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Programming Bootcamps as an Alternative to Lectures

Programming Bootcamps as an Alternative to Lectures

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Published by Ariel Krakowski
Colleges such as Yeshiva University should offer Programming Bootcamps as an alternative to lectures.
Colleges such as Yeshiva University should offer Programming Bootcamps as an alternative to lectures.

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Published by: Ariel Krakowski on Dec 24, 2013
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02/10/2014

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Programming Bootcamps as an Alternative to Lectures
 Ariel Krakowski, Learneroo
 While many areas of the job market are still weak, one area is growing in demand: Programming
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. This is because jobs that used to require people can now be done by programs. For example, law students are facing a difficult job market, and one reason for this is because algorithms can now analyze texts instead of lawyers.
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 This trend will continue. Millions of people in the US are employed as drivers, but once algorithms drive better than humans, the humans
will need to look for new work. As the tech investor Marc Andreessen said,
.
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 One would expect colleges to expand and update their computer science (CS) departments as demand for programming grows. Instead, Yeshiva University downsized its CS department and subsumed it i
nto the Math department. Since YU’s CS department is so small and weak,
students avoid it, which causes it to remain small and weak. A couple of CS students in my year switched out of YU to pursue computer science elsewhere. Who knows how many students interested in computer science avoided YU in the first place? If YU would build a strong CS program, they would attract many talented students. As the founders of Google, Facebook and
Oracle demonstrate, there’s no lack of successful Jewish programmers in the
 world! YU needs to do something about their CS department or it will continue to lose many students (and future donors!). However, it should consider a more bold solution than just hiring more professors. Most students in Computer Science did not get that much out of the lectures in computers. The best students would usually read or program on their computers during class instead of listening to the lecture. This was independent of the quality of the lecture, but because lectures themselves are not the best way to teach computers or programming. To learn a topic like programming one needs to actively practice it, not passively listen to a lecture. To quote  Aristotle: For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, e.g. men become builders by building and lyre-players by playing the lyre... The lecture system
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 has managed to survive the invention of writing and printing, but the
internet will “eat” traditional lectures just as its changed other areas. At the very least, s
oftware
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 Software Developers ranked #1 on CareerBuilde
r’s rankings of Fast
-growing high-paying jobs bit.ly/cb- job2014. Note that Programmers, Software Developers and Software Engineers are just different titles for the same thing.
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See “Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software”
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/05/science/05legal.html
 
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“Why Software Is Eating The World” Wall Street Journal, August 20, 2011
 
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 For more on the problems with Lectures, see
The “Change
-
Up” in Lectures
For a professor taking a more “chavrua
-
style” approach, see “Rethinking the Way College Students Are Taught” 
 
will play a greater role in software education! See The Future of Education
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 for more on this topic; this article will focus on a different aspect. Jews are familiar with a different approach to learning than lectures - learning with a
chavrusa,
or study partner. It is hard to study complex subjects on one’s own, so it often helps to work with
a study-partner. A pair studying alone may also find it difficult to stay focused, which can be solved by joining a group that provides the right environment, structure and support. For example, in Morasha Kollel, bright and motivated students are able to learn a tremendous amount over the summer, primarily with chavrusa-learning in a structured environment. Colleges think that students learn due to their lectures, but really the environment and structure are the key to learning; the lecture is often just a distraction.
Recently, some have successfully adopted a “Morasha
-Kollel
-style approach to teaching programming. 'Programming Bootcamps', such as DevBootcamp or AppAcademy, have been popping up all over to teach web development in 2-3 months. Students in these programs often learn more practical programming skills there than they would in 3 years in many colleges. Lectures play a very small role in these programs. Instead, they gather bright students together to code for most of the day, and provide them with structure and help. Students go through online tutorials, and then spend most of the time practicing coding. When they need help or feedback, they have other students or mentors to turn to. This approach has been very successful, and many students have been able to land full-time jobs after graduating from their program.
 Academics, when they hear such comparisons, often snort “a college is not a trade school”, we’re not here to teach practical skills! That’s nice, but when you ask most students why they’re
attending college, they cite employment as the number one reason.
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Students aren’t taking out loans just to be “well
-
rounded” or to “learn to think critically”, and colleges may not help with
those things either.
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 If colleges want to remain relevant they will need to adjust their offerings to match what their customers want.
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In theory, YU could learn from the bootcamps and offer its own “programming bootcamp” for
students. This could turn YU from its current CS ranking to one of the best and coolest colleges to learn programming. The bootcamp could start as an experiment, and eventually become a real academic choice, with the option to earn credits and satisfy requirements. The bootcamps could be a block set aside during the day where students code for a few hours straight. Mentors will be there to provide structure and feedback for the students. Motivated students could learn
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 The Commentator, Dec. 2011. Ariel Krakowski.
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The two top reasons students gave for attending college were to “get a better job” and “make more money”.
Educational Attainment and Private Economic Welfare
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