Will Innovative New School 42 Create The Next Gold Alumni Network?
For many of us in the Silicon Valley, we know well the shortage of programmers and coders. We also know that the shortage isn’t just about coding, but about innovative thinking among those who know how to code.
I was thinking about this as I drove to an event recently. After a beautiful drive over the Dumbarton Bridge from the Peninsula, I arrived in Fremont, at a large building—and I entered the brand new US-based school known simply as 42.
For those of you not familiar with Ecole, it is a new university model aimed at disrupting education by providing a FREE coding school, that is project-based and peer reviewed. You read it right: No teachers, no lectures, no tuition.
The university model has operated in Paris for a while. It is fully funded with a $100M philanthropic effort of a well known businessman, Xavier Niel, who already disrupted the telecom industry with mobile operator Iliad’s Free brand.
I have previously written about how investment in education has increased over the last several years. This is driven not only by the student loan crisis and the increasing focus on the ROI of educational institutions, but also by the new ways to monetize and deliver education enabled by the Internet.
Digitalization has impacted educational products, services and delivery. It has also expanded the set of players coming to the market. For example, LinkedIn acquired Lynda, creating new vertical strategy for technology market learning. In the digital world, learning on its own is not sufficient. These digital services exponentially increase the value for learners. Lynda’s, for instance, links to finding a job as an outcome, with its integration into recruitment services.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to moderate a launch roundtable for the ‘piscine’ at 42. The “piscine,” or “pool” is an intensive entrance process that gives students a month at the school to understand learner motivation and skill. I was impressed by the scale, the speed and the team driving this project.
There are many factors that make 42 unique and successful. Here are few of my thoughts about their approach:
A team with an incredible passion and ability to execute
Each person proudly wears their Ecole 42 staff tee-shirt. The style of communication is open and collaborative. Every staff member is either an alumni, shares a strong sense of purpose with the school, or is an avid defender of the model. They want to show how to provide access to critical skills for people who might not otherwise have access.
Just two months ago they announced they would come to the US and launch in the summer. And here they are, with new buildings, the first set of students, all while finalizing the campus.
The magic sauce: An end-to-end model with the student at the center
Not only is there a shared pedagogy, but the whole structure is centered on the individual.
The school does not include the idea of a standard “term,” recognizing that every individual progresses his or her own pace. Some may finish the school and get to level 21 in 2 years, while other learners may take as long as 5 years.
Brittany Bir, the COO of 42, explained that accounts will never close. This leaves the opportunity for students to come back if it becomes relevant to them.
While tuition is free, Kwame Yamgnane, the managing director of 42, asserts that free tuition is not sufficient. The ability to come back means tuition remains free for life.
42 also offers lodging. Onsite dorms provide learners with a place to stay while they learn.
I had the opportunity to talk with two students, Antoine Bungert and Henri Dumas. Antoine is currently a Level 10 student in Paris. He has participated in the annual 42/HEC partnership program. Henri, a Level 11, recently completed a partnership and an internship with thanks to his studies at 42.
Both students recognized an immediate connection of their studies to potential jobs. The moment the students shared their studies at 42 via LinkedIn companies started reaching out with job offers.
42 students help reach underserved populations. Eighteen-percent of the students are women, five times that of institutional averages.
Not only does 42 attract job offers and teach great coding, but they help their students master 21st Century skills like collaboration, communication and team work, skills often not taught by other schools.
I bet the alumni network of this school will be strong. I look forward to seeing how their graduates flourish as entrepreneurs and innovators that start their own businesses and contribute within larger organizations!