More Barbarians at the Gates of Higher Education | hungry academy

Had a great conversation today with an entrepreneur at a local startup and we discussed technical education for founders. He pointed me to Hungry Academy here in DC. The initiative is a partnership between venture backed giant LivingSocial and JumpStart Lab (both DC based). They offer a 5 month intensive programming program followed by an offer of employment for 18 months. The first class just began on March 5. From the Hungry Academy Website (those who get chosed get medical/dental and work out of LivingSocial’s offices):

Hungry Academy started with the question “If you had good people who had the right attitude but were missing development skills, could we turn them into proficient developers in six months?”

The answer isn’t easy. Collegiate Computer Science programs are an intense four years. But the reality is that academic form of CS only maps to some areas of real world development. If you’re building 3D-game engines, you’ve got to understand complex geometry and eek out every instruction cycle from your CPU.

But the world of web development is a different story. Our real challenge is figuring out how the application should work. If we build out ideas, smooth the rough edges, and follow strong guidelines along the way, we can later turn the slow code into fast code. The real challenge is figuring out what the software needs to do and how to do it.

We take people who have the right spirit, a knack for solving complex problems, and teach them to build those solutions in software. A six month program can’t turn them into true masters of programming — but that’s not the point. To be a great programmer is like being a great artist or musician: you combine a solid foundation with a lifetime of practice. This is the foundation.

The application was released in December of 2011 and due just a few weeks later. The notable requirement was an eight minute video answering five questions. “Video?!?” people asked. We weren’t looking for skills they already had, so how good was a resume? We were looking for character, attitude, and drive. And video was the perfect way to communicate it. A huge pool of applicants led to a selection rate lower than the world’s top colleges.

That’s the story so far as we get ready to kick off with our first class of twenty-four on March 5th, 2012.

I love that they state that are trying to replicate a 4 year computer science degree in 5 months. Oh, and they pay you and offer you a job afterwards with a venture funded firm? Do you hear that higher education?

Also notice the difficulty in getting accepted? Like Y Combinator, the Thiel Fellowships, the Minverva Project etc. They are trying to ‘rewrite’ the rules of education, but by only wanting the best talent, they are back into the elite game that many higher ed critics decry. I also like that they have taken a page out of the vocational training playbook by attaching employment to completion — this is something that traditional higher education and many of the non-profits are having trouble with today.

I love all the experiments and am looking forward to learning more about the Hungry Academy.

via hungry academy.

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