What is Hacker School?

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Programming is an important skill, especially if you want to land a tech-related job. Opportunities are popping up all over the place to train students, but there is one that stands out from the rest – Hacker School.

It is a 3-month, full-time program with no teachers, no curriculum, and no grades. How does this work? Mashable recently did an interview with Mary Rose Cook, a facilitator at Hacker School. We’ll highlight how every “no” makes sense.

No Curriculum

How can Hacker School be a school without a curriculum? Rose Cook explained:

“We feel like everyone is interested in different stuff, therefore a curriculum that we impose on people might negate their interests. They might not be interested in the things we think they should be interested in. The variety of projects is super wide. Some people are working on super technical computer design type stuff, and others are working on iPhone apps, and that is totally self-led.”

This approach is fairly smart. The world of coding is massive and it’s nearly impossible to cover everything. So, rather than focusing on baseline learning or forcing specific pathways, each student focuses on what drives them.

No Teachers

With no curriculum, teachers don’t make much sense anymore. Rose Cook explains why Hacker School has facilitators instead.

“We just literally facilitate people becoming better programmers, sitting down and collaborating on code with students. So we’ll work with them for maybe an hour to two, writing code for their projects. Then we lead by example — we’re students as well as facilitators, and we have our own projects as well — so we try to work on cool, interesting things, both to keep us occupied and excited, and to act as inspiration for other people at our school.”

Again, the school focuses on keeping students motivated and inspired by sharing and creating interesting work.

No Grades

After following their passions for 3 months, who is the valedictorian? None of them or all of them, depending on how you look at it. Rose Cook shows how grades don’t match school goals.

“We believe that people learn the best and have the most fun when they’re doing something they are interested in. The problem with grades is that if you grade someone’s work, whatever that work is, then the person who is working on it has something else as their main motivation now — they are no longer doing it for the sheer joy of it, or to learn something — then, they want to get a good grade, which means they’re probably going to optimize for the wrong things.”

By losing the pressure of grades, the focus stays on the individual projects. Attendees have 3 months (hours are Monday-Thursday, 10:30 am to 6:30 pm) to work on coding projects, collaborate with others, and just become better programmers.

The model of this school is completely different, but in the coding world, very valuable. So valuable that it touches on one last “no” that Mary Rose Cook didn’t discuss. There is no tuition. It’s more of a retreat for hackers. Hacker School’s website states that, “This is possible because startups pay us to recruit. If after Hacker School you want a job, we will help you however we can. If you don’t want one, that’s fine too. Keep in mind that we accept people to Hacker School based on how much we think they would get out of and contribute to Hacker School. We don’t take employability into consideration when making admissions decisions.” This format is completely honor-based and asks employers to provide 25% of the first years salary for any Hacker School graduate they hire after three months of employment. This payment system then helps fund more Hacker School students.

We’ll follow the steps of Hacker School and not tell you anymore, but if you’re interested, check out the Hacker School website.

Written by: Travis Taggart
Travis is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

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