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Alternative Education – Options Abound

I am a software engineer. I have not coded professionally for around 10 years – Heck I am getting old! This year, actually I think late last year was the first time I had even laid down any LOC (Line or Code) for the same amount of time. The good news for has beens like me or newbies alike, is that the number of opportunities to learn how to code and practice coding is quite amazing.

In fact, had the kind of online training been available when I went to university, I would seriously have questioned going to university and have a feeling I would have chosen not to. Even though back in the early 90’s, university was relatively cheap in Australia (~$15k AUD for 5 years Masters program). Now though, in the US, programs on average are going for around $9k a year for public colleges, $22k for out of state, $30k for private. WOW. That is per year!! For a 4 year program, you could be quite easily looking at near or over $100k. I shudder to think at a Masters or PhD. Look here for some historical data and see the inevitable yearly price rises that are very much likely to continue. Unfortunately, education is just like any other enterprise. Cost of doing business will generally rise – teachers wages, materials, real estate etc. Complexity of courses will increase particularly in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) fields. All this adds up to additional costs that will be forwarded on to the consumer unless the education is somehow subsidized.

What to do about it? Well, in a growing number of fields and particularly most recently, technology ‘learn to code’ subjects, there are many many opportunities to take education into your own hands and learn a significant amount of skills for a lot less money. There are various styles of this type of learning within the learn to code fields:

  • Intensive bootcamps – 3 to 6 month often full time, very intensive training live in class room – can be $5k to $10k cost
  • MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) – courses often transferred from traditional lecture format to online web, unlimited participation – free to relatively low cost
  • Interactive, task based short courses – .e.g. Code Academy – generally introductory in nature, live programming environment – free to relatively low cost

I will cover more options and more detail in future posts as this is really just barely scratching the surface. Key point is the technology is available via the internet and many education institutions and private companies are offering alternative education options. The barrier to entry for learning new skills is significantly lower. 

What do you think? Will you still do a normal university/college degree or will you pursue alternative options? Or both?