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What are bootcamps?

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Highway is applying the "bootcamp" educational model—traditionally used for coding—to digital marketing. But what are "bootcamps"?

Bootcamps are a relatively new form of post-secondary (i.e. after high school) education. As traditional higher education—colleges and universities—become exceedingly expensive and do a poor job in enabling graduates to launch their careers, bootcamps have formed to provide a faster, more affordable and more effective way for workers to obtain prosperous jobs. To date the great preponderance of bootcamp programs have focused on software coding.

The first bootcamps started in the early 2010s. The early pioneer was General Assembly, who started their first program in 2011 in New York City. Bootcamps focused on training their students for software development or coding jobs, a role that employers have struggled to find enough talent to satisfy their needs. Unlike traditional higher education, bootcamps avoid excessive courses and academic theory; instead they focus just on the practical skills needed to do the job. While some bootcamps experimented with asynchronous instruction (i.e. watch videos, do tests, etc.) they soon found that live engagement with students was crucial to learning and ultimately for gaining jobs.

Thus bootcamps developed to offer unique value for students in 1) being quick; 2) being affordable; and 3) in being effective in delivering students to desired jobs. About 80% of bootcamp graduates obtain a job with an average salary of $65,000 within 6 months of graduation. Given this value, the bootcamp industry exploded from a few hundred graduates early on to over 33,000 in 2019. Covid has only accelerated demand for bootcamps and while 2020 numbers are not yet published it is expected to significantly exceed 2019 student totals.

Bootcamps have undergone significant innovations in the past several years—led by innovators like Lambda School and Galvanize / Hack Reactor—which has brought even more value for students. First, the proliferation of live online video technology, e.g. Zoom, has enabled the programs to shift from in-person only models to live video models, providing more convenience and accessibility for students.

Bootcamps have also changed their financial model. Initially they operated like traditional college: students paid a tuition up front, and then the schools provided training. But in the last few years bootcamps offered a new approach so that the bootcamp's incentives mirrored those of the students: the ISA (income share agreement). To learn more about the ISAs and how they changed how much and how students pay, click here.

NEXT - Learn more: How much do bootcamps cost? What do ISAs do?