Our goal is to build an online school that turns you into a professional software developer for the price of a gym membership.
This will give millions of people a realistic shot at transforming their lives for the better. People who don't have $15K to spend on a bootcamp or three years to spend at a university.
Now, you could claim that these people already have the ability to become developers, given all the free and cheap resources out there. And that is somewhat true. At least in theory. But in practice, it is not.
Ask anyone who is trying to become a developer via online courses, and you will understand what a struggle it is. It requires insane motivation and grit, and very few go on to succeed.
So becoming a developer still costs $15K+ for most people. This means that affordable software development training is largely an unsolved problem.
However, we know that it is possible to solve it. Because we are already doing it. Every week, we see Scrimba students who transform their lives and break into tech.
Very often, they have tried several other courses before they finally succeed with Scrimba. Some even went to expensive bootcamps or universities first, but weren't able to get a job before they joined Scrimba.
Let us look at a few examples:
- Adrián Zamora from Costa Rica used Scrimba to transition a tourism job to becoming a dev contractor. He now writes code for TripAdvisor, and he has doubled his salary.
- Benedicte Bellinka had almost given up, even with a one-year web dev education. She enrolled in Scrimba, which propelled her into getting a dev job at Norway's biggest newspaper.
- Nico Krüper from Germany went from bus driver to developer. He had struggled for over a year with other courses before Scrimba saved him.
In this article, I will go through how we do this, looking at the seven most important factors behind our learning platform.
1. Reinventing the video format from first principles
Unlike all other players in this market, we don't accept the limitations that pixel-based videos enforce upon the learning experience, as it reduces the teacher's code into pixels, which again prevents the student from interacting with the code.
So instead, we have reinvented a new video format from first principles. We call them scrims and unlike pixel-based videos they enable students to interact with the teacher's code directly inside the scrim.
So it feels as if you are pair-programming live with the teacher, even though the teacher is pre-recorded.
The image below illustrates how it works, and this two-minute scrim explains the technology a bit more in detail.
In addition to the interactivity, these scrims have several other benefits:
- 1% bandwidth usage compared to video
- 2x faster to create for teachers
- Student metadata (we know their struggles)
- Fully indexable & searchable content
However, the most important benefit lies in how these scrims enable a whole new way of teaching.
2. Writing code > watching explanations
With the scrim interactivity, we are able to flip video-based courses from being teacher-focused to becoming student-focused. Instead of evolving around the teacher explaining code, it evolves around the student writing code.
So in our tutorials, the teachers write as little code as possible before they tell the student to take over. And only if the student gives up will the teacher show the solution.
A regular video course is like getting a driving lesson in the passenger seat. A Scrimba course is like sitting in the driver seat.
The reason this works is simply because the more code you write, the better you become. So we optimise for keeping their hands on the keyboard as much as possible.
This insight sounds obvious, but it is actually quite hard to put into practice. We have to re-train all new teachers we bring onto Scrimba into following this student-first methodology. Even though these teachers are some of the most popular coding instructors on YouTube. Up until Scrimba, their teaching has been limited by pixel-based videos' lack of interactivity and its teacher-focused nature.
For students, this teaching approach is so unique that the most common expression they use to describe it is mind blowing (see tweets below).
We also often hear students say that coding didn't stick with them before they came to Scrimba. However, with scrims, it finally "clicked". And they always attribute this to the interactivity.
3. Hacking your way into the job market
However, learning to code is only one part of becoming a professional developer. In order to get your first job, you also need to convey your skills. Otherwise, hiring managers and recruiters won't be interested in talking with you. Which is why we embed career-related tasks directly into our curriculum.
So when you go through the career path, you will build what we call a 21st Century Diploma. This diploma is not just a sheet of paper, like it has been for centuries. Instead, it is a combination of various proxies that demonstrate your ability to work as a developer.
Here are some of its ingredients:
- A solid portfolio
- An optimised LinkedIn profile
- An active GitHub profile
- A professional resume
- Other coding-related profiles (Twitter, Dev.to, YouTube)
There are right and wrong ways of creating a 21st Century Diploma. And small nuances can have huge implications on your outcome. So these sections are just as important as our hands-on coding tutorials.
To help you gain an even bigger edge, we combine these career tasks with proven hacks to get your foot in the door. These are tips and tricks that help you source better jobs, apply the right way, nail the job interview, and more.
