Defining Mentorship: Bloc and Thinkful

When you start exploring the learn-to-code universe, you’ll quickly discover there are dozens of choices. Self-study websites like Codecademy and Treehouse are helpful if you want to go it alone and get your feet wet, while Bloc, Thinkful, Dev Bootcamp and others offer more immersive and holistic programs. If you’re considering an immersive program, but cannot commit full-time (or fork out the ~$15,000 price tag) for an in-person bootcamp, you may find yourself comparing two options: Bloc and Thinkful. On the surface, they seem similar, but they’re not. How do you determine which is the best fit for you?

We’re here to help you achieve your entrepreneurial and career goals, so we’ve tried to do the work of comparing these two options for you.

Choosing between Bloc or Thinkful? They simply have two different use cases:

We recommend Thinkful as a budget-friendly next step between self-study and an immersive program. It allows you to build your first app through a combination of mentorship, self-study, and peer-led learning, without the time or financial commitment of an apprenticeship or bootcamp.

We recommend Bloc if you are prepared to make a significant time commitment to an immersive program. The apprenticeship model combines an intensive mentor relationship with a depth and breadth of curriculum designed to help you launch a startup or a new career.


Immersive Apprenticeship vs. Skills Mentorship

You can see that Bloc offers one 3-month frontend apprenticeship covering introductory material as well as AngularJS. Thinkful, on the other hand, breaks those two into separate 3-month courses. You can also see that Bloc expects a far greater overall time commitment from a student, because we expect to deliver in-depth understanding, completed projects, and a job-ready skill set.


Apprenticeship vs. Mentorship

gemma quoteWe think that the most critical difference between Bloc and Thinkful is in our individual approaches to mentorship. Thinkful has built their program using a toolkit of mentorship, self-study, and peer-led learning. Students are immediately sorted into skill groups upon enrollment so that they may support one another throughout the learning process.

At Bloc, we see our students as apprentices, and consider our program an “apprenticeship model” not a mentorship model. We believe that the foundation of our apprentice’s education should come, not from their peers, but from their Mentor (the subject matter expert) and from our curriculum, which we have rigorously tested and tightly-integrated into the course experience.

As part of our four pillars of apprenticeship, we believe in an educational paradigm that includes:

1. Continuous personalized mentorship and coaching from an experienced developer who has deep subject matter expertise.

2. A holistic, real-world curriculum, written and continuously updated by our full-time Curriculum Developers, and built around real-world projects like building working replicas of apps like Reddit, Wikipedia, and Spotify.

3. Constant support and resources, with a Program Coordinator, Mentor, and hacker club community at your disposal, students are never left in the dark.

4. A focus on follow-through and real world results. In addition to Mentor appointments, students meet with a Program Coordinator for a 1-on-1 orientation, periodically throughout the course, and at graduation, to ensure every student has an amazing Bloc experience.


1. Mentorship

j terrellBloc students will meet with their Mentor 2 times per week in our 18-week program. But most of our students tell us they are in touch with their Mentor every single day via email, chat, and code reviews. We believe this high frequency of continuous coaching is crucial to success. To address the needs of students looking for flexibility, we now offer a more intense 12-week track and a less intense 36-week track. Furthermore, our Mentors regularly go beyond just technical wisdom, sharing startup and career advice.

We experimented with community- and peer-based support and discovered that our students most value the time with their mentor, receiving advice specifically from that one person who knows the context of their projects, as well as their personal story, the best. This is why our program focuses so much on offering the most mentor time possible.


2. A Holistic, Project-Based Curriculum

At Bloc, we believe that our students are looking for an immersive program that fits into their life, so our courses are big, not bite-sized, with heavy time commitments. Our learning process is project based. Rather than teaching a specific language, our Rails students begin by teaching you to build a working replica of Reddit, which means learning a complete toolkit from Ruby on Rails to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, JQuery, and SQL.

Bloc was built for entrepreneurs, so our focus on project-based learning, and choosing your own Capstone, means our students graduate with the tools to be self-sufficient and build any website.

Thinkful offers a curated curriculum, pairing Thinkful mentors with curriculum from some of the best learning resources out there including Codecademy, Michael Hartl’s Rails Tutorial, Thinkful’s own course directors, and more, but offers courses with lower time commitment, and more flexibility. For example, their Frontend and AngularJS programs combined cover a similar curriculum as Bloc’s standalone Frontend apprenticeship.


