“There is no perfect teaching model for one learner. Whether it’s lecture, reading, group projects, or hands-on activities, everyone is going to excel differently. The goal is to try to account for all different types of learning styles by creating a variety of opportunities,” V School Director of Design Cody Porter said.
This is the fundamental belief that led V School, an online coding bootcamp based in Salt Lake City, Utah, to redefine tech-ed and embrace a responsive learning model. It has successfully curated a learning model that is lenient enough to adapt to a student’s individual needs, yet highly engaging, practical, and more importantly, effective.
From day one, V School is all about getting people a job in tech. The school started as a dev shop that dabbled in training out of pure necessity—it needed more crews onboard and a local talent shortage forced the organization to seek creative solutions.
Co-Founder and CEO Michael Zaro said, “We were competing to get talent but at the same time we needed to staff our own needs. So, we built a training and onboarding program for new folks with a technical aptitude, put them through three to four months of training, and at the end of it, we onboard them.”
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“A longtime client heard about this and asked us to train people for his company. Other members in the local tech community started asking if they can get in on the next session, and we continued to scale up from there.”
Mr. Zaro said this went on for about a year until the school outgrew the dev shop and that was when V School answered its calling in the bootcamp space. Seven years on, the school’s expertise in technical training has helped hundreds of people find their dream job in tech.
But, why did V School decide to abandon the ‘traditional’ coding bootcamp elements like fixed cohorts and a time-based progression? What makes a responsive learning model so special?
“The responsive learning model enables students to focus on understanding and application of concepts as opposed to focusing on ‘finishing in time’. Using evidence-based pedagogy, this model helps students learn and apply concepts before allowing them to move on to build on them,” V School Director of Education Bob Ziroll said.
What this means is that students at V School are not bound by a time limit—they are able to take as much time they need to get familiar with each topic before moving on to the next one. Another great thing is students have a hand in curating a schedule and career path that is unique to them.
These ‘personalized’ services left a strong impression on students and graduates. In an online review, Scott Pittman said he felt like the school genuinely cares about students succeeding, citing detailed instructional videos and supportive community as his favorite things at V School.
“This school feels like a one-of-a-kind community where their whole goal is to get you prepared for a job and do everything in their power to make you more marketable!”
To gain better insights into the perks of mastery-based learning, let’s take a closer look at how lessons are delivered at V School.
How Mastery-Based Learning Work At V School
V School offers Web Development and UX/UI Design programs. The curriculum is divided into two phases: skills-building and experience-building. Based on your background and motivation, you will work with the school to identify the amount of time you should dedicate to each phase.
“Let’s say you’re a front-end developer and you want to learn back-end skills, that means you’re probably going to blitz through the first couple of levels and focus more on the back-end. We’re going to work together to polish your portfolio to highlight more full stack projects,” Mr. Zaro explained.
“If you’re a veteran, we know that you’re coming back to civilian life with strong organizational skills so we’ll help you more with the technical side.”
V School Curriculum
The lessons are delivered via a combination of asynchronous videos, in-time mentorships, and live standups. Instructors and teaching assistants are easily accessible on Slack if students require any help while going through the pre-recorded content. To ensure that students get the most out of each class, V School maintains a small class size with a 7:1 student-to-teacher ratio.
An ‘average’ day at V School may look different, depending on who you ask. However, it always starts the same way—with a daily kickoff meeting at 9:00 am MST. Throughout the day, students would report their progress in standup meetings, attend breakout rooms, work on their assignments, work on the pre-recorded lessons, and attend a career prep workshop.
“Everyone has different schedules. So, to keep track of students’ progress, TAs meet up with students on a daily basis and check in on them. These standups also remind students that they are a part of a team and a community. If they have quick questions that need to be answered, they have a face to ask that to. The human connection is there,” Mr. Porter said.
Although the programs are remote, students will not miss out on experiential learning, thanks to a variety of in-person learning opportunities available at V School. From workshops to topic reviews, seminars, and guest lectures, students are never short of options.
How You Can Benefit From V School’s Responsive Learning Model
Let’s circle back to how a responsive learning model can be a great way to acquire tech skills. As the name suggests, this mode of learning accommodates student’s individual needs. Beyond that, it allows students to be in the driver’s seat as they steer toward their dream destination.
