The Education of NY Tech

That $2,800 Ruby Class That Had NYC-rb in a Huff? It’s Already Sold Out

i ruby ny That $2,800 Ruby Class That Had NYC rb in a Huff? Its Already Sold Out

(NYC.rb)

Last week, Art.sy tech lead Daniel Doubrovkine took to the NYC-rb mailing list to advertise a new six-week Ruby course he’s co-teaching at General Assembly. “Forgive me for shameless advertising. I am teaching a RoR for Developers class @ GeneralAssemb.ly in January,” he wrote. Innocuous enough, but some members of the Ruby community took umbrage at the pricetag: $2,800. “Any programmer should be able to learn Rails without paying $2,800,” wrote Rubyist Kfir Shay. “Documentation is excellent, free online resources are plenty, community is strong etc.”

$2,800 sounds high when compared to instructional Ruby Meetups and Skillshare classes in the $0-$50 range. Ruby Nuby is a free collaborative meetup / support group for aspiring Rubyists; local Rubyist and DesignerPages chief product office Avi Flombaum is making a neat little side gig out of teaching a $35 class on Ruby basics on Skillshare; he charges $800 for the five-week version. Free resources like Learn Ruby the Hard Way abound.

Still, the $2,800 General Assembly class, “Rails for Developers,” is already sold out.

In fact, there’s plenty of demand for pricey Ruby classes. A ten-session intro class at NYU is $1,295. Ruby classes can run upwards of $2,000 for a three-day course. New Yorkers can get five days of Ruby and Rails training at the for-profit training center Marakana for $2,150. Codeacademy offers 12-week courses for $6,000.

Mr. Doubrovkine took pains to build his class, he said, and although he’s a first-time teacher, he spent a year teaching himself Ruby on Rails, coding overnight and building Art.sy. “Since I’ve been speaking quite a bit this year, GA asked me whether I’d be interested in teaching a Ruby/Rails course for devs—they had a huge demand, most two-hour classes (those $10-30 kinds that pack 25 people) were sold out almost immediately and people were asking for in-depth courses with a small group,” he told Betabeat in an email. “I built this class as if I were a student—I didn’t need to understand what a while loop is obviously, but I would have loved an instructor to explain me things from the bottom-up, not from top-to-bottom, which is 95 percent of existing Rails classes. I had these ‘aha!’ moments since I started building Ruby apps and I wanted to make every 2 hour class about an ‘aha!’ moment.”

The course will start by explaining how open-source workflow works, to get everyone on the same level with Git and Github. For the Ruby-fluent readers, he says:

We do some basic Ruby, where it quickly gets complicated and then we learn about Rack—if you have bare bones Ruby and you want to write a web app, the next level up is Rack. Then if you want MVC you got Rails—so now you really understand (hopefully) how things are constructed. Through all of this we’ll use RSpec (my current commercial app has 2800+ RSpec tests, I am a big believer in BDD/TDD), and every other aspect of the Rails ecosystem – ActiveSupport/Record, ActionView, etc. We’ll switch databases and do a bit of NoSQL. We’ll do some CoffeeScript, throw everything we learned away and understand how a modern UI is built in RoR today – we’ll build an API in two different ways and a UI on top. Because the class is not noobs, I am hoping we can cover this in about 4 weeks (2 lectures every week with exercises). After 4 weeks I want the class to feel pretty sweaty from the amount of new stuff.

The last one to two weeks will be spent building “the beginning of a real open-source app that I wanted to build for a long time,” he said, which will be something simple and without commercial ambition. “I hope a couple of people from the class will become its maintainers and it will be great success if anyone in the real world ends up using and contributing to it in the future,” Mr. Doubrovkine said.

General Assembly decides the prices for its classes. “We are extremely focused on delivering the most valuable and highest quality programs,” GA co-founder Brad Hargreaves said in an email. “The instructors of this program have worked closely with our in-house instructional designer to develop a robust training in Ruby on Rails. This six-week course is among our most intensive. We also offer dozens of individual classes that range from $10 to $75 per class. Our goal is to make our curriculum accessible to as many people as possible.”

