Our "Secret Sauce"

September 27th, 2018

Gavin Stark

Instructor @ Suncoast Developers Guild

When we started Suncoast Developers Guild we decided to operate as a 501(c)3 non-profit. We have a blog post covering this, but we felt this freed us from interests that were more concerned with profitability than doing what is best for our students. This also allows us to operate in the open. While we were discussing this openness we decided that our curriculum would also be open.

As an institution that charges a tuition for our programs you might be asking "If you make the curriculum open, why would people pay you for your classes?" That is a great question! When interviewing students for several years a common story we have heard is that many students have used both free and paid learning resources online but felt they were blocked from learning by the lack of a mentor/guide/teacher. We acknowledge in the interview process that many students can, and will, learn on their own and online. In fact some of our instructors and volunteers are self taught. So while the presence of free, low cost, or even open source learning resources online are fantastic, we feel that our "secret sauce" is the skill, commitment, and passion of our instructors and staff.

Our instructors come from long histories of working as professional software developers. Our instructors mostly work with open source languages and technologies, even contributing to those projects.

We also run our classes utilizing open source software including Atom, VS Code, git, node, Ruby, Rails, bash/zsh, and .Net Core. These are the tools and languages our students will be learning. Without these projects our task would be much more difficult. Our team comes from previously operating The Iron Yard Tampa Bay and during that time we supported the internal product team developing instructional tools and supporting curriculum writing. We noticed that the curriculum writing was an enormous project which was difficult to write, complex to review, and was done in isolation from other instructors, our students, and the tech community we serve. When released, like any product, there were bugs which required revision. We also know that since there is demand to teach the most up-to-date techniques and technologies our community is using, we must consistently update this curriculum.

Open source software typically builds upon the efforts of others and extends it. This is our goal for our curriculum. As we continue to develop our curriculum we will be inviting our alumni, local community, and community at large to contribute. We are excited to share our lessons, assignments, and approach with the community and look forward to your contributions.

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