No One Is Left Behind
No matter what circumstance or obstacle you face in your time at V School, you can always hit pause and pick up where you left off whenever you’re ready. In Mr. Zaro’s words, “Life happens, that is just a fact. But it should not derail your education.”
“Students are made up of different individuals from different backgrounds. Some are mothers looking to re-enter the workforce, while others are hospitality workers who lost their jobs because of Covid. If we try to take 30 people and make them go through a standardized path, not everyone will come out with a strong outcome,” he added.
At V School, students have to prove their competency in a topic before they can move on to the next one. As you progress through the curriculum, you’re always surrounded by peers who are on the same level.
“This helps students build confidence in their own skills as well. They don’t have to worry about moving too fast or too slow, they are always right where they should be. If you feel like you’re not proficient enough, we can work with you to revisit a topic,” Mr. Zaro said.
Mentors Keep You on Track
From the first day of stepping into V School, students are assigned their own Student Success Mentor. These are individuals in charge of mapping out a custom path for students and making sure that students hit the milestones within a projected timeframe.
Based on the student’s progress, the Mentors will then revise the study plan accordingly.
“To keep students from floating in between milestones, the instructors prepare them for the more advanced topics while at the same time, the mentors pull students toward progressing by constantly talking to them, giving advice, and reminding them of their goals.”
In addition to mentors, students have access to career preparation training as soon as they complete the skills-building phase. This is where they learn how to tackle technical interviews, improve their resumes, and build industry networks.
Graduation Means Securing A Job
“From the beginning—even when we were a dev shop—getting people jobs has always been at the center of what we do. So when our focus shifted to training, we ask students what they want to see in a curriculum.
“We also ask industry experts what skills they want to see in junior developers and junior designers. Then we shape our curriculum around those answers,” Mr. Porter, who played a hand in designing the curriculum, said.
At V School, you graduate when you find a job that checks all of your boxes. That may be your first tech job, but it could also be your third or fourth job in the field. Until then, you are welcome to seek advice or consult a mentor at V School.
Students also have lifelong access to its curriculum and career team, which means as the school continues to stay on top of industry trends, so will its students.
This formula has thus far proven to be effective. Based on V School’s internal report, 87 percent of students have successfully completed the skills-building phase while 82 percent have secured a tech role. Considering that V School does not have the traditional cohort model, it should be noted that some students are still working on completing their programs.
Build Lifelong Relationships
V School strives to build a strong community through various initiatives. This coming May, for example, is packed with events that are meant to help students build well-rounded skillsets and prepare them to get ahead in their careers.
Every Wednesday at 12 pm MST, V School hosts live sessions on its official Instagram page where guest speakers come on to discuss key topics and trends in tech. This month, V School will feature Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, Mercedes Bent, Founder at Dear World, RX Fogarty, Musician (Vocals/Percussion in MAGIC GIANT, Austin Bisnow, and Co-Founder and Artistic Director at NOW-ID, Charlotte Boye-Christensen.
Straight from the Recruiters Corner
In this session, Ryan Miller, Lead Technical Recruiter at Taxbit who is also the Founder of Recruiters of Utah, shares exciting insights into hiring trends as well as the know-how to get noticed by the right recruiter and land the job you want. Meet Ryan on May 4 at 2 pm MST here.
V School’s Executive Advisory Board Speaker
Every Tuesday at 2 pm MST, members of V School’s Executive Advisory Board share their thoughts on a selected topic that is relevant to student’s careers. These are the sessions lined up for this month: Next-Generation Digital Financial Services with Q&A, The Value of Personal Coding Projects and How to Get Started, and Professional and Societal Well-Being After Graduation. Click on the links to RSVP.
“Our vision is to create an environment that is comfortable for students. We want students to feel like they can tap us on the shoulder if they have a question. We want to give them the confidence to reach out as much as they can,” Mr. Porter said.
Mark Bowen, a graduate who is now a UX designer, said this was something that V School has achieved. “I never felt alone or like an outsider. The training itself was fairly straightforward. The instructors were human and flexible. They learned from us and never let any element of our education feel rigid. We innovated together and built intuitions about the work that is hard to do in a classroom setting.”
Ready, Get Set, Go!
V School has demystified the path to a career in tech so you don’t have to worry about getting started. With a learning model that is crafted to respond to your experiences, life events, and career aspiration, V School students stand to walk away with more than just technical expertise.
If you’re curious about the program or have any questions you can visit V School’s website and schedule a call by hitting the apply button.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.