Tag Archives: academia

More experiments in education and job training: Shopify’s “Dev Degree”

Lots of us know that traditional education providers offer various kinds of on-the-job training, work experience, internships, and similar arrangements with employers; in typical arrangements, someone who primarily identifies as a student also does some work, often paid but sometimes not, to get some real-world experience. But what happens if you try going the other way around?

You may have read the preceding sentence a couple of times, trying to understand what it means. Shopify, the ecommerce platform, is now offering something called “Dev Degree,” which is described as “a 4-year, work-integrated learning program that combines hands-on developer experience at Shopify with an accredited Computer Science degree from either Carleton University or York University.” On Twitter, one of Shopify’s VP’s said that “We pay tuition & salary, ~$160k over 4 yrs”—so instead of student loans, the student, or “student,” comes out net positive. Instead of identifying as someone who is primarily a student but does a little work experience, a person presumably identifies primarily as a worker but does some schooling too.

As often happens, the old is becoming new again. Before lawyers enacted occupational licensing restrictions to raise their wages, most proto-lawyers just studied under senior lawyers using an apprenticeship model. When the proto-lawyer could pass the bar and convince clients to give him money, he was a lawyer—one who’d learned on the job. Think of Abe Lincoln, who become something greater than a passable country lawyer.

I don’t think it’s an accident that Lambda School, Make School, and now Shopify School (okay, it’s not technically called that) are concentrated in tech and programming, where an extreme shortage of qualified candidates seems to intersect with extremely high demand for qualified candidates. The New York Times and Economist aren’t proposing ways to more quickly and cheaply turn English majors into journalists, because there are plenty of English majors and few journalism jobs. But these experiments in alternative education are interesting because they speak to the relentlessly rising cost of conventional education combined with onerous student loans that can’t be discharged in bankruptcy (the infamous 2005 bankruptcy “reform” act made student loans almost impossible to discharge). If there’s enough pressure on a system, the system starts to react, and Dev Degree is another example of the reaction.

We’ve been covering the “alternative education” beat in various places for a lot of reasons, one being that we do a lot of work for colleges and universities. Another is in the fact that I’ve spent some time in the basement of the ivory tower, where I’ve witnessed some insalubrious, unsavory practices and behaviors. Another is that we’ve had an uptick in stories from nonprofit clients and potential clients about their clients or participants who have relatively small amounts of student loan debt, often in the $1,000 to $4,000 range, but that the participant can’t pay off. So the participant starts school, quits or otherwise can’t finish, and then drags around this mounting debt while making minimum wage or close to it.

Yet another way to cover these stories is the potential for these kinds of systems to be applied in other fields, like healthcare tech, truck driving, and the like. Most government-sponsored job training programs focus on these kinds of fields, and they haven’t been apprentice-ized yet. But the right nonprofit or business might come along and make it so. We want to encourage change and innovation in this sector, and we know some of our clients will make change happen.

May 2010 Links: The Promise Neighborhoods Program, Federal Budgets, Upward Bound, Centers for Independent Living (CLI), the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), Restricting Fun Too Expensive, and more

* Federal programs never get delayed, unless they do. One of our clients received a letter from the Department of Education announcing that the Upward Bound program, which encourages at-risk youth to complete high school and go on to college, is being delayed until fiscal year 2012. This indicates that, as Isaac wrote in “Where Have All the RFPs Gone?,” the feds have gotten so backed up that they can’t spend all their money. To quote Isaac’s post:

Since federal agencies are running their regular programs while trying to spend additional Stimulus Bill funding and implementing entirely new programs, one imagines that our cadre of GS 10s and 11s, who are supposed to move the endless paperwork associated with shoveling federal funds out the door, simply have not gotten around to the FY ‘10 RFP processes.

Oops.

* Now that i3 madness is behind most of us, it’s time to see the other crazed, zombie-like offspring of the Department of Education. Alert reader and grant writer Shirley Nelson pointed me to the “Promise Neighborhoods Program,” which demands that one build “a complete continuum of cradle-through-college-to-career solutions (continuum of solutions) (as defined in this notice), which has both academic programs and family and community supports (both as defined in this notice), with a strong school or schools at the center.” I want those college solutions, whatever they are.

The RFP also says:

The continuum also must be based on the best available evidence including, where available, strong or moderate evidence (as defined in this notice), and include programs, policies, practices, services, systems, and supports that result in improving educational and developmental outcomes for children from cradle through college to career

In other words, the i3, quasi-evidence-based madness continues.

