page in order to harass them. Jared Grippe, one of the engineers Shereef had worked with at DevBootCamp, took personal offense to a very generalized post complaining about racial inequality. He then proceeded to harass and bully the poster via PM, claiming that complaining about racial inequality was somehow racist against white people.
This was completely inappropriate, not to mention factually incorrect.
All in all, the only benefit I received from this program was connecting with the people in other early cohorts. It would have been much better for my mental health to simply start a study group at the library with other equally driven people.
Other reviewers have covered the other sketchy aspects of the Guild's business pretty well.
I would not recommend this program. Please use extreme caution if considering joining it.
I wish these reviews were available when I started the program. I bought the way they were marketing the program and was eager to join. It didn't take long to realize that they were well-intentioned, but did not have the experience or model for LG to be successful. There was no formalized instruction. You are given ill-conceived tasks to complete. When the program was questioned the response was along the line of we aren't giving you a fish, but teaching you how to fish. Unfortunately, they were doing neither. Do yourself a favor and keep looking for another avenue to achieve your goals.
I was apart of the first cohort. When I started, I believe there were 17 of us and by the end, several dropped out. Before I enrolled, I was working in Chicago as a delivery driver and taking coding classes on the side. I was mesmerized by the opportunity to 'get paid to learn how to code' which was being advertised in the beginning. Unfamiliar with contracts in general and wrapped with promises that this was a diverse learning community versus a regular type of private institution, I signed and joined.
The whole time there was a horrible experiment. I learned in an environment that had no teachers, relied heavily on students and even forced me to coach for my last 15 weeks in the program (mind you, the program is only 40 weeks). I, with zero years of software experience on the first day of the program, was being told that because I was on 'level 3' that I had to teach folks on lower levels how to develop software. Thinking back on this experience, I should have absolutely refused to serve in any teacher-role capacity.
Most of my learning during the 10 months I was there came from aggressively working on outside projects with a selection of learners and folks outside of the program. I was not allowed to work on those outside projects at LG. Even with no teachers or roadmap, they were hostile to working on outside projects. I figured out ways to inhouse these projects when I got to the highest level and wanted to work on a more diverse set of projects (for awhile, if you were at the highest level, you only had the opportunity to work on a ReactJS to do list project or a to do list project without ReactJs). The only times I saw anyone able to work on their personal projects with support from LG staff were my white man students.
The curriculum or the "game" as they call it was constantly changing week after week and provided no stability for learners. They refused to create any learning roadmap (after many learners begging for some roadmap since we did not have teachers) for us until my last weeks at the Guild.
Most importantly - it is expensive. For someone who wasn't making a lot of money before the program, the idea that someone would give me a living stipend and an 'invest' was hard to pass up. I did get some job assistance meaning they knew folks who worked at my organization and put in a good word. But this was a rare experience compared to others many folks who finished the program with me. And even after the program, as someone who got a job, paying +$1500/month is a huge cost when I have family members and others to financially take care of.
If I had to do it again, I wouldn't. Please look elsewhere.
I feel like I wasted my time being at Learner's Guild. It seems like every other week, there is a new change and it gets worse and worse. I am so close to being done and now they want to start doing phases. In each phase, you have to interview to get to the next phase to do more projects. Fine but they chose to do it when the next cohort,which is my cohort, is about to leave and not only that, you get kicked out if you don't pass every 8 weeks. At first, I was happy to hear about this program because it was 10 months, no money upfront and you got paid every two weeks. I've met some great people from all walks of life. The facilitators claim to get about their students and their learning when they really don't care about how we are doing. The facilitators always mentioned how I should be improving or I was closed to being kicked out yet there's not a lot of lead coaches to help the students and even if the student tries to coach themselves, they don't know what they are doing half the time, which is not their fault. Not to mention, they don't know how I work because I come every day pushing myself to get better. Maybe if they invested in more coaches that aren't students, we wouldn't have this problem.
While there are some pros, it's mostly cons and it's frustrating because the school has the protential to be great. I did another bootcamp before coming to Learner's Guild and I thought coming here would help me improve even more as a developer and while it has for the most part, I still feel it's not enough to help me get a job. It's a waste of time and money so you are better off learning on your own or at a more professional bootcamp because you won't get it here. Oh yeah, don't fall for the kumbaya because that's also a joke as well.
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.
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