Are Boot Camps Booming?

Coding camps have built an industry based on offering short-term programs where students spend just a few weeks developing programming skills.

AS BUSINESS SCHOOLS explore more ways to offer just-in-time, immediately applicable training via certificate programs, work­shops, and continuing education programs, they might want to look at another increas­ingly popular educational model: computer coding boot camps. Coding camps have built an industry based on offering short-term programs where students spend just a few weeks developing programming skills.

In a recent survey, CourseReport, an on­line source for students seeking informa­tion about boot camps, estimates that the number of boot camp graduates will reach 17,966 by year’s end. (See box below.)

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Boot camp formats can be even more effective in helping students learn “com­plex topics that have many moving parts, such as programming” than a traditional semester-by-semester model, says Munir Mandviwalla, associate professor and chair of management information systems at Temple University’s Fox School of Business in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Although boot camps that provide a terminal credential aren’t yet mainstream in business education, many business schools have adopted some form of their model—particularly to present introductory MBA content in a compressed schedule.

For instance, the Fox School offers a weeklong boot camp as a prerequisite course on enterprise resource manage­ment in its master’s program in IT auditing and cybersecurity. Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill offers MBA students two three-week summer boot camps—one in ana­lytics and one in financial markets. CEIBS in Shanghai, China, uses its one-week pre-MBA boot camp to help accepted stu­dents acclimate to the program. Business schools can charge fees over and above the cost of their MBA programs—from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Still, it’s unlikely that computer program­ming boot camps, in particular, will be of interest to business schools, because while all students should know the basics of code, only those pursuing majors in information systems need to learn coding to the detail offered by ten-week boot camps, says Mandviwalla. But he adds that short-format courses on the basic MBA curriculum could be of much more value.

“One-week boot camps may be more compelling for most business schools,” he says. “There also might be opportunities for business schools to partner with such providers to handle prerequisite courses.”

As for coding camps, some critics are skeptical of their effectiveness because many are run commercially, independent of accreditation. “Unless these providers partner with universities, I see growth lev­eling off as they compete with high school summer camps,” says Mandviwalla. “It’s not going to be enough for employers for job candidates to learn just one thing.”