​Trilogy Education Raises $30M to Give Universities a Bootcamp in...

Digital Learning

​Trilogy Education Raises $30M to Give Universities a Bootcamp in Skills-Based Training

By Sydney Johnson     Jun 5, 2017

​Trilogy Education Raises $30M to Give Universities a Bootcamp in Skills-Based Training

Coding bootcamp providers may have found their niche by targeting needs that traditional four-year institutions do not always offer: short, skill-based learning programs. But education startup Trilogy Education Services is trying to knock the disruptors by helping universities set up their own “bootcamp” services.

Trilogy works with institutions to create intensive learning programs for adults looking to skill-up in areas such as data analytics and web development. What is currently a modest list of programs could well see a boost in the near future with the help of a recent $30 million Series A fundraise led by Highland Capital Partners. Rethink Education and City Light Capital also participated in the round.

Since launching in 2015, the New York-based startup has partnered with 21 universities to offer its programs and student coaching services. CEO and founder Dan Sommer says with the added funds, his company will be looking at growing its offerings to nearly 10 programs in subject areas like user experience and design.

With its university partners, which are Trilogy’s primary source of revenue, the company designs certificate programs from the bottom up, from developing curriculum to hiring instructors and also recruiting students. Faculty and staff from the institutions oversee and approve almost all decisions related to program the company helps build, Sommer explains.

“Every aspect of the program gets oversight from the university,” Sommer explains. With instructors, for instance, the company and university will agree on criteria for what background instructors should have. Then Trilogy conducts interviews and will run run mock teaching sessions before the university approves instructors for the classroom.

Most students wouldn’t know Trilogy had anything to do with their course design, however. Every part of the course remains under the institution’s brand and name, and importantly, the certificate comes from the university. One example in the works is at UC Berkeley Extension, the continuing education arm of the university, where Trilogy is working to create a data analytics program that is slated to launch in June 20.

Sommer likens his company to an online program manager, or OPM, which helps universities set up online courses and programs. There are a few key differences, though. First is that rather than creating online programs and courses that lead to a degree, his company is helping traditional universities set up alternative credentials. Second is that unlike providers like 2U, Trilogy primarily helps institutions set-up in-person and on-campus programs.

This means the company focuses on recruiting more local students and adult learners in the university’s surrounding community. The company’s average student is 32-years-old looking to make a career change and “has responsibilities in life and dont have the luxury of leaving a full-time job to attend a bootcamp,” Sommer says. “It’s a very localized approach, a majority of our students are those in a community looking to local universities.”

Trilogy hangs around after programs begin, too. The company’s career coaches have weekly one-on-one courses with the students to share guidance on developing work portfolios and job interview training. After a student completes the course and seeks employment, he or she will continue working with the coach for up to 90 days. “When we identify students who are having challenges during the program we continue [remote] coaching and will share screens to make sure students they get the support they need.”

With more than 20 university partnerships secured already, that adds up to a lot of coaches. Sommer says that of his team of 250 employees, a “majority” of them work closely with students on their programming skills and career training.

For a full Trilogy service, which would include setting up courses, vetting instructors, implementing curriculum and recruiting students via digital marketing campaigns, universities pay the company hundreds of thousands of dollars to get programs up and running.

“We view the customer as the university and help them run programs more effectively,” he says.

While private intensive bootcamps may operate full time for seven days a week, Sommer explains that Trilogy programs typically meet twice a week in the evenings, plus a few hours on the weekend, for six months to create opportunities for learners who are also working. That doesn’t mean it's any easier, he adds: “Students spend as much as 20 hours a week on homework, so it’s hard, but the difference is part time format.”

At around $10,000 per program, the price students pay is also different (and in many cases, lower) than most private coding bootcamps.

“I'm a long term believer in the value of a university education,” says Sommer. “That’s why we don’t view ourselves as a disrupter, but an enabler.”

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