At the end of the career path, you will have a clear advantage over the other junior developers out there.
4. Avoiding boredom at all cost
One thing that annoys me with other online learning platforms is their seriousness. Learning should be fun.
This might sound silly. But I am serious about this.
Boredom is a very dangerous feeling for students, as it kills motivation faster than anything else.
So we strive to make Scrimba a lot more fun than other learning platforms. This is something you will notice immediately if you visit our site, as our branding is fun, friendly, and inclusive. It is the opposite of how e.g. universities brand themselves. They tend to be serious, authoritative and exclusive.
We also go to great lengths to avoid boredom in our curriculum. Here are some of the things we do:
- Keeping our scrims short and engaging
- Having passionate and engaging teachers
- Never teaching too much theory upfront
- Enabling our students to personalise projects
The last point is important. If the students are excited about the projects they build, they have more fun and their motivation grows. So this is a core part of our curriculum from the very start.
Below, you can see how three different students have created their very first web apps. Even though this is just 15 minutes into our career path, their personalities already shines through:
So whether you are into plants, climbing or motorcycles, our projects will adapt to your interest.
5. Peer-learning FTW!
Another key aspect of Scrimba is peer learning. If we are to bring the cost of education down 95-99%, we need to enable students to help each other instead to relying on teachers. Otherwise, it will be too expensive. So we are building a community focused on peer-learning.
We are still early in this process, but it is already showing good promise. When students get stuck and need help, they ask their questions in one of our community-driven help-channels. More often than not, other students come to the rescue.
In our next iteration, we will include a reward system that encourages this kind of behaviour, much like you see on Stack Overflow.
I am confident that this will work, as I personally learned to code in a free peer-to-peer driven coding bootcamp. As long as students are motivated to help each other, peer-to-peer can work just as well as teacher-to-student.
6. Community and events
However, getting help is just one part of any good community. Just as important is the ability find companionship and make friends. So when you join Scrimba, you are able to take part in a Discord server that has 1000+ online students at any given time.
Here, you can join discussions about everything from #career-advice, #daily-polls, #weekly-challenges, #pets, and a lot more. You can even work alongside your peers in one of the four daily Power Hours.
If you need some accountability, you can head over to #today-i-will and share your plan for the day. And if you are proud of a piece of code you wrote, you can post it in #share-your-code.
To help our community members get to know each other better, we also arrange a bunch of weekly events. These evolve around about improving your coding skills and job chances, and we often invite industry experts who share their wisdom with our students.
Every week, we arrange the following events:
- Coding challenge with prizes (YouTube)
- Expert interviews (YouTube)
- Community meetings (Zoom)
- Fireside chats (Discord)
Together, these live events create a weekly pulse. A set of rituals that brings people together on a consistent basis.
7. An "All Star" team of teachers
Finally, let's have a look at our teachers, as a school is only as good as its teachers. So they are of utmost importance.
To create our curriculum, we have brought together a unique mix of thought leaders from the industry. However, they aren't Stanford or MIT professors. In fact, none of them are professors at all. Instead, they are internet-native teachers.
As Naval Ravikant says: "the best teachers are on the internet". And we couldn't have agreed more.
For that reason, we recruit teachers from YouTube instead of universities. There, our teachers have attracted massive audiences simply be creating tutorials about their passions (1.5 million as of writing this).
When we combine them with the scrim format, something magical happens.
Our students are suddenly able to feel as if they are coding alongside their idols.
It's the best teachers mixed with the best technology.
This article was long, so let's do a little recap.
We are a tech company that has invented an interactive video format for teaching code. It enables a whole new pedagogy focused around the student instead of the teacher.
We combine it with with peer learning, a vibrant community, and weekly live events to give you an immersive experience.
And thanks to our world-class team of teachers we are able to create a curriculum that is both fun and primed at hacking your way into your first job.
The result of all of this is an online learning platform that turns motivated students into hireable developers for 1-5% of the price of a coding bootcamp.
Or in other words, the price is roughly what you would pay for a gym membership. We want our platform to be as accessible as possible across the globe, so we also offer purchase power parity to low-income countries.
For Scrimba, it is still day one. We are just getting started. And we and have only scratched the surface of what the scrim format can do for the learning experience. In other words, we could not have been more excited about the future.
If you want to stay up to date on what we do, please follow us on Twitter.
Per Harald Borgen
CEO of Scrimba