Why I Chose to Attend Launch Academy Online

I am part of the first cohort for Launch Academy’s new Online bootcamp (which launched on 1/11/16). To date, I haven’t found any reviews about this particular program (there are many for the On Campus bootcamp), so I wanted to share my experience thus far, in case you were considering this as an option.

If you have any questions or want to chat further about the program, send me a tweet @aarongerry.

As of 1/24/16:

TLDR: I highly recommend the course so far. I’ve found the guided material and gradual progression immensely helpful for learning, while having mentors and other students persistently “around” allows for more rapid problem solving, less frustration, and very little of the isolated feeling I experienced while self-teaching.

To begin, I have wanted to learn how to code for a few years now. In November of 2015, I made the decision to pursue learning to code as a full-time endeavor, with the aim of making a career switch (my background is in startups in sales/ marketing roles). I began by self-teaching Ruby for about 6 weeks, and dabbled with JS for 2; I have been coding each day, treating it much like a FT job. Very quickly, I realized this journey is fraught with challenges, which I’ll elaborate on below. However, through this experience (and struggle), I’ve come to a profound realization: I love coding!*

(*And I was able to learn this directly without first ponying up money, hurray internet!)

So, why did I decide to do Launch Academy Online?

Well, it starts with some of the challenges I faced in self-teaching. I’ll boil these down to the top 3 (for me):

  • Progress is inconsistent: I found many (free) online guides/ courses had inconsistent jumps in the progression of material. Things would be humming along, then I’d reach something that would be way over my head. I’d spend hours, or days, learning about the concept, looking to Stack Overflow or other guides/ tutorials, etc. to help fill in the gaps… I’d eventually figure it out, and then go back to the original course. I understand this emulates real world problem solving, but in trying to learn the fundamentals, this was incredibly taxing and consistently halted momentum.
  • Overwhelming amount of material: There are A TON of guides/ courses/ tutorials online; It is hard to know what works well for your learning style without trying it. I found I don’t like video-based lectures or in-browser coding, I’d rather “build things,” and emulate real programming (I liked “Learn Ruby The Hard Way” a lot). Likewise, I spent much time trying different options. I also had to force myself to trust some of the magic of Ruby, because otherwise I would spend way too much time on things that weren’t that important to understand at this stage of learning.
  • Isolating: I underestimated how lonely it would feel to go on the journey alone. While I tried The Odin Project and FreeCode Camp (for my foray into JS), and knew there were other students working on the material at the same time, it was rare to find people at the same stage as you to converse with/ who could help answer your questions. To be clear, I think these are great courses with a robust and growing community, but with everyone being at different stages and doing it for varying reasons, it didn’t have a team-like environment (which I guess I’m looking for).

From there, I decided to do a coding bootcamp. I researched different On Campus options in NYC, Boulder, Portland (OR), Boston, etc. (cities where I’m interested in working), and online options such as Bloc, Thinkful, and others. I did my due diligence of reading reviews, talking with alumni and teachers, developed my own grading rubric, and weighed the pros and cons of time and cost requirements.

After all was said and done, I chose Launch Academy Online for a few reasons:

  • On Campus had great reviews, and the two alums I spoke with raved about it (I figured the curriculum, and teaching methodology would translate well online).
  • Dan Pickett (Co-Founder) answered all the questions I had, was responsive to my emails, offered a lot of support while I was self-teaching, shared resources, etc. (all prior to my signing up)
  • I would be a part of the first cohort, and figured they’d want to make sure we were successful.
  • Much cheaper than on campus options, and allowed me more flexibility to do the work when I want/ am available.

Here’s my experience so far:

  • The curriculum is great! There are 11 Phases in total, each focused on discrete, related concepts. In each Phase, there are 30–40 exercises, which incrementally progress in complexity, which means you are learning by doing, and consistently reinforcing themes.
  • Mentors are generally available during the day via Slack, and there is a designated Office Hour period each day specifically staffed by a Mentor. Additionally, fellow students are online, who you can chat with throughout the day.
  • As a bonus, every day there is a live workshop led by Dan, where he does a deeper dive into a concept. These are supplemental, and generally offer helpful tidbits, as well as insight into how an experienced coder thinks about approaching problems.
  • Weekly 1-on-1’s with designated mentor is helpful. I’ve only had 1 so far, but in the future, I plan on discussing alternate ways of solving exercises, discussing concepts not covered/ more advanced material, using the time to peer program, etc.
  • Fellow students are engaged, active, and very willing to help.
  • The program is very new, so they are constantly seeking feedback in order to make updates/ improvements. I’ve seen minor changes so far, and am curious to see how this translates as the program progresses.

Originally published at www.quora.com.