coding bootcamp

Innovators worth watching: Lambda School

Here are six ways Lambda School is disrupting the traditional computer science bachelor’s degree

The software development industry is in a bit of a bind. The number of software developer jobs is expected to grow 24% between 2016 and 2026, and there are currently over a half million job openings. Traditional colleges and universities aren’t pumping out enough computer science graduates to keep up, and even if they were, employers complain that too many of them struggle to actually code.

Coding bootcamps have grown in popularity as a result, aiming to train software developers more pragmatically and prepare them for the hiring process, all in three or four months. However, many employers complain that while bootcamp graduates can code, their theoretical foundation is found wanting.

Lambda School aims to address those concerns. Founded last year, Lambda School has worked with employers to generate a curriculum that is both a deep-dive crash course in software engineering and a practical, streamlined computer science degree program. Complementing this curriculum is an apprenticeship structure that simulates a professional environment.

Lambda School programs last six months for full-time students, and one year for part-time students. All courses are entirely online, live, and competency-based, meaning a student won’t progress to a new week of material without demonstrating mastery of the previous week’s topics. Students pay nothing upfront for these courses, thanks to the use of income share agreements (ISAs).

“Bringing together all these features—zero-down, entirely online—is tricky for colleges and bootcamps,” explained CEO Austen Allred. “They see the benefits but worry about cannibalizing revenue from their traditional programs. It’s the classic innovator’s dilemma. We’ve managed because we had no golden goose to protect.”

Lambda School announced a $4 million funding round in January, has graduated its first two cohorts, with 20 students in each, and hopes to enroll 1,000 students in 2018. But is Lambda School disruptive to providers of traditional computer science bachelor’s degrees? We put them to the test with six questions for identifying disruption.

1. Does it target people whose only alternative is to buy nothing at all (nonconsumers) or who are overserved by existing offerings in the market?

Yes, though selectively. Lambda School appeals to those who don’t want to pay so much for all the bells and whistles of the full, four-year college experience. What they really want is a good job, and soon. Eliminating upfront costs also brings in students with limited capital and/or an aversion to loans. That said, Lambda School currently admits few of its applicants. “It’s not about being exclusive,” clarified Allred. “Given how much we invest in our students, we set a high bar and focus on the students we believe are most likely to be successful in our program.”

2. Is the offering not as good as existing offerings as judged by historical measures of performance?

eSchool Media Contributors