Bloom Institute of Technology (formerly Lambda School) teaches aspiring coders the skills they need to kickstart their tech industry career — all before they pay a single dollar.
Around a decade ago, coding bootcamps exploded onto the scene.
In many ways, they were a pioneer of community-based virtual learning. Bootcamps vary by teaching style and curriculum, but they all set out with the end goal of turning complete beginners into advanced coders.
Roles like software engineering, web development, and programming were in high demand then (and still are today), but carving out the right curriculum to meet those job requirements remains a big task for bootcamp founders. The differentiation of how bootcamps position themselves to prospective learners and what their ultimate career goals may be is vital to the success of every coding course.
Lambda School, as it was previously known, was founded in 2016. After a rebrand and a massive $74M fundraising round, today’s Bloom Institute of Technology continues to be a household name in the coding bootcamp space and the education industry at large. A seven-month remote program based on high-quality coding curriculum, live instruction and peer-to-peer learning sets learners up to become employable coders. What Bloom is known for is $0 upfront tuition that you only pay when you get a job — and a high-paying one at that. Then, you pay back your instruction with a certain percent of your income every month until you reach a certain maximum amount.
While not a bootcamp founder himself, Matt Wyndowe joined the Bloom Institute of Technology team just last year as its Chief Business Officer. Like others who work in non-traditional education, he’s actively focused on bettering the education industry, particularly in the emerging sector of community-driven virtual learning. This includes offering alternative payment methods, like the income share agreement (an option early coding bootcamps pioneered).
Matt reflects on Bloom Institute of Technology’s six years’ worth of experience teaching present and future tech professionals. The bootcamp has been a leader of microlearning and community-based learning experiences for years. As a result, the lessons the Bloom team has learned along the way are topical for other founders, entrepreneurs, and other leaders.
The importance of removing barriers to learning and building a model to support every learner
Bloom Institute of Technology raised $74M to fund income share agreements for prospective coders — a payment model other academies, bootcamps, and virtual communities can recreate.
One of the - if not the biggest - barriers to education of any kind are financial. Like a handful of other coding bootcamps, Bloom Institute of Technology has adopted a widely popular alternative: the income share agreement, or ISA.
Bloom Institute was one of the first to really scale the income share agreement model as a standard payment option. What ISAs get right (and what can be replicated by other educational models) is that one can’t succeed without the other; a learner has to get a job in order for the school to get paid, so the school has to do everything in its power to get that learner a job.
Matt states “The big takeaway is [ISA] is entirely aligned with student outcomes. The incentives are very much aligned for students who want to get a better job from education, if that's the primary goal. What's interesting about this model is it fundamentally changes accessibility, both to education and also to economic mobility.”
In today’s traditional education system, debt is almost inevitable for those who pursue degrees or other certifications of learning. ISAs are the antithesis of debt because you pay back a fixed percentage of your own income while you earn.
“Now, you go into debt 40, 60, 80,000 bucks to get an education. Whereas in this [income share agreement], you pay nothing upfront. You're not taking on that financial risk. We’ve accomplished the same thing in around seven months the traditional models took years to do. We believe we give you an equivalent for your education in seven months,” Matt says.
“Essentially, one way to look at Bloom is vocational school 2.0. If you want to improve your family's lot in life and you want to use education to get there, we believe that this model represents a fundamental change because of our incentive alignment.”
In addition to removing financial barriers, Bloom Institute of Technology’s income share agreement and remote learning model also removes geographical barriers. No matter where you’re from or want to live in the future, you have the ability to learn this life-changing, career-altering curriculum without paying a dollar to start.
Prospective learners put a lot of trust into these communities they seek out and choose to participate in. With payment methods like income share agreement splitting the incentive and aligning each party’s goals, that trust can be established from day one.
Removing these barriers allows learners to elevate their careers and lives, and to make an above-average living.
The information age — and, as a result, the information economy — calls for a set of skills so specific, we’ve never seen education of this form at any point in history. For those in career tracks that have been around for decades, economic stagflation is a harsh reality. Even more harsh — depending on zip code — folks are earning less than their parents did, though output of productivity continues to increase.
As Chief Business Officer of Bloom, Matt is acutely aware of the realization that these prospective learners are coming to when they choose to change career paths to the high-earning, fast-growing track from more traditional roles.
“It's entirely antithetical to the concept of the American dream or the promise of a Western capitalist liberal society where essentially things are supposed to keep getting better for people. That's the promise. And that has fallen apart right now.”
“You've got an American median income of about $30-40k. You've got about 22 million people in post-secondary education trying to improve that, and many of those we're seeing are getting incredibly burdened by it and actually getting financially much worse off for that experience.”
As aforementioned, the information economy has created millions of opportunities. It hasn’t, however, created millions of talent to fill those opportunities — and traditional post-secondary education isn’t necessary to make that pivot:
“The outcomes have gotten worse. It's failing people who are using that as a mechanism. You have millions and millions of unfilled tech jobs. People can not hire these tech professionals. You see it all the time. Basically, someone needs to connect that enormous societal need for economic mobility with a more practical education and this enormous demand for new technology workers. How do you do that? By dramatically lowering the barriers to entry, having the school take on the risk, and having [our] incentives align with the students’.”
