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How To Find Quality Coding Training
This piece was written by Erica Freedman, Content Specialist at SwitchUp.
SwitchUp is an online platform that helps students find a technology, data science or coding bootcamp for their transition into a technology career. On our site, we list coding bootcamps in a range of subjects including full stack web development, front-end development, data science, UX/UI design, and cybersecurity.
Students have more options than ever, and it can be overwhelming to choose the right program. Bootcamps vary drastically in cost, time commitment, and mentorship, and the decision can be daunting for many prospective students.
At SwitchUp, we’ve identified four key factors that can help you decide if a program is quality. In this section, we’ll dive into the factors that will help you evaluate a bootcamp and see if it is truly worth your investment.
1. Class Size and Ratio
For many students, the single most important factor in choosing a bootcamp is class size and instructor ratio. In order to get through the tough software bugs and rugged learning curve, it’s invaluable to have one-on-one time with someone more experienced than you. At Big Nerd Ranch, classes have an average 1:10 teacher to student ratio. With these numbers, students are able to get truly specialized instruction.
To determine the importance of class size, you’ll want to have a good understanding of your learning style. Smaller class sizes tend to be a better fit for students who prefer a lot of feedback or hands-on instruction. For learners who are very self-directed, a small class size is often less important.
In general, instructor-student ratios range widely, from 1:4 to 1:25. Be careful when choosing programs with very few instructors and lots of students. You may not be getting the attention you need.
2. Alumni Feedback and Reviews
The most important step you can take toward discovering your perfect fit is talking to graduated students and reading reviews online.
When you reach out to alumni on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or email, here’s a few questions that you might want to ask:
- What type of job or experiences did you have before your bootcamp?
- Do you think your experience at a bootcamp was valuable?
- What did you like most about your experience, and what would you change?
- What adjectives would you use to describe the culture of your bootcamp?
- What’s a typical day like at your bootcamp?
- What was your instructor like?
- What was your curriculum like?
- What is unique or distinguishing about your bootcamp?
- What kind of jobs did you and your classmates get after graduating?
What you’ll learn from an alumni face-to-face will often be more detailed than what you’ll read online. There’s nothing that replaces a coffee meeting or skype call to get the insights on the schools you’re applying to.
If you would like to skip the in-person meeting, you can explore SwitchUp and read thousands of verified alumni reviews. This third-party verification system helps to better reinforce quality programs. Big Nerd Ranch currently boasts a 4.95 star rating with 20 verified reviews. Bruce Carter hopped on our platform to let us know Big Nerd Ranch was the “Most Effective Training Ever”. Use these experiences to better understand what programs have to offer, and what you can expect as an attendee down the line.
3. Your Instructors
The quality of your instructor can make or break the experience. With large turnover in the industry, teachers don’t usually stay at schools very long — oftentimes they are experienced coders and prefer to be coding! This can result in a lot of new and inexperienced instructors.
At Big Nerd Ranch, you’ll learn from instructors who are full-time consultants working on client projects every day. Because of this, these instructors understand the problems you will be attempting to solve as students.
It’s definitely worth setting up a call with your potential instructor before you commit. Think of an interview with a bootcamp as a two-way street: They’re assessing whether you are a good fit, and you should not be afraid to assess them and ask for more information.
Look for passionate teachers and good communicators. Ask yourself:
- Do you feel comfortable speaking to them?
- Do they seem confident in what they’re saying?
- Do past students think the teacher was able to explain programming concepts in a simple and clear manner?
Communication is paramount for a good teacher, and those skills can be rare in the coding industry. The best instructors are both established software engineers AND effective, passionate instructors.
4. Your Goals
Have you had a chance to sit down with yourself and consider why you are beginning your bootcamp journey? It is important to begin by identifying what your goals are as you enter the beginning phases of your process.
Do you want to:
- Learn a new skill?
- Expand your resume?
These are all very different reasons to invest in bootcamp programs. Some bootcamps are focused on job placement while others are targeted at university graduates looking to transition into more specific career tracks.
The amount of time you are able to dedicate to a bootcamp is also part of this consideration. You have to be realistic about your goals. If you are a person with a family, who has a full-time job, an immersive, 40+ hour a week program will not fit your daily life. Big Nerd Ranch offers a high-impact program, with a low time commitment. Despite being only a week long, students are able to cover a lot of ground. Through these advanced topics, developers and designers are able to level up their skills in only seven days.
If you are aiming to skill-up at a highly-rated, short-term program, Big Nerd Ranch could be your perfect fit.
After all, they’ve been writing programming guides since 2001. As the proud authors of a series of best-selling programming books, they’ve been able to help hundreds of thousands of programmers build brilliance.