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com

Comments

  1. Well, you can’t really criticize GA for the high cost because NYC real estate is absurdly expensive, even for a mega-urban environment. GA’s location is an absurdly expensive commercial rental space. There are no other affordable options for a place like that because we refuse to create them. We reap what we sow as a society. 

  2. As an NYC.rb organizer, I find it regrettable that this story (and the previous one) characterizes  the class as haven gotten “NYC.rb in a huff”. As much as myself and Josh, the other organizer, speak for NYC.rb, I believe I can safely re-state that it is not our position. We are not in a huff.

    A more accurate characterization would more clearly outline that there were objections raised by a very small portion of our more than 1,100 group members that led to a debate by (again) a very tiny portion of our membership.

    Alas, this feels more like a ploy to drive visits and controversy than news.

    -Bryan

  3. GA has built a fantastic brand as the top destination for in-person training and education in NYC’s tech scene.  If they have put together a $2,800 class, I’m sure there’s tremendous value in it.  We all know the market value of Ruby developers is pretty high these days.  I bet it will be a great investment for anyone who takes the class seriously.

    Kudos to Brad, Matt and co for setting the standard!

    1. Anonymous says:

      Aaand evidence of Ruby dev market value just over here: http://www.betabeat.com/2011/12/29/it-pays-to-know-ruby-new-york-citys-top-tech-jobs-and-their-average-salary/

      1. Honest question: are companies paying an average of 100k for Ruby developers who just finished a crash course and have significant programming experience otherwise… or is that just for senior Ruby developers who have several years of direct experience?

        I stated in the other thread that the idea of a programmer just taking a class and landing an in-demand job is “not how it works for most people”. I said that because, in the past, companies never wanted to hire people straight out of a crash course – they were strict about experience requirements. And while I’d like to see more companies do in-house talent development, the reality is that most teams need someone who is senior-level and ready-to-go, and that’s a dicey proposition when you’re hiring a developer who has little experience with the idiosyncrasies of your platform. (Comp Sci learning is often 30% concepts and 70% platform kinks. Rails is NOT an exception and it’s clearly a work-in-progress as a framework platform.)

        If I needed to hire someone as a Rails developer for a small project, I’d appreciate that they took a course like this but I’d prefer to see a lot more – like, a couple of significant well-developed hobby projects that would probably take 12-18 months worth of sideline work to develop. If GA is now in the business of being a technical school, that sort of job-market thinking needs to be part of the course descriptions. Just promising that the course itself is a path to a good job is probably misleading. And offering the course with no particular outcome suggested is somewhat stupid, no? $2,800 to learn something and have little or no purpose for it? 

        (The idea that established companies are going to send seasoned developers into this course as part of a company effort to embrace Rails is probably a nonstarter. That market is very tiny. If you don’t believe me, visit any of the Fortune 500 companies in NYC, see how much web dev they do in-house, count how many PCs still have Windows XP on them and see if anyone but the marketing VP and the art director have Macs)

      2. Anonymous says:

        The market doesn’t have to be very big to fill up a bunch of 15-seat classes. Apparently Avi Flombaum also teaches a longer Ruby class at GA which costs around $5k. 

        As someone else pointed out, the reasons for getting upset over prices like this is that there are no protections to guard against opportunists, like the organizers who put on ludicrously expensive pay to pitch events. But if you do even just a bit of Googling, you’ll easily stumble into the Ruby community and realize how many free meetups there are around town and find it easy to meet someone who can give you advice from firsthand experience.

      3. Anonymous says:

        I’m sure you’re right that someone is not going to score a $106,000 salary after taking this class or another that provides a certification. Unless they’re really really good.

      4. Well, they might not get ANY job, because no one hires junior developers. Every startup needs a senior developer/architect or two, but they don’t need anyone who isn’t that good. 

        That’s a bit of a problem if you’re someone who’s taking a $2,800 class in a quest to find meaningful work. 

