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Education Programming

How St. Louis Is Bootstrapping Hundreds of Programmers 147

itwbennett writes "The MOOC (massive open online course) failure rate is notoriously high — only 1% of people who take the beginning computer science programming class, CS50, that Harvard offers over the EdX online platform complete it. A new effort in St. Louis called LaunchCode is changing that — and solving the city's programmer shortage. For the past several weeks, about 300 hardy souls have been gathering in a downtown St. Louis library to listen to the CS50 lectures and work together on the various programming problem sets. But the support offered by the all-volunteer run LaunchCode doesn't end with meet space. They're also doing an end-around on the traditional coder hiring process by pairing the students who complete the course with experienced programmers in one of more than a 100 tech companies who are looking for talent."
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How St. Louis Is Bootstrapping Hundreds of Programmers

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  • by Connie_Lingus ( 317691 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @11:01AM (#46463995) Homepage

    David Malan, who went to Harvard himself and is a rockstar teacher, teaches the course. I watched a couple of his lectures and found them interesting and engaging, even when he covers some basic concepts that I have long known. If I had him teaching me programming back in the day, I might have stuck with it and become a coder myself.

    i'm sure its just me, but isn't this possibly the dumbest excuse for not becoming a programmer around?

    almost all programmers i know who really add value to projects learned the stuff mostly on their own...teachers don't teach this stuff, the computer does. for the first six months almost everyone who is trying to write a program is going to be pounding their head on the desk.

    only through that struggle will you begin to grok it.

    i still thank my first Comp-Sci undergraduate teacher (FORTRAN for those interested) for issuing this offer to his students...

    "anyone interested in getting an A and skipping having to come to class, if you write a bowling league manager that does this, this, and that and have it done in 10 weeks, talk to me after class"

    I believe i was the only one who took him up on his offer, and to this day i'm thankful for him for the things i "learned" about PROFESSIONAL programming.

  • We are the 99% (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Evan Kent ( 3574545 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @11:02AM (#46464005)
    I'm one of those people who dropped it. Namely, because my IT classes (I was getting college credit for) picked up. I wouldn't discount a 1% completion rate as a sign of failure, or even one of difficulty. Hell, I'd go so far as to say that every person who signs up for it for any sort of personal growth is a success, even if most drop it later on.
  • by SteveFoerster ( 136027 ) <steve AT stevefoerster DOT com> on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @11:11AM (#46464141) Homepage

    The point of MOOCs is that since they're free, those who enroll in them can pick and choose from what's there that interests them. Plenty of people enroll in a MOOC because they want a refresher on something, or to learn about just one aspect of what's covered, or just to see what it looks like. It's not failure when those people don't go through everything in the course.

  • Re:We are the 99% (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @11:13AM (#46464177)

    Good old economics kicks in.
    If you offer a class at too low of a price, failure or just quitting is an option when there is little to loose. So you take a few classes, it isn't your cup of tea you quit.

    If you drop a few grand down for a class, and it isn't your cup of tea, you will still stick threw it and get those credits, as you have already paid for it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @11:22AM (#46464277)

    These efforts aren't solving the programmer shortage, they are simply mills churning out unqualified candidates (only ~1% of which will get a job and %1 of those becoming a solid developer) in order to deflate wages for everyone else.

    There is another program that is ramping up called CodeRed [coderededucation.com], which helps high-schools introduce a series of courses that will supposedly get high-school graduates entry level jobs from $45-60K.

    I'm not too worried as ITT / Pheonix / have tried to do this for years with little success (and several lawsuits for promising things they cannot deliver). You'll get the same result [slashdot.org] out of these programs.

    As an aside, I just wish the developer community had the political awareness to see these things for what they really are. Maybe it's industry maturity or the aggregate political / sociological leanings, but you don't see this kind of crap from Doctors, Lawyers, etc.

    I also wish we didn't devalue education by stating this is all it takes, but, hey call that the Holiday Inn effect [wikipedia.org].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @11:24AM (#46464315)

    The shortage is in cheap programmers.

  • by gnupun ( 752725 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @11:25AM (#46464319)

    almost all programmers i know who really add value to projects learned the stuff mostly on their own...teachers don't teach this stuff, the computer does. for the first six months almost everyone who is trying to write a program is going to be pounding their head on the desk.

    only through that struggle will you begin to grok it.

    Exactly, you can't become a samurai sword wielding ninja by vegging out in front of a flash video showing ninjas fighting and an instructor explaining tricks and theory. You've also got to pick up a wooden stick and fight.

  • by Frobnicator ( 565869 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @11:29AM (#46464369) Journal

    I've wondered why more online educational institutions don't try something this, real groups that meet somewhere public to work through a course together. The aspect of being paired with a working programmer eventually is also a great advantage, but just having a group to work with would lead lot more people to have enough motivation to complete a class.

    Some schools do. Back in my academic days in the 1990s, my school (a state university) partnered with the local AFB for such things. Some of the people in the lab spent half their day working on fighter jet programs and other systems on the base. In exchange a lot of people got recruited by the base and by the base's contractors as civilian programmers before graduation.

    However, I note in the story that they businesses are looking for a specific class of programmers: The low-paid programmers who have enough background to be useful but not enough background to demand a high salary.

    Specifically the businesses are looking for people with one year of training on how to use the language. Those who graduate from the program will likely enjoy a few years on the job --- probably paid a living wage for those few years --- and then will be dumped when they start asking for professional wages.

    Contrary to what those business want you to believe, there is not a shortage of programmers. Instead, there is a mismatch between what the businesses want to pay versus what programmers believe they should earn. Skilled programmers provide valuable services, are very much white-collar workers, and are able to demand a high salary just like doctors, lawyers, pilots, architects, and other highly-trained, highly skilled professionals. Businesses who pay well have no difficulty finding skilled and talented programmers. Businesses who pay their programmers the same rate as their hourly call center workers, well, they get the quality they paid for.

    Software runs the world. I wouldn't want a minimum-wage physician, or a minimum-wage airline pilot, or a building designed by a minimum-wage architect. I similarly wouldn't trust custom-built software written by minimum-wage programmers.

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @12:12PM (#46464881)

    So you want someone who is experienced, willing to work for dirt cheap in a boring shitty job, in a boring place, with no perks?

    Well shit, I want to marry a supermodel. Looks like there's a supermodel shortage too!

    Maybe I just run to Congress and demand that they start importing me some slave supermodels.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @12:51PM (#46465313)

    IT / tech needs apprenticeships and CS is not = IT.

    Both IT tech work and programming some kind of trades / apprenticeship system.

    The older college system is to much of a one size fits all and at times can be theory loaded / has lot's of skill gaps.

    Some of the theory is nice to have but others is only really useful for very low level OS stuff that most programmers witting code should have to deal with much less wire there own systems bypassing the build in os ones.

    Also with IT / desktop / sever / networking is more hands on and the over load of theory is bad as well doing stuff out a book without being in real settings that can be quite a bit off of what the book says.

When you make your mark in the world, watch out for guys with erasers. -- The Wall Street Journal