Monday, June 24, 2013

Why @OntarioTCU should investigate @BitmakerLabs

BitmakerLabs is a private training school that does a 9 week, $9000 intensive course in Ruby on Rails and related technologies. In Ontario, so-called Private Career Colleges are regulated by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities (MTCU) under the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005. This law is basically a consumer protection law that says the MTCU must review and approve Private Career Colleges before they can operate in Ontario. Today, Bitmaker announced they are closing (temporarily) in response to an investigation from the MTCU, and that they will be registering as a Private Career College in order to comply with the 2005 law.

Almost everyone in Toronto with a twitter account seems to be enraged by this blatant attempt to enforce consumer protection laws. But consider this:

BitmakerLabs claims their 9 week program will turn a non-programmer into a web developer. As someone who writes checks to companies who might hire BitmakerLabs' graduates, I am skeptical, to say the least. Apart from my skepticism, however, I wish BitmakerLabs well; if they are doing good work, they should have no problem registering with MTCU. But it's kind of silly to blame MTCU for doing their job.

Furthermore, compare this program with the Humber College Web Development Program, which is full time for three semesters for $8662 and no HST. Or the Udacity / Georgia Tech / AT&T online Computer Science Masters Degree for $6k which promises to offer a fully accredited masters degree. Your money may be better spent on longer programs that provide more time to internalize the skill set.

The background here is that the traditional model of higher education (low volumes at extremely high costs) is ripe for disruption. So we are going to be seeing a lot of interesting experiments in the next few years; experiments like BitmakerLabs, MOOCs, and a general disaggregation of the teaching, evaluation, and certification functions that have traditionally been provided by colleges and universities. What this means for consumers is that they will have to be a lot more careful until this disruption sorts itself out.

  1. Interesting background info on rationale and prior enforcement of the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005: Ontario Ombudsman Report.
  2. The United States has similar laws; e.g. NH Regs for Career Schools

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