        And unfortunately we tend to look at these things through the eyes of dilettantes, the sort of people who can afford to take 6-9 months off to bootstrap a creative project, succeed or fail. Sure, there are a few people like that around in NYC… at least 15, I’m sure. But our community is tone-deaf to the needs of middle class workers if they think that opportunity is all anyone needs to succeed in life. And our city is 99% middle class, as the news will tell you lately.

      5. Anonymous says:

        So what do you think — how much should Ruby classes cost and what should they look like? Feel free to write this as a guest post, could make a good follow on to this saga ;)

      6. I can’t write a full report, but just a couple of thoughts:

        For one thing, if a Ruby class is indeed a pitch session in disguise, that’s a despicable thing. But I don’t think that’s what GA is doing.

        If GA has to charge a lot of $$$ for classes to pay the rent, so be it. They are not beholden to anyone to create an “affordable” option. They may find there are enough people willing to pay the price for their location and other fringe benefits. Suffice to say, if someone’s adrift and unemployed, that price is going to scare them away. I think our discussion stems from the larger concern that the interactive media community should not be a “members’ only” sort of club, where only the wealthy and connected can participate. 

        There are other crash course options, of course. 3rd Ward offers a $300-ish Ruby class to nonmembers similar to this one. There are cheaper online courses, as mentioned in the NYC.rb email chain. There are free in-person tutoring sessions provided by the community. With all that competition, GA’s class still filled up.

        All that said, we know people can’t learn solid programming skills in a crash course. So why would we think that any of these crash courses would turn anyone into an effective Ruby/Rails developer on their own? 

        That doesn’t mean crash courses are useless. These classes could be part of a larger solution for developing competent programmers. But the course on its own is insufficient for turning a capable mind into a solid programmer, and I see that people here already agree. But what would you suggest as a next step? Nate’s “sweat lodge” tactic? An incubator apprenticeship? More jobs in the startup community built for entry-level candidates?

        What the market really needs is an effective process – not just a quick fix – to fill the Rails developer positions on the market… and it needs a way to put unemployed developers to work. There ought to be a solution that bridges the gap between the two needs. Our community is expecting traditional educational systems to make that happen. It’s not happening, though. There are a lot of people floating around NYC and SF with comp sci degrees who do not fit the positions on the market. 

        I’m thinking it’s time to put our ingenuity to use to figure out a developer/career training process that works more efficently than this. If you’re going to put close to three thousand dollars into something, put it into THAT.

      7. I think you’re right that companies wouldn’t hire someone for $100k right out of this class.  You’re probably also right that it takes 12-18 months of focus to become marketable at that rate.  So people may be taking the class as a way to kick-start themselves on this 12-18 month path.

        If it’s an intense, immersive class, it could be just enough to get them rolling on a hobby project, that could develop those skills over time.  Or, better yet, the hobby project could become a founder-coded startup.  It’s like Nate Westheimer’s “sweat-lodge” in a box…

      8. That is why I am taking the class, it is a “hobby” project that is rapidly becoming a startup – I being a tech “lite” founder and I am looking to do server side development on my own for a bit. Also, the price tag, for the immersion, is not terrible – there is excellent 1-on-1 class time and both teachers are going above and beyond with the projects and with the aggressive timeline on the project(s).

      9. I think you’re right that companies wouldn’t hire someone for $100k right out of this class.  You’re probably also right that it takes 12-18 months of focus to become marketable at that rate.  So people may be taking the class as a way to kick-start themselves on this 12-18 month path.

        If it’s an intense, immersive class, it could be just enough to get them rolling on a hobby project, that could develop those skills over time.  Or, better yet, the hobby project could become a founder-coded startup.  It’s like Nate Westheimer’s “sweat-lodge” in a box…

      10. I think you’re right that companies wouldn’t hire someone for $100k right out of this class.  You’re probably also right that it takes 12-18 months of focus to become marketable at that rate.  So people may be taking the class as a way to kick-start themselves on this 12-18 month path.

        If it’s an intense, immersive class, it could be just enough to get them rolling on a hobby project, that could develop those skills over time.  Or, better yet, the hobby project could become a founder-coded startup.  It’s like Nate Westheimer’s “sweat-lodge” in a box…