Some college graduates, especially those in the liberal arts, choose to attend a computer boot camp after getting their diploma in order to increase their marketability. I recall meeting a woman who worked for the Washington Post at an international conference on the Future of Higher Education. I asked how she got to the conference, and she explained that she had graduated from a top liberal arts institution and wanted to work in journalism but was having difficulty getting a job. She enrolled in a 10-week boot camp to get computer and analytical skills and a recognized technology credential and was immediately hired by the Washington Post.
A new company, Podium Education, has decided that there is no reason that computer boot camps can’t be incorporated into a student’s undergraduate degree rather than having to be taken as an add-on after graduation. Many colleges know that their students are looking for marketable skills as a part of their college degrees and yet they do not have faculty who are able to provide them. Rather than develop their own programs in these areas, which is often a lengthy and expensive process, schools are turning to third parties to present the curriculum.
Podium, like Rize which I recently wrote about, offers a very cost-effective turn-key program for expanding the curriculum of participating colleges without any capital costs. Podium offers a six-credit program in three specific areas: coding, data analytics and digital marketing. Chris Parrish, President of University Partnerships at Podium, explained that their goal was to “build experiential learning that includes the in-demand skills that employers want along with soft skills and intercultural competencies employees need to be successful.” According to Darla Deardorff, founding president of the World Conference on Interglobal Competence and a research fellow at Duke who is developing the intercultural part of the curriculum for Podium, the goal is to “prepare people to collaborate and communicate across differences while also learning the tech skills.” Students learn not only how to understand data but also how to interpret it in an intercultural context which provides an important value add over many technology courses and programs.
Podium’s programs accomplish these goals by analyzing issues and data from a wide variety of perspectives to help prepare students for the world in which they will work. The programs are a combination of asynchronous and synchronous experiences which include story circles and small group work in real time, using real-world data sets from companies like Spotify, Airbnb
According to Scott Moore, the interim dean of the Boler College of Business at John Carroll University in Ohio, “Podium has taken the boot camp approach and provided a way for universities to include it in the regular curriculum. It brings boot-camp relevance to these courses which are also relevant to employees. It gives students the practical aspects of building in-demand skills.” It allows a school to add this component to their curriculum without any capital investment and without the long-lead time that it normally takes a college to add a new program.
In addition to providing the curriculum and high-quality courses developed with outstanding faculty produced in state-of-the-art studios, Podium provides student support services for their courses as well as marketing materials for the schools to help them leverage these offerings to increase enrollment. Students get three badges for each program; two in software and one in intercultural skills along with college credit provided by the college offering the program.
Podium continues the model of blending for-profit education with public and not-for-profit schools. They currently are working with several universities ranging from small to mid-size institutions including John Carroll University, Cheyney University and Lafayette College to large public universities such as Arizona State University, University of South Florida and the University of Houston. It hopes to add international schools to its portfolio so that it can further enhance the global experience of students by including students from all over the world in courses together. The motivation for working with Podium differs by school and the champion for it falls in different parts of the institution. At many schools, Podium has been introduced by the Business School as an extension of its curriculum but is offered to all students either as a part of a major or as an elective. At the University of Arizona, which will offer it for the first time in summer 2022, it has been introduced by Harmony DeFazio, Executive Director of the Study Abroad program, as a way “to provide a global experience without going abroad” as she found that remote internships did not have wide appeal among U. of A students. She is “hoping to reach students who want a global experience but who aren’t able to get a physical overseas experience while also getting specific, relevant skills.”
The world of higher education is changing. Several schools are choosing to add third-party programs to their curriculum rather than providing all their own courses taught by their own faculty. Doing so should allow schools to offer students more choices without making capital investments and allowing schools to be nimble and quick to react to changing student demands. In the long term, programs such as Podium and Rize should reduce the cost of academic programs. At the end of the day, reducing the cost of higher education will be the only way to reduce the net price that students have to pay to attend college; a goal that we all share.