“Across the world, brilliance is relatively evenly distributed. Opportunity is not,” explained Jeremy Johnson, the co-founder of 2U who has successfully raised venture funding for his new company, Andela, to offer coding instruction to young people in developing countries. The undisclosed seed round was led by Steve Case, Omidyar Network, Founder Collective, Rothenberg Ventures, Learn Capital, Melo7 Tech Partners and Chris Hughes.
Andela, which has been in beta testing since June, will prepare students to work as developers. During the four-year program, Andela Fellows complement their studies with work as remote developers for tech companies.
As Andela Fellows, students learn the MEAN stack (Mongo.db, Express, Angular and Node.js) through a combination of individual work and projects in groups of 2-6 students. “It’s a flipped classroom model, very similar to the way we operate 2U’s academic programs,” Johnson tells EdSurge. “There aren’t any lectures, and projects are generally done to create really challenging engineering problems for students to find a way through, often involving building out the front and back end of web apps.”
Students enroll in the course at Andela’s physical campus in Lagos, Nigeria, and classes are taught by senior developers. This in-person approach, Johnson hopes, will avoid some of the notorious challenges of online education, including low retention and graduation rates. Andela’s first class--in which 5,200 applicants competed for 28 slots--boasts a 100% retention rate. All the Fellows are now employed as developers for tech companies, including the Young Entrepreneur Council, and are paid a $500 monthly stipend while enrolled in the program, according to a posting on OpportunitiesForAfricans.com. The Fellows, 27% women, work remotely during 9-5 hours according to Eastern Standard Time; as Andela Vice President of External Affairs Adam Frankel explains, “Our business hours are your business hours.” There’s already a wait-list of companies looking to hire the second cohort of students.
“We’ve had students commuting from across Nigeria for the chance to apply,” explains Frankel. The application process focuses on assessments of aptitude and motivation rather than previous experience, and includes a full in-person interview after a coding bootcamp.
Johnson, who came up with the idea behind Andela after giving a lecture in Nairobi on the potential impacts of online education, sees the platform as a way to supply bright young students with the developer skills needed to meet high demand from tech companies. “By valuing aptitude, motivation and grit over previous experience, we can connect companies looking for strong technical talent with top students,” says Johnson. “When students are ready to work with companies, they’re extraordinary.”
Johnson hopes to expand the Andela team--currently seven people in New York, eight in Lagos, and 28 developer instructors--to additional campuses in Kenya and Ghana.