3. Hacker Club & Support

Thinkful and Bloc both offer several avenues to advance learning beyond just mentor appointments. Thinkful approaches this through its mentor community message board where students can post questions and receive answers. Thinkful also enables students to participate in skills groups with other beginners so they can learn from each other.

At Bloc, we’ve resisted the kind of communal resources that Thinkful has in place because we believe students achieve superior outcomes when the learning experience is focused on learning from experts, rather than peers.  This is why Bloc has a hacker club – a community online where students can post questions and seek guidance from other students and alumni when their mentor is unavailable. Students also have the ability to message their mentor with any questions or concerns they may have, at anytime.


4. A Focus on Follow Through and Real World Results

justin pinelliAt Bloc, we believe that we haven’t done our job unless you get real results. Which is why, in addition to meeting with your mentor, you’ll meet with your Program Coordinator periodically during your apprenticeship. You’ll do a mandatory 1-on-1 orientation together, a mid-way check-in call, and a graduation call. According to Karen, one of our self-described “Student Sherpas,” she’ll “meet with students as much or as little as needed; even every day if necessary.”

Tough Choice?

It really is. Both Bloc and Thinkful have developed successful programs, and we’ll be the first to tell you that the mentorship model really works, no matter which approach you choose. We want you to pick the course that will be the best fit for your stage in the learning process and your goals, so be sure to consider things like:

  • Is your goal to dabble, become an entrepreneur, or switch careers?
  • Is it your goal to learn a specific language, or are you more interested in the entire scope of project development?
  • Do you prefer an emphasis on learning from peers, or learning from a mentor?

Take it from Thinkful and Bloc students:

With an interest in learning JavaScript, Edwin Elia enrolled in Thinkful with the hopes of landing a job as an engineer. Trying to choose between Thinkful and Bloc, Edwin decided on Thinkful due to cost and project curriculum. He even wrote a blog post, Why Thinkful, on how he came to his decision. But after going through Thinkful’s course and applying to several companies with no job offers, Edwin decided to try Bloc, and found that it was a better fit for him, and what he wanted out of a bootcamp. Check out his follow-up post, Bootcamp Comparison.

We recently sat down with Edwin to get his thoughts on Thinkful and Bloc. For him, it ultimately came down to what bootcamp would help him land a job, and which fit his learning style.

“I think it comes down to studying style – what method would you learn best. Bloc covers the basics and Phase 2 lets the students loose – and that suited me much better. I was able to expand beyond what was in the curriculum, which I did with my mentor. I think one thing that was really helpful for me was learning design pattern – that’s pretty hard to just learn from a curriculum- you need a specific problem you encountered in your project to have that lightbulb moment to solve it the way I was able to, and my mentor helped me with those lightbulb moments. You cannot get that with Thinkful’s curriculum, which was the biggest difference for me.”

Jeya Kathrika, another Bloc and Thinkful student, also wrote a blog post, Bloc or Thinkful: My Experience, about her time spent during both programs. Before enrolling in Bloc as a UX Design student, Jeya picked up basic knowledge of frontend development from Thinkful, but wanted to dive deeper into user experience – she hoped to apply UX to her future websites. Although she liked both Thinkful and Bloc’s programs, she found that the main difference between the two were the amount of time students were able to spend with a mentor, and the probability of landing a job after graduating.

In Jeya’s opinion, students spent more time with a mentor during Bloc’s apprenticeship, and had a better chance of landing a job. “If you are trying to get your first job/internship, switch career, or build your own startup then BLOC is the best choice.”

But ultimately, Jeya felt that a student should base their decision on what they are looking for, and hoping to achieve after finishing the program, “so, please consider your learning style, time commitment, budget and desired outcome to choose the path better suited for you.”


Like we said in the beginning…

We recommend Thinkful as a budget-friendly next step between self-study and an immersive program. It allows you to get your feet wet, through a combination of mentorship, self-study, and peer-led learning, without the time or financial commitment of an apprenticeship or bootcamp.

We recommend Bloc if you are prepared to make a significant time commitment to an immersive program. The apprenticeship model combines an intensive mentor relationship with a depth and breadth of curriculum designed to help you launch a startup or a new career.

If you’re still not sure, reach out to our Student Advisors and read some Bloc reviews here. If you still want more information, you can ask your Student Advisor to get you in touch with the Curriculum Developers so you can decide if our apprenticeship approach is right for you.

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