Computer coding skills can open doors to a challenging and lucrative career in the ever-growing software development industry. But traditional coding bootcamps are often not a viable option for people with a full-time job or family responsibilities – a demographic that often includes women and minorities. That’s why We Can Code IT, a coding bootcamp with locations in Cleveland and Columbus, developed an innovative solution with its new “hybrid” bootcamp. Named FlexCode™, it offers a mix of online and in-person classes for greater flexibility, lower expenses, and a more effective learning model.
When Mel McGee founded We Can Code IT in 2013, she had a vision to “change the face of tech.” A veteran software developer and entrepreneur, McGee built the company around a social mission to welcome talented women and minorities into a field historically dominated by white males – and to meet the demands of a growing industry hungry for diverse teams of software developers. “Our vision is to expand inclusion in technology,” explains McGee. “We want to open doors for high-potential candidates who are capable of success in this field.” But she soon realized that many in her target market couldn’t make time for a traditional coding bootcamp, especially women taking care of children, running a household or employed outside the home.
We Can Code IT continues to offer their successful 14-week in-person bootcamp, but McGee, a busy working mother herself, knew that not all adult career-changers would find the right fit there. Exploring alternate models, she didn’t like remote online coding bootcamps that eliminate the cultural and collaboration components of learning, something that We Can Code IT prides itself on. “Being part of a cohort with other students is an integral part of positive learning outcomes. Remote learning models typically fail there,” says McGee. “We needed strong outcomes and a model that ensures agile, team-oriented learning. So I started investigating a hybrid model using blended learning.” That led McGee to design a completely new curriculum for FlexCode™ , a 16-week bootcamp combining online instruction with in-person classroom sessions two weekends per month. Online resources include guidance from coding and career facilitators, weekly meetings with facilitators and coaches, and remote team meetings with other adult learners.
“It’s like an Executive MBA model where you can work on your own time and do project and problem-based learning,” says McGee. “The hybrid model of combining online learning with in-person facilitation has been proven to be the most effective approach. It’s more like the real world of integrating subjects to maximize learning.”
The FlexCode™ hybrid curriculum was designed as a “better fit” for busy adult learners who need to fit learning into available chunks of time, whether it’s a 3-hour learning session or a 5-minute review. It also serves those who can’t afford the added cost of transportation or childcare required with full-time classroom bootcamps. “This is a way to reduce costs, have flexibility in your life and get better learning outcomes,” says McGee. “You do online exercises and get resources like videos you can review over and over. It’s more than note-taking in a class that’s dependent on the quality of the instructor. These are well-planned components that give you incredible return-on-investment.” The role of Software Developer is ranked as the 2018 “Number One Job Overall” by US News and World Report — with salaries ranging from $58,000/year for a junior developer up to $100K for a lead application developer and $153K for a Chief Technology Officer.
We Can Code IT promises students “added value” with a strong support community and Career Services available to adult learners during and after enrollment in the FlexCode™ coding bootcamp. “We have a very individualized approach to career services,” says Lauren Holloway, the Student Success Program Manager with We Can Code IT. “Our new hybrid program allows us to do that same one-on-one personal coaching but also communicate online — so we can answer a student’s specific questions about their job search, resume or other issues that come up outside of on-site classroom time.”
Holloway has been with We Can Code IT since its founding and sees the challenges faced by bootcamp students who work full-time while taking coding classes. “It can be extremely taxing to do this kind of brain work. With the new hybrid model, they can do the work when their mind is functioning at its best,” says Holloway. “And not everyone has the privilege of quitting their job and focusing entirely on coding – especially those with family or other responsibilities. That’s a piece of the puzzle we’ve been working on. This hybrid model solves the problem of bringing more diversity and inclusion to the tech world – and that continues to be our number one mission at We Can Code IT.”
Kyle McKee is Education Director with We Can Code IT and brings years of experience in the Cleveland tech community as an agile software developer, trainer and consultant. McKee believes the classroom will always be an important component of coding instruction, but he sees the new hybrid coding bootcamp offering more efficiency by meeting students where they are and providing better learning outcomes than exclusively online coding courses. “Students can move at their own pace while still having personal accountability and the human component of sitting down with someone at the keyboard,” says McKee. “I’m really excited to see We Can Code IT launch FlexCode. I think this new hybrid model captures the best of both classroom and online coding bootcamps.”
We Can Code IT is located in Cleveland and Columbus and teaches coding skills needed to enter the software development field. With a unique focus on diversity and inclusion, We Can Code IT reaches out to women and minorities underrepresented in the growing tech industry. Interested students can take a free online quiz or register for an admissions event.
“After the We Can Code IT on-site training at University Hospitals, we embraced Agile software development methodology with tremendous success. On a project that was not going well, we were able to develop 1-week iterations where we did a mini-planning session on Monday, committed to stories for the week and then completely tested them by the end of the week. Our teams have really enjoyed moving to a more structured Agile environment with much more collaboration.”
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