* The Department of Education’s Centers for Independent Living Program (CLI) program is particularly impressive because, as far as I can tell, nowhere in the 142-page application guidance does a definition of what “centers for independent living (CILs or centers)” means.

* I didn’t realize there was a U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) until I saw the announcement of its Annual Grant Competition. I wonder what it’s like compared to the Department of Defense, which used to be called the Department of War.

* On healthcare nationally and in Massachusetts:

When Massachusetts rolled out its coverage program in 2007, many more people signed up for the new heavily subsidized insurance than was originally predicted by budget officials. Almost immediately, costs far exceeded what had been budgeted, forcing state officials to scramble to find cuts elsewhere in government and other sources of revenue.

After three years, no real progress has been made on rising costs. The program remains well over budget, with no end in sight. Further, state residents who now must buy state-sanctioned coverage are bristling at their rising premiums and the inability to find coverage which covers less and thus costs less.

State politicians are responding to the cost crisis the only way they know how: by promising to impose arbitrary caps on premiums and price controls for medical services. The governor and state regulators have disallowed 90 percent of the premium increases insurers –all of whom are not-for-profit–submitted for their enrollees for the upcoming plan year. The state says premium increases above eight percent are too high and unacceptable, though they themselves don’t have a plan to make health care more efficient in Massachusetts. They just want lower premiums. The insurers have responded by refusing to sell any coverage at the rates the state wants to impose.

* In essence, the country needs to figure out how to pay for the government that its citizens want. It’s a version — albeit a less extreme one — of the problem facing Greece right now.

* Wow: Records show that since 1992, only 10 Minnesota teachers fired for poor performance have challenged their dismissals all the way through that process.

* The nasty things local telcos do to prevent municipal fiber (and why this is so important).

* Politicians find that restricting fun is now too expensive (Note: this is not from The Onion).

* Electric Avenue: Learning to love a bike you don’t need to pedal.

* Academia isn’t broken. We are.

* The Shirky Principle: “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.” — Clay Shirky. As Kevin Kelly says:

The Shirky Principle declares that complex solutions (like a company, or an industry) can become so dedicated to the problem they are the solution to, that often they inadvertently perpetuate the problem.

* The Department of Education appears to have invented a new word for the i3 RFP:

Growth may be measured by a variety of approaches, but any approach used must be statistically rigorous and based on student achievement data, and may also include other measures of student learning in order to increase the construct validity and generalizability of the information.

“Generalizability?” If that appeared in a student essay, I’d circle it.

* Why men don’t listen. Except they do, as this post into the pseudo science of gender brain differences shows.

* Megan McArdle has a characteristically astute essay on Lori Gottlieb’s book Marry Him!. As McArdle says, Gottlieb’s superficial thesis is that women are too picky in getting married. But “her real message she proves all too well, and I suspect that’s why it drives young women nuts, as in this Emily Gould essay I came across yesterday. It is the same thing overanxious mothers have been telling their daughters from time immemorial: your looks matter, and they are a wasting asset.”

I have no idea if this is true.

* Peak everything? Not really.

* The drive to make cities greener. And this is from the Wall Street Journal.

* One Man, Two Courts points out something that Isaac and few others seem to remember: the political party abortion flipflop. Until around 1977 or so, most Democratic politicians were mostly against abortion, while most Republicans supported it.

* In a Tough Economy, Old Limits on Welfare reads like a proposal. Except that the reporter forgets that there isn’t such a thing as “welfare;” he’s probably actually referring to TANF.

* Why humanity loves and needs cities.

* Why do colleges care about extracurricular activities? See my guess in the comments.

* For every doctor, there are five people performing health care administrative support. This may be part of our national problem, like the growth of administrators relative to professors in academia. (Hat tip Tyler Cowen.)

* Recommended: ManPacks.com. If you’re male, as I am, there’s a pretty good chance that you hate shopping for clothes and thus constantly have ratty socks, underwear, and t-shirts. ManPacks.com will send you two shirts with two pairs of underwear and socks every three months indefinitely. Once you set it up, you never have to think about the issue again, unless you move. And that set up takes maybe five minutes.

Brilliant.

* “China’s Youth Meet Microsoft,” an article, along with a rebuttal: “This article, IMHO, is written by someone who has no idea how things work just about anywhere that’s not the industrialized West, and is shocked and appalled that things aren’t as awesome as they are in the US of A.”

* A fascinating profile of Tyler Cowen, one of the proprietors of Marginal Revolution.

* “Describing himself as “terribly exhausted,” famed linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky said Monday that he was taking a break from combating the hegemony of the American imperialist machine to try and take it easy for once.”