Amid Coding School Boom, Eleven Fifty Aims to Meet a Local Need

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costs more than $11,000—have the alternative of completing free, online modules on websites like Codecademy and Hour of Code. The latter offering is organized by Code.org, a nonprofit that seeks to give students in all schools the chance to learn about computer programming.

Roxanne Emadi, who until recently worked as a social and communications manager at Code.org, says kids today are voracious consumers of technology and schools should avail themselves of this eagerness.

“Students are so obsessed with technology that they’ll jump at the opportunity to create it,” she says. “All students should have some exposure to computer science. It’s foundational, just like physics or biology or English.”

Emadi says that Code.org targets Computer Science Education Week, which is typically held toward the end of each calendar year, to get as many people as possible to try out an Hour of Code lesson. In 2014, she says, an estimated 25 million students participated. That figured roughly doubled in 2015, according to the organization’s website.

Eleven Fifty’s Qualls says that he’s talked to students who thought they’d be able to learn everything they needed using online resources, only to later hit a wall.

“They say, ‘I could cover it up to a certain point and then I got stuck. I really didn’t have a mechanism to get answers to my questions,’” Qualls says. “The in-person part of it is really important to them.”

It comes at a price, however—according to the Eleven Fifty’s website, tuition for some nine-week courses can exceed $11,000. However, not every student pays full freight; the organization says it’s awarding $500,000 in scholarships during the three-month period that ends June 30. Qualls says that Eleven Fifty is able to offset the cost of some programs with money from corporate partners. Another source of funding is public grants from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, through its Skill UP Indiana initiative.

Eleven Fifty also offers shorter courses—some last three weeks, others are as brief as five days—for students seeking positions that don’t require extremely deep levels of technical expertise.

And while a scarcity of technical talent is central to Eleven Fifty’s origin story, Qualls says that in recent years, companies in the Indianapolis area have increasingly shown the ability to attract outside interest. He points to Aprimo’s sale to Teradata, announced in 2010, and Salesforce’s 2013 acquisition of ExactTarget as examples. Qualls says that those deals demonstrate some of the progress the state’s tech community has made since 2006, when he founded BlueLock.

“It’s really turning,” he says. “I’d say today is nothing like it was 10 years ago.”

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Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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