Dude, You Need A License

Here’s an article from Wired that describes an old school v. new school battle.  Almost literally.  The “new school’  in this instance refers to “hacker boot camps.”  The “boot camps,” many of which have sprung up in Silicon Valley, aren’t quite as sinister as they sound.  While many incorporate the term “hack” or “hacker” in the name, they are not ostensibly designed to teach students the art of hacking.  They are, instead, intensive courses in computer programming.  According to Wired, a typical program would last 9 – 12 weeks, with 12 -16 hour days. 

The old school in this scenario is the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education.  The BPPE has sent cease and desist letters to a number of the boot camps because they have not gotten license to operate. 

That seems straightforward enough, but it’s not that easy.  Because while the boot camps are schools in one sense, they don’t operate like the traditional schools that BPPE no doubt is used to regulating.  For starters, the boot camps offer no degrees and don’t give grades.  And the instructors usually aren’t licensed teachers, but often professional coders.   And they apparently often are volunteers. 

Based on comments in the article, it doesn’t sound like the boot camp operators are opposed to the idea of regulation.  They just don’t know if the way they operate fits into the current regulatory box.  How do you comply with regulations about grading when you don’t give grades? And if the BPPE is going to require that instructors be licensed teachers, what happens to the volunteer coders?

The most important thing for BPPE to do, in my view, is to make sure that none of the boot camps are fly by night operations that take students’ money without offering real instruction.  As long as that doesn’t happen, ideally the BPPE will let the boot camps function as they have been.  As the title of this blog suggests, time to think outside the box!