Indianapolis computer coding school Eleven Fifty Academy is partnering with seven state colleges to offer a five-week intensive coding boot camp tailor made for the long winter break schools have scheduled this year.
Wabash College, Butler University, DePauw University, Earlham College, Marian University, St. Mary’s College at Notre Dame, and University of Evansville have joined together to offer the Winter Coding Experience to their non-computer science, non-STEM juniors and seniors.
“A liberal arts student will graduate with a great understanding of people and business. But with respect to [computer] coding and an understanding of tech, we’re missing that third leg to the stool,” said Roland Morin, associate dean and director of the Center for Innovation, Business and Entrepreneurship at Wabash College. “We think this is a great way to fill that gap.”
The boot camp kicks off Nov. 30 and runs for three weeks. After a two-week hiatus, the boot camp resumes for two more weeks. The program is a first-of-its kind, organizers said.
The pandemic forced private colleges to rethink their calendars. Most Indiana colleges brought students on campus two weeks ahead of a typical year. The students were locked down on campus to minimize the threat of COVID-19 and will wrap up their first semesters finals before the Thanksgiving holiday. They won’t return until after the new year.
The extended break over the holidays precedes a tighter time frame for second semester, as many schools have omitted spring break from their calendars.
Even though the Winter Coding Experience is designed for the longer winter break brought on by the pandemic, organizers said they hope to continue the initiative—and grow it with more participating schools and students—in subsequent years.
This isn’t Eleven Fifty’s first partnership with state colleges. In 2017 and 2018, Eleven Fifty held a summer program for the Independent Colleges of Indiana—one on the campus of Marian University and the other at Franklin College.
Scott Jones, founder and CEO of Eleven Fifty Academy, said students in this year’s winter boot camp should expect to work 40 hours per week on coding.
“There’s no skipping out on this. If you do, it won’t work,” Jones said. “This course takes maturity, grit and discipline.”
So far, there are 54 students from the various colleges signed up to take part in the boot camp, which will be capped this year at 100 students.
“I’m feeling really good about the number of students enrolled right now,” Morin said. “We have to do this as a proof of concept to show our own people internally this works. Also this year is important for future funding sources.”
Jones is confident demand for the program will increase as word of it spreads.
“As the program proves effective and gains momentum with schools and students, it absolutely could grow,” Jones said.
Jones said that just because the program will be done virtually doesn’t mean students won’t get lots of personal instruction. Eleven Fifty is designing the curriculum and providing all the instructors.
While the students will earn a certification—and in some cases college credit—from the boot camp, they won’t pay any tuition.
Organizers have secured $10,000 per student from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security—or CARES—Act to fund the boot camp.
“It is expensive for us to do what we do,” said Jones, who founded the not-for-profit Eleven Fifty Academy in 2014. “It’s a lot of contact hours—480 contact hours. There are multiple instructors in the [virtual] room to make sure people are keeping up, and help them understand where they’re blocked if they fall behind.”
Eleven Fifty will use Zoom and its own custom software to teach the course, Jones said, with the ability for instructors to meet with students en masse or in small groups. The instructor to student ratio for the boot camp will be about one to eight, Jones said.
Morin said the program is beneficial to not only the schools and students but the state’s economy as well.
“This goes back to keeping smart, talented students in the state of Indiana,” Morin said. “Students have to see a pathway to great jobs in the state of Indiana, and this is part of that. This is only going to help grow the state’s reputation in the technology world and it’s going to help grow our overall economy.”
Jones, who has launched several tech company and is best known for creating the platform that facilitated voice mail, said tech companies locally and nationally are hungry for college graduates with liberal arts backgrounds.
“Tech companies need more people with language and liberal arts backgrounds,” Jones said. “But those people need to have some understanding of technology.
“The students that participate in this boot camp may not write another line of code in their life—or may change their career,” Jones added. “Those that don’t write another line of code, will still have a deeper understanding of technology.
“They will understand what’s possible through technology,” he said. “This knowledge will influence how well they can develop products. And that’s going to help them in their careers and help the tech or tech-enabled companies they work for. And that’s the kind of fuel for growth this state really needs.”