Coding course finds ‘sweet spot’ between MOOCs and colleges

Thinkful has raised $1 million in funding from RRE Ventures, Quotidian Ventures and Peter Thiel

People wanting to learn how to code have no shortage of options. There are college courses, companies like Codecademy and massive open online courses (MOOCs).

You don’t need to take an economics MOOC to know that there’s an opportunity cost for each method though.  Take the college course, and you have to pay college prices. Take a MOOC, and you’re losing one-on-one interaction with an instructor.

With most MOOC retention rates hovering around just 8 percent, the odds of actually completing the course – and therefore learning how to code — are slim.

A company called Thinkful is hoping they have found another, better, method for teaching people how to code – and it’s resting somewhere between a MOOC and a traditional college course.

“It’s this great place in the middle where we provide that level of attention,” said Darrell Silver, Thinkful’s cofounder.  “It’s one on one, at a price point that’s really approachable.”

While Thinkful’s coding courses are hardly massive, they are far more affordable than college courses and are open to anyone who can pay the $300 price tag. Even more, the company boasts that its courses have a graduation rate of more than 70 percent.

Silver chalked this up to the way Thinkful instructors mentor the students.

See Page 2 for how Thinkful’s mentoring process works.

Each mentor works with no more than 15 students during the three month course, so they can provide one-on-one instruction.

The company’s staff handles the administrative side of things, such as finding and matching students to their instructors (the “not-fun parts,” Silver said), which frees up the mentors to focus solely on the students.

As the platform grows in popularity, Silver said he expects the number of instructors to increase with the number of students.

“We have a backlog of people who want to be mentors,” he said. “It’s a fun task, explaining something you’re good at to someone who wants to know.”

The company started in 2012 and has raised $1 million in funding from RRE Ventures, Quotidian Ventures and Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist who famously created a fellowship to encourage young people to quit college and pursue their own entrepreneurial dreams.

Thinkful has worked with more than 250 students so far.

“It hits the sweet spot for a lot of people,” Silver said.

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