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The tech world is growing at an astonishing rate, that much we all know. The problem is it’s growing faster than most of us can keep up with. According to a recent study by McKinsey, 100,000 jobs will be created in Berlin’s startup scene alone by 2020. Jobs are appearing now that didn’t even exist ten years ago, or, if they did, no one knew what they were, what they involved or why anyone would want to do them.
This is no longer the case. Now everybody wants to get into tech. It’s become a hip, young industry to get into. It’s an industry that’s flexible to your ideas, your goals, your dreams, which is what makes it such an exciting place to be. But that is just the question: how do you get into it? Getting the skills needed to get these jobs are hard to come by. Where do you learn to become a Web Developer? How do you learn to code? This gap in education has led to a huge skills gap in the industry, an industry that, like we said, is growing at a faster rate than any other. We appreciate the irony.
What’s MOOC got to do with it?
One of tech’s most popular ed-tech models, MOOCs (or Massive Open Online Courses), thinks it has the answer. Massive Open Online Courses are accessible, cover a multitude of subjects and are, perhaps most significantly, free. Unfortunately with completion rates typically lower than 10% these courses aren’t likely to get you that job you’ve been hankering after. As Shanna Smith Jaggars, assistant director of Columbia University’s
Community College Research Center, points out: “The most important thing that helps students succeed in an online course is interpersonal interaction and support,” This chimes with one of the top reasons cited for students failing to complete their MOOC: ‘lecture fatigue.’ Watching one lecture after another with no individual help or interaction means the students lose interest.
Without the support of a mentor the students feel no personal commitment to the course, lack motivation and are dropping like flies. Free, global online education may be all the rage, but if it doesn’t get you where you want to be, what is it actually offering you?
Give me a little support here
Research shows that online education needs to be approached in a fundamentally different way. Although no one would criticise the idea of a free, global, online education, if it’s not having the desired impact on those taking part it must be going wrong somewhere. Educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom, during his research on tutoring versus a ‘teacher and class’ dynamic, discovered “the average tutored student was above 98% of the students in the control class”.
The overwhelming message we can take from the research is that students need support. And support means persontoperson contact, something an online instructional video is unable to provide. Direct one-to-one mentoring could be the answer, it provides support and regular feedback, it also does what the MOOCs simply cannot do: it keeps the student motivated. But is it accessible?
Driven, but limited
So, what other options are there out there? New educational programs called career accelerators have emerged to help address the issue of talent. Startup Institute, Fullbridge, General Assembly and Makers Academy all offer students offline the chance to learn directly from startup veterans and work on real-world projects to develop cultural acumen and leadership skills. Additionally, students get introduced to employees already working in successful startups and can begin to build their professional network.
Although these organisations directly address the support and motivation issues we talked about earlier, they can never be as time and place flexible as an online study programme. If you don’t live in one of the places where the course is running, how do you access the study tools and its mentors? How do you fit it around having a job or a family? We have seen the benefits that direct contact learning brings to its students, but if the students can’t attend the courses those benefits are wasted.
Mentor-led, learnt online
Taking all the research into account it seems that a structured, accessible, online educational platform that works directly alongside regular onetoone mentoring could be the answer. But how is this possible? Is it possible? Can online tutoring bring about the results that MOOCs can’t, with a combination of that crucial personal interaction and support with accessible online learning materials? A new wave of thought is beginning to emerge from that hub of start up activity, Berlin, that thinks this is possible.
In the midst of one of the world’s most exciting startup scenes, amongst discarded coffee cups and behind a wall of MacBooks the idea for CareerFoundry was born. CareerFoundry knows the tech market and want to open it up, offering a first class education in Web Development (Ruby On Rails) and Integrated UX Design that combines online learning with a face-to-face meeting with a mentor every week, keeping their students motivated and supported up to and beyond course completion.
The company is already able to boast of the 70% of completed graduates landing a job in their chosen field, which, compared with the 8-10% completion rate of MOOC students speaks for itself. What’s clear is that, unlike MOOCs, CareerFoundry understands the students they are taking on, having been these people once themselves. They know it’s hard to get in, they know you need consistent, constructive feedback and the invaluable support of someone on the inside of the industry. They also understand that students seek the flexibility of an online learning system, that is available to them as and when they need it.
The third and crucial part is, CareerFoundry know that once you’ve made it on the start up scene you’re at the heart something pretty special.
Providing hands-on training, CareerFoundry transforms its students into job-ready applicants, with a focus on real one-to-one contact with mentors and in the supportive setting of an online student community. Students are led through a three-month training program in Integrated UX Design or Web Development (Ruby on Rails), meeting weekly with their personal expert mentor, learning from online course materials and receiving regular feedback.
Upon finishing the course each student has a completed portfolio and is introduced to CareerFoundry’s recruitment partners: i-potentials, Founders Keepers, Urban Linker and Startup-bootcamp. CareerFoundry is launching students onto the tech scene, ready to begin their own startup adventure.