This post was written by Mary Bergeron, Director of Marketing at SwitchUp.
Bootcamps have grown quickly in recent years, and students now face more choice than ever. According to SwitchUp’s research there are over 120 in-person bootcamps worldwide, and many more online programs. The sudden surge is the result of a widening skills gap in tech: the need for talent has exploded in recent years, and employers say there are not enough skilled candidates to meet the demand.
A bootcamp can be a great option to skill-up or switch careers, but it is definitely an investment that can be out-of-reach for some: According to SwitchUp’s 2016 survey, the average bootcamp runs for 11 weeks and costs around $13,000. In order to attend, most students face the prospect of quitting their day jobs and using either savings or a loan to fund the program. In response, many students have turned to low-cost or free online courses to start building skills. These courses are helpful, but many lack the one-on-one mentorship and tailored curriculum that students need to land a job in tech.
Bloc’s model is unique because it bridges the gap between an in-person and online bootcamp through a mentor-led, flexible program. Reviewers on SwitchUp found this approach to be the perfect fit: they were able to schedule Bloc around other commitments, but enjoyed the same level of accountability as an in-person program.
Below, we’ve profiled a few stories from reviewers, and the aspects of Bloc that made the program the best choice for them.
- The course strikes a balance between flexible and rigorous.
Students at Bloc tend to take on more than the typical bootcamp student, since many balance the program with other responsibilities. On SwitchUp, reviewers talked about their experience juggling the program with work or school. A common observation is that even though the program can be tailored to an individual’s schedule, it covers a lot of ground. One reviewer talked about his experience:
“I would heartily recommend Bloc to anyone looking for a cost-effective route to a new career in the ever burgeoning tech field. I’m only several weeks into the course so far, but I have learned plenty about basic user research, design principles, wireframing in Balsamiq and Illustrator, and constructing interfaces in Sketch. I’m on the part-time schedule (10-15 hrs/wk), which is a great option for people who need to work. I meet with my mentor once a week and it’s a quick 30 mins but we do go through what I’ve worked on that week and he offers his insights. This aspect of the program is probably most valuable, having a seasoned professional to learn from. I know as the course gets more in depth, I’ll benefit even more from having a mentor.”
- The program leverages technology to make remote learning easier.
One of the biggest challenges of an online program is that it is self-directed, so it can be difficult to keep moving when you’re stuck. Bloc students loved that the online platform is designed to help them keep track of their progress and access feedback in real time. The platform makes it easy to connect with a mentor, track assignments, and complete a final assessment via video chat. One student explains:
“At this pace, I meet with a mentor twice a week for about 1/2 hour via Screenhero (an app where you can make phone calls and also share your screen with the person you are connected with) – wonderful for showing your mentor exactly what you are dealing with on your end!
So far I am very happy with the Bloc Curriculum. They split up the program into Modules. Throughout each module there are quizzes to test your knowledge, and at the end of each module you have to pass an assessment (which is like a mock interview via Google video chat) to make sure you have a good enough understanding of the content to move onto the next module.”
- Bloc builds in a supportive community.
We’ve often heard the criticism that online learning can lack the support system a student needs. Fields like UX design and software engineering are complex, and it’s important for students to overcome challenges quickly with the help of peers and mentors. Reviewers felt that although Bloc is online, it does a great job of building a personal, supportive community:
“I decided that Bloc was the right choice for me. In just seven months, I have been able to begin building a solid portfolio of design and front-end development work. In this time, I’ve also learned how to use approximately a dozen design tools and received extensive one-on-one direction from my mentor, who has been there to help me every step of the way. Whenever I’ve felt stuck on or needed feedback on an assignment, I’ve been able to connect with fellow students and receive feedback within hours, if not minutes. The cost-coupled with the hands-on mentorship you receive and the tools that you are exposed to-has been absolutely worth it for me. There is a tremendous amount to learn, but I absolutely feel that I made the right choice. There is a long road ahead before I’ll be ready to make my mark in the Design field, but I don’t feel that any other program could prepare me for the challenge as well as Bloc has thus far. Highly recommended!”