When Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, launched his own coding bootcamp in fall 2017, thousands of would-be developers flocked in, paying a hefty $13,200 in tuition to learn to code from one of the greats at Woz U. However, former students and sales employees have come forward with reports of poor quality curricula and instructors, and a business model that prizes profits over education, according to a CBS News report.
Supposed "live lectures" in the 33-week program were pre-recorded and out of date, and course content included many typos that impacted code performance, former student Bill Duerr told CBS News. Student mentors were unqualified, and at one point, a course did not even have an instructor to teach it, Duerr said.
"I feel like this is a $13,000 e-book," Duerr told CBS News. "It's broken, it's not working in places, lots of times there's just hyperlinks to Microsoft documents, to Wikipedia."
SEE: IT Hiring Kit: Programmer (Tech Pro Research)
More than two dozen current and former Woz U students and employees reported similar problems to CBS News. Several complaints were also posted by students on the Woz U Slack channel, according to the report, including "I do not understand why we can't get good quality for what we are paying for," and "The lessons are extremely flawed!"
Former enrollment counselor Tim Mionske, who was laid off from the company for poor numbers, said his team faced pressure to enroll students. "It is drive, drive, drive the sales," Mionske told CBS News.
SEE: How to become an iOS developer: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
Wozniak declined CBS News requests for an interview, according to the report. In a statement to the news outlet, Woz U president Chris Coleman addressed errors in course content, and said the school had implemented a quality control system to catch them. He also said that Wozniak reviews that curriculum, according to CBS News.
Spotting poor quality coding bootcamps
Woz U is far from the only coding bootcamp to find itself in hot water in recent years. Fast-paced programming schools have flourished across the US, growing from 67 schools in 2015 to 108 in 2018, with an average tuition of $11,900 this year, according to Course Report. However, these bootcamps are not accredited institutions of higher education, and some have been accused of making false claims about the number of students that they help place in jobs after graduation.
SEE: Hiring kit: Python developer (Tech Pro Research)
In 2017 the National Consumers League (NCL) launched a website and guide to help people identify fraudulent coding bootcamp job placement claims, and choose the best education option. The NCL recommends taking the following into consideration before enrolling in a coding bootcamp:
1. Beware of too-good-to-be-true job placement claims. Placement rates in excess of 90% are likely to be exaggerated and rely on cherry-picked data.
2. Make sure the schools you're considering are licensed in the state in which they operate.These bootcamps are required to be licensed in the state in which they operate, but recently, many have been investigated for operating without a license.
3. Don't rely solely on advertising materials provided by the bootcamp operator. Use independent information to evaluate your options—alumni references, services offered, and quality and qualifications of instructors.
If you have been—or suspect you've been—defrauded by a coding bootcamp, you can file a complaint at Fraud.org, where the NCL shares complaints with a network of more than 200 federal, state, local, and international law enforcement and consumer protection agency partners.
The big takeaways for tech leaders:
- Former students and employees of Woz U, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak's coding bootcamp, say the program had poor quality curricula and instructors, according to CBS News.
- Coding bootcamp applicants should be wary of high job placement claims, make sure schools are licensed in their state, and rely on more than just advertising materials when making an enrollment decision, according to the NCL.
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- How to become a developer: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
- Confident Coding, book review: A useful programming primer (ZDNet)
- The truth about MooCs and bootcamps: Their biggest benefit isn't creating more coders (TechRepublic)
- Coding camp grads can land a higher salary than developers with college degrees, but there's a catch (TechRepublic)
Alison DeNisco Rayome has nothing to disclose. She does not hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.