Why Industry Professionals Teach Our Boot Camps

2U, Inc. is the parent company of edX.

To understand how 2U, Inc. and our university partners work hand-in-hand to combine the best of academia and industry in support of student success, one needs to look no further than the industry professionals we collaboratively hire to teach our boot camps.

Finding the best industry talent to serve as boot camp instructors is not a simple process—together we test for dozens of indicators using a comprehensive evaluation rubric to help make our decisions. For example, three key criteria we assess are their technical knowledge, positivity, and level of investment: Are they well-versed in the content and material? Do we trust them to build an upbeat and engaging learning environment for students? Do they make connections between the content and real-world business applications in an inspiring way?

Along with competencies in pace, clarity, responsiveness, and coachability, we also seek out industry professionals who are working where students want to work and in roles students aspire to. Our instructor pool ranges from independent contractors to department leads who work at top tech companies like HBO, Comcast, and Netflix by day, and then mostly teach our boot camps at night or on weekends. Several of our instructors, like many of our students, have taken alternative routes into tech, from teachers to product managers to military.

Though we live in a credentialed society, 2U, Inc. and our university partners join forces to create a more diverse instructor corps by removing barriers to entry. For example, if you don’t have a computer science degree, but you do have the core tech skills, you’re solving pervasive industry issues, you want to teach others, and you’re committed to acting on feedback, then we want to hear from you. We have the infrastructure in place to find industry talent in all pockets of the tech universe.

Regardless of how our instructors wound up in tech, their motivations to teach run deep—from their drive to preserve fundamental “clean code” techniques to wanting to pay it forward to eager learners who will one day be in their shoes. The tech industry is very much a culture of giving back.

The Power of Practitioners to Elevate Our Research-Based Curriculum

We intentionally design our boot camp curriculum to help students bridge the gap between theory and practice. In delivering the curriculum, our boot camp instructors add unique, rigorous layers to the educational experience through their real-world expertise, so that students learn the hands-on skills they need to launch a promising career. Industry professionals offer incredible value to students as boot camp instructors because they can make learning hyper-relevant and responsive to employer demands with concrete examples from their own immediate day-to-day experience.

In our partners’ full-stack web development boot camps, for example, the curriculum guides students through learning new programming languages, which looks like active fingers on keyboards nearly the entire time. Throughout each module, abstract concepts are broken down into digestible chunks of practical knowledge. Our instructors then take learning to the next level by explaining and showing how to apply these concepts and skills to genuine business problems. Instructors invite student questions that often lead to students using their newly acquired skills toward solving challenges in their own worlds.

We know from research that when adults feel their learning is directly related to their personal goals, they engage at high levels. Industry professionals’ hyper-relevant instruction ensures that students stay focused and connect the dots back to their lives. Boot camp instructors can create a classroom dynamic that mimics the work environment they thrive in every day—where they exchange contextualized, in-the-moment feedback with their colleagues at every turn. This approach helps students better understand the rationale behind what they’re learning and empowers them to enter the workforce with a strong sense of direction, purpose, and passion for their careers. Additionally, our boot camp hiring partners report that graduates thrive in the collaborative environment of their company engineering teams.

How We Assess and Continuously Refine Boot Camp Instructor Talent

To confirm instructor candidates have the necessary tech knowledge, 2U, Inc. and our university partners require them to complete rigorous asynchronous assessments. Being a master of the content, however, is not enough. The interview process includes a teaching simulation in which they follow a lesson plan and deliver live instruction. Through that simulation, we apply our comprehensive evaluation rubric to appraise how compelling and interactive their presentation was, how clearly they translated concepts, how relevant their industry examples were, and so on. Our university partners also meticulously vet each and every candidate before they’re offered an instructor role.

Once they begin teaching, it’s critical for our instructors to maintain a growth mindset. We therefore provide them with ongoing student feedback data so that they can be continuously improving their work. Each week, we send a survey to boot camp students asking for their thoughts on clarity, depth of knowledge, pace of learning, and other areas related to their instructor’s delivery techniques. We then quickly cycle this information back to the instructors so that they can assimilate the feedback, apply it in their very next class, and adapt it to students’ expressed needs.

John Desrosiers is one example of a boot camp instructor who exemplifies the qualities and capabilities we look for in industry professional talent, and who has proven that he takes seriously the role he plays in students’ lives. A full stack flex instructor at University of California, San Diego, Desrosiers was named last year’s winner of 2U Inc.’s Boot Camp Instructor Excellence Award for the perfect NPS (Net Promoter Score) of 100 he received from students, as well as for his equally impressive scores in the weekly student surveys. His definition of instructor excellence checks the boxes for all our indicators: “It means putting students at the top of my priority list. It means carefully observing students to see what approaches receive the most engagement. It means pushing students to take risks and extend themselves to find new limits.”

Driving Student Success—and the Industry Forward—Via a Full Ecosystem of Support

Expert, contextualized instruction by tech industry professionals has proven to lead to great student outcomes. But it’s their real-world perspectives paired with an expansive network of student resources and support—high-quality curriculum, career services, student success managers, and more—that together deliver a meaningful online learning experience for students and drive the career momentum they need.

With boot camps, the goal of 2U, Inc. and our university partners is two-fold: to curate a student experience that simulates the work environments they’ll enter in the tech world, and to create a learning and teaching destination for industry professionals where they can further hone their expertise and keep propelling the industry forward.

This article was originally published by 2U, Inc.

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