Treehouse’s Techdegree in 2021: is it still worth it?

Thomas Dimnet
Apr 30 · 6 min read
Treehouse techdegree homepage

A few days ago I finished my third Techdegree with Treehouse: the Python Developpement Techdegree. It comes in addition to the two other Techdegrees I already have: the Front End Web Development Techdegree and the Full Stack JavaScript Techdegree. In addition to those there are two others that I started but never finished: the iOS Developpement Techdegree (which is no longer available) and the UX Design.

Me and the Techdegrees in 2016

A little background

For example, at the time, I was having a lot of trouble with CSS and it was through Treehouse that I was able to figure out how to write more maintainable CSS. While a lot of online training and resources were on the surface Treehouse went deeper and I liked that.

The same thing happened when I started to work with JavaScript, first with the DOM, then with React and finally with NodeJS. I found on Treehouse an answer to my questions and I was really satisfied with the service.

This is what pushed me at the time to do two Techdegrees: the Front End Web Dev and then the Full Stack JavaScript. In May/June 2016, Treehouse launched 6 Techdegree:

  • the Front End Web Development;
  • the Full stack JavaScript;
  • the Python Web Development;
  • the Java Web Development;
  • the IOS Development;
  • and finally the Android Development.
Techdegree’s offering in 2016

These had the same framework. Each Techdegree was composed of 12 units, each unit included courses to take, external resources to go through, and a project to complete that unit. Once the 12 projects were completed, you took an exam under conditions similar to those of the AWS certifications: you made an appointment, you were filmed, you had to “scan” your room to avoid cheating, etc. In short it was a lot of fun!

Me before passing an AWS certification

The projects were really interesting and challenging. The courses didn’t cover all the aspects you would have to do in the project, so you had to search the internet and go through technical documentation. In short, what you do every day as a developer.

I don’t know about you but I often have trouble finding projects to code on my free time. When I want to code on my free time, which happens very very often, I don’t want to bother with the design and project management part. I most often want to be given a project and only have to concentrate on the core of my business: the technical side and how to develop a solution that is elegant and easy to read in the end.

And that’s what Techdegree brought back then. The ability to focus on learning a new technology or language and avoid the “less interesting” parts of a project.

But then what is a Techdegree worth in 2021?

That said I’ve been in the industry for a few years, I’ve been CTO, I’m SME (Subject Matter Expert) for OpenClassrooms and I’m very involved in training and I’ve been mentoring junior developers for almost 4 years.

So what is Python Developpement Techdegree worth in 2021?

My embarrassed head in relation to the Techdegree

On the good side (we might as well start with the positive) we find :

  • Always interesting courses. I particularly like those of Kenneth Love (who doesn’t work at Treehouse anymore).
    I think that Treehouse has a really nice product in terms of learning: there is a good rhythm between the videos, the quizzes and the coding challenges. On the other hand I noticed a slight increase in the length of the videos, some lasting up to 12/15 minutes. For beginners it can be quite difficult to follow.
  • The good balance between courses, workshops and projects. We can very quickly take in hand a project and start to make our first lines of code on it.
  • The execution of the projects and how they are evaluated and validated. These are super clear, there are never any bad surprises for example a project rejected for the wrong reasons!

These elements were already present at the time and are really one of the strengths of the platform. In terms of learning it’s really super interesting and very square.

But (admit it you could feel it coming) I find that Techdegree has lost many of the elements that made it successful back in the day.

  • The projects are way too easy. So mind you, I’m trying to step back from my current level but even stepping back, I find that the projects are really too easy.
    For example the last two projects are almost copies of what is seen during the courses: we just have to reproduce what we saw during the courses to validate them.
  • Another negative point concerning the projects. There are too few of them. There are only 5 projects during which we will see the basics of Python, a little bit of object-oriented programming (bye bye functional programming), a little bit of database with SQLite and SQLAlchemy and a little bit of Flask.
    At no time, we talk about Rest APIs, release management, tests (that, I find it really crazy), SQL queries (relationship between tables, etc.), NoSQL, Design Patterns or even Django.
    The same goes for the data part we don’t talk about Anaconda or Pandas. I think it’s a bit of a shame to do Python and not talk about these topics at all.
  • The platform is starting to get a little old. Back in 2016 I thought the design was really original (it was the great days of flat design) and the product really stood out from the competition. Today, that’s not so much the case anymore.
  • The final exam has been simplified to the extreme! There is no need to pass certifications at AWS. Once your last project is validated you can take it directly.
    Is there someone next to you to give you the answers? No problem, the exam is no longer filmed. Again, I find that the certification is levelled down.

Honestly I have a hard time seeing the point of this Techdegree today and even harder to see someone “job ready” once they complete the training and get certified.

It’s a real shame. Treehouse was really good a few years ago and I’m not sure this is the most relevant turn. While searching a bit on the net, I came across this post on the forum:

Layoffs at Treehouse

Looks like there were some big layoffs at Treehouse in June 2019, which is consistent with the drop in content quality at them.

Anyway, not sure I’ll be doing a Techdegree with them again….

Goodbye, Treehouse

The problem with many courses and training in 2021

So, don’t get me wrong, it’s important to train beginners in computer science (both in the system and network part and in the programming part).

But here’s the thing:

  • if you decide to train beginners. It’s important that educational resources reflect the reality of the marketplace. Computer science is not a simple thing and you are doing students a disservice by doing that.
    By the way not simple does not mean not accessible. A good course or educational resource must have a perfect balance between ease of access and quality of the concepts it provides.
  • Do you think that these developers, seniors in the making, will continue to train with you if your resources are only aimed at beginners? It’s fine to repeat your course on Onboarding students or on learning programming via JavaScript a good twenty times, but that’s not going to make the seniors stay with you!
  • Seniors also need to be trained and the advantage is that if they like your platform, they will recommend it to juniors. We call it a virtuous circle.
Me facing the offer of training for seniors of many sites

So there you have it, I passed my third Techdegree with Treehouse and I take no pride in it….

I think I’ll use a future post to talk about the good example of AWS for certifications and how training companies should emulate this model.

Reprogramming Stuff

A little bit of code, a little bit of cloud computing and a lot of examples

Thomas Dimnet

Written by

Software engineer / Ex-CTO / Teacher at OpenClassrooms / Lifelong learner, curious, zebra.

Reprogramming Stuff

Collection of educational resources and tutorials for developers. You are free to reuse them for teaching code or for training your juniors.

Thomas Dimnet

Written by

Software engineer / Ex-CTO / Teacher at OpenClassrooms / Lifelong learner, curious, zebra.

Reprogramming Stuff

Collection of educational resources and tutorials for developers. You are free to reuse them for teaching code or for training your juniors.

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