5 other takeaways from Bloom Institute of Technology’s rise to becoming a top virtual coding academy
Make your learning experience relevant and leave the rest
When asked how Matt and the team at Bloom condense a four-year degrees’ worth of information into seven months, the answer was simple: cut the fluff.
“There are things that happen in a traditional four year school that we do not do. There are liberal arts things. You take courses in other areas, you walk to class, you have time in between classes, you have different schedules, you participate in social things. All those are great. That's not what we do.”
With a traditional computer science degree, you may hit 1,000 hours of actual programming time over the course of your studies. Over seven months at Bloom, you’ll net somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 hours.
It’s the ability to create a learning environment entirely from scratch, work in sprints, and develop cross-functionality is what makes Bloom graduates some of the most successful coding bootcamp grads in tech.
Cut the fluff and teach the applicable, practical, real-world skills to watch the deep learning happen.
See it, do it, teach it
“There’s an adage in medical school, but it sort of applies generally, which is: to really learn something, you need to see it, you need to do it, and you need to teach it,” Matt says.
“So, throughout our program, people are not only interacting with their peers, they're interacting with people ahead of themselves and behind them in the program. That's tremendously important from a learning model perspective and a pedagogy perspective.”
For something as difficult as a coding bootcamp, this method of seeing, doing, then teaching to those around you is imperative to deep learning, not just understanding. Pedagogy as a teaching method can be highly effective in helping your learners grasp complicated material.
Assume the innate responsibility of improving and diversifying your industry or vertical
Virtual communities exist within a huge range of industries. Particularly for Bloom, the tech industry has a notorious lack of diversity. Part of teaching and being a fixture within these industries is assuming the responsibility to improve DEI efforts.
“We're very focused just on tech. Day-to-day, we're focused on making that a great experience, partially because the market is so big. There's easily 4 million unfilled tech jobs in the US and it's growing at a quarter million new jobs a year.”
“If you take all of the undergrad programs, all of the graduate programs, and the number of computer scientists coming up, it’s 125,000 [people]. It is a very non-diverse group. Our education model and our student base is much, much more diverse than others, which is something employers are demanding.”
Continuously improve your learning experience with feedback from your community
Every virtual experience — be it live or taped, remote or in-person — has a set of pain points they deal with.
For Bloom, that pain point is the maintenance and improvement of their curriculum to meet employers’ needs while also taking into account the needs of their learners.
What has benefitted them greatly is iterating each monthly cohort off the feedback from previous cohorts:
“There’s an ethos of learning and iterating. Every month, we will set up a new program where we take into account feedback and data from the students and from the hiring partners we have very close relationships with and we basically do a change log to iterate each program,” Matt says.
By having programs in place that are specifically designed to implement feedback, improvement of their curriculum is both constant and relevant.
Identify core traits of successful learners and replicate them every new member of your community
What makes the perfect Bloom learner?
“Listen, it essentially comes down to aptitude and attitude. I think in a lot of instances, attitude is the greater predictor of success,” says Matt.
Over the years, the team at Bloom Institute of Technology has identified core traits of successful learners — and continues to breed success by inviting learners into the community who display those traits.
“One of the things we noticed because we're very data-driven is that we get people who have degrees from Berkeley, MIT, and other academic institutions coming to Bloom. Or people who've had various successful professions and who have very “impressive” resumes coming to Bloom,” Matt notes.
On the other hand, “we also have people who literally have never had a resume before. There is no indication that this would be someone who could succeed, but sometimes folks in the latter group are much more successful than the folks in the former, more privileged group.”
This is why attitude and desire to learn are the most crucial indicators of true success.
What Matt Wyndowe and the team at Bloom Institute of Technology see in the pipeline for education technology
When it comes to scaling your virtual academy, community, or bootcamp or if you’re approaching other entrepreneurial ventures in the ed tech space, Matt claims “it’s better to be lucky than good.”
In addition to leading the Business side of Bloom, Matt’s an angel investor who says there’s never been a more exciting time to innovate in this space.
“I would say working hard and being excited about what you do tends to increase your chance of being lucky. As an investor, you’re looking for a big market and a big vision with a team that can credibly either get there or iterate their way there.”
“There are a lot of optimizations being done on picking different verticals or niches, both on the creator side and as well on the audience side, to provide more benefit to those. I guess that’s one of the trends that I think is exciting: using these new platforms and new technologies to better deliver learning. I think there are some interesting ways that people are delivering microlearning through other creative distribution platforms.”
As new virtual communities emerge, others will continue to thrive as academies, bootcamps, and micro-schools find the tools and the solutions they need to ensure learners within those communities reach their goals.
Check out how Disco is empowering modern schools with our powerful, all-in-one platform that helps virtual communities feel more connected.