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Erik Trautman

Technical entrepreneurship, business strategy and product development

Viking code school

A Quick Preview of the Viking Code School

It's been some time since I had 10 minutes free to write. Well, that's not true... by my count, I've written over 800 pages of text and recorded dozens of hours of video in the last 4 months but that's exactly the problem. There's not a lot of room in the margins for creative expression when you're teaching a cohort of students, writing curriculum, managing a team, growing a business and trying to learn how coffee works.

The Viking Code School is the full consumption of my soul right now and rightly so. I'll give it far more just treatment when I'm able but, for now, suffice it to say that it represents the marriage of 2 years of hard work with a lifetime of dreaming about making impactful changes in education.

We're building a highly focused online coding bootcamp that's the first of its kind -- it combines the rigorous and collaborative nature of an in-person bootcamp with the reach of the online medium. We're educating prospective developers and entrepreneurs who want to take their ideas to reality.

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The Odin Project

It's been some time since I last got the chance to put down some words here and it's not for lack of anything to say. I've been incredibly busy over the past few months putting together what has been a devilishly interesting and intense project. I left my position at App Academy in May to do so full time.

The Odin Project is an attempt to put my efforts where my mouth is... a chance to try and make a meaningful impact in online education. The goal of the project is to educate developers from absolute beginner to employable using the same project-based and pair-oriented methodology that proved so effective in my own education. It is based around an open-source curriculum that leverages as much existing content as possible to get from A to B.

Building out the curriculum and the tools to help students pair together has been a herculean task so far but traction is picking up and I'm running a regular class based on what I've put together. It's incredibly exciting to see the project so far help real people take a meaningful step forward in their own education. I'm also beginning to get interest from other developers in the community, which has opened up some great dialogues around the project.

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Taking Collaborative Learning Online


Taking an online course can be a pretty lonely and thankless task. The learning approach is often ported right from university and emphasizes individualized learning and accountability. Many of the free online courses have students sign honor code agreements which state that all their work is completely their own or they are otherwise ineligible for end-of-course certifications. It's no wonder that so many students drop out before the finish. Motivation is hard to come by with no one cheering you on and the approach barely follows how people work in the real world anyway.

The workplace demands a more significant level of collaboration; very few projects are done in isolation. Programming circles, in particular, have successfully used a project-based pairing methodology for many years. The idea is that when you put two programmers at one computer (with two mice, monitors, and keyboards), you reap benefits in excess of the sum of their combined hours. Typically, one programmer is the "driver" and writes the code while the other "navigator" reviews the code and guides the path forward. The result in a production environment is a more coherent, efficient and bug-free code base.

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Fat-Free Education

The education system is pretty messed up. I don't think many people will argue with that. Tuition at my alma mater -- Penn -- rose this year to $39,088, not including the $12,368 for room and board (1). I'll admit that my eyes popped when I looked that up. Compare that with another stat, that only 60% of students were able to find full-time employment after graduating (2), which is *above average*. How the holy hell is this a legitimate situation? Of course, the value of a well-rounded liberal arts education goes well beyond the boundaries of such a narrow idea as getting paid enough to live and eat and...

A full on, 4-year liberal arts education is like a big fatty steak. It costs a lot, it tastes great, and it's of questionable nutritional value. And not everyone should be eating it. Why are we still telling people to pay over $200k for something with only a 60% probability of resulting in a job? Why do you so often hear "I only learned 10% of what I used on the job in school"? Some people will always eat steak but for the rest, we need a fat free education.

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Maximizing Your Bootcamp Experience

*Note: It's been a long time since I wrote this and it's been a surprisingly popular post. Since then, I've founded the Viking Code School, an online software engineering program that takes exceptional aspiring developers and makes them job-ready. Our mission is meant to bring this level of education to people who cannot uproot their lives to attend an in-person program and I encourage you to check it out if this path interests you.*

I recently attended the inaugural Ruby on Rails bootcamp offered by App Academy and it was a hell of an experience. It's an undertaking that I highly recommend but one which takes a serious level of maturity and commitment to do right. Given that hundreds of other students will soon walk a similar path, I've put together the following recommendations to help you get the most out of your bootcamp experience. You may not be headed to the same program but I bet you'll find some of this useful to you anyway.

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The App Academy Student Journey

*Note: It's been a long time since I wrote this and it's been a surprisingly popular post. Since then, I've founded the Viking Code School, an online software engineering program that takes exceptional aspiring developers and makes them job-ready. Our mission is meant to bring this level of education to people who cannot uproot their lives to attend an in-person program and I encourage you to check it out if this path interests you.*

I got into App Academy in late December and it's pretty much consumed my life ever since. The San Francisco-based program is a 9-week intensive dive into Ruby and Ruby on Rails designed to take people with little or no experience in computer programming and turn them into junior web developers. They are an offshoot of the original Dev Bootcamp, which began offering a similar style of classes about a year ago and has enjoyed great success.

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How Harvard's CS50 Renewed My Hope for Online Education

This fall I took CS50: Intro to Computer Science at Harvard and it was refreshingly, thankfully good. I didn't take the course *at* Harvard per se, but rather via the edX online platform, which is a collaboration between MIT, Harvard, Berkeley and other major universities to put their courseware online. It's one of the primary vehicles through which top tier institutions are at last surging into the online education space in a kind of academic land grab like we've never seen before.

edX, Coursera, VentureLab, Khan Academy and a veritable cornucopia of other platforms have popped up over just the last few years to try and solve the need for high quality distance education. That need was previously underserved by a combination of insufficient technologies and the unwillingness of top tier institutions to wade into a space that was otherwise dominated by shady, low-quality offerings like the University of Phoenix.

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