It started with misaligned expectations. We worked with a lot of hiring partners to create a UX curriculum that would be easiest to jump into a first UX career from, and it was clear in doing that research that a research-first perspective with less emphasis on design is what would get students hired faster in a field that can be notoriously difficult to break into (relative to software engineering). We hired experts in that aspect of UX design, which can be terribly broad.
Partway through the data started to show that half of the class was pretty happy and about half was not. Usually it’s not split like that - there’s always an outlier student or two but not half totally happy and half frustrated, so we started to dig in.
Two things happened:
1. We realized half of the students were expecting a design-heavy experience, and we hadn’t communicated well enough what to expect. There were pieces on design, but you wouldn’t come out of this curriculum as a UI designer, and students were expecting that.
2. We decided to try and help those students who wanted the UI emphasis, hired more folks, and started creating curriculum in a pretty rushed manner to help them reach their goals. In retrospect that was a huge mistake; there simply wasn’t enough time to build a full design-heavy curriculum in flight, and the students who wanted design-heavy curriculum were very disappointed.
That cohort was (rightly) frustrated because we tried to do too much too late. I recognized that was a risk going into those curriculum changes, but took on the risk because the most important thing is making students successful and happy. In retrospect it was the wrong call.
I wish like hell that I could go back and make everything perfect for that cohort of students; there are about 20 of them and I’ve spent time one on one with every one. We brought in more people to work with them one on one and that curriculum is much better now, but understandably 5 or 6 students in that cohort had lost their faith in our ability to deliver and opted to leave the program. Of course, we cancelled their ISAs; we lost a ton of money training these students and they don’t owe us anything, but that’s the right thing to do. We promise an awesome experience and in this instance didn’t deliver. We tried to do too much in too short a timeframe and missed the mark.
This was not a magnanimous gesture. You fought with the students for months, when it was clear things weren't working. It wasn't until the story blew up in the media that you agreed to cancel the ISAs.
And then to be released from their ISAs, you demanded students sign a contract agreeing not to sue Lambda School.
The ISA is only one part of what they “paid” to attend. The other thing is months of opportunity cost, loans, etc. An ISA release does not make one whole with regard to those other losses.
Austen's lying again. Students fought hard to get the ISAs cancelled. They should have been working towards learning and job searching instead, not fighting a pathological liar and terrible organization.
My guess is after pressuring students to go away, Lambda School (or its lawyers) realized this and agreed to settle rather than fight it in court and risk having to pay 3x as much in addition to their legal costs.
I’ve heard similar statements many times from bootcamps and it’s never sat well with me. It’s one of the major contributing factors that drove me away from working at a bootcamp.
While nothing is wrong about stating this, I’ve always thought student first. When a bootcamp fails its student(s) in this manner, money is lost. That is nothing relative to what the student loses - time, money, effort, and relationships. If there’s one common thread I’ve seen from the students I’ve taught, it’s that they all sacrifice a lot to try and change their lives.
What hurts the most when the system fails these students is that sometimes, they can’t just go back to what they were doing before. That’s why messaging around expectations [from both sides] needs to be crystal clear. This attention to detail is paramount in a bootcamp, but it often meets opposition with the business model and/or the “move fast and break things” mindset of a startup delivering a product [curriculum].
That I’m still reading stuff like this so many years after bootcamps have become established makes me lose faith that things will really change for the better.
* being graded by a student 2 months ahead
* being taught by someone hiding under a sheet
* being paired with a student who hadn't been participating in the curriculum
It seems like there was more going wrong for this student than just a curriculum change.
There’s also an instructor in every cohort, so your TA (we call them TLs) is more of a first line of defense. We brought in the strongest design students to be TAs which is why they weren’t very much further in the curriculum - in fact they actually had a different curriculum. An exception to the rule caused by curriculum change.
*being taught by someone under a sheet
We brought in contractors to help teach the new curriculum, and one hadn’t adjusted the light in his room for video conferencing and couldn’t see the screen for sunlight, so... improvised. Normally there are weeks of practice lessons and training, so this also the result of a rush.
Someone who hasn't needs to be trained because it's not like a physical classroom at all.
And of course, teachers need to improvise every day, but if they're not used to doing it then they need coaching on that, too.
For example, whenever I teach remotely, I mail a good pair of wired, directional-mic headphones to every student. I also send them PDFs outlining how to position the light in their room.
I do that because they are unfamiliar with the subtleties of remote interaction and it's going to ruin everyone's experience if students have barriers to participation and feedback.
Huh? The guy under the sheet was Christijan Draper, the UX program manager who's been with Lambda School since May 2018. Why are you lying?
Anyone who has worked in the industry knows that most software projects fail for human reasons, not technical ones.
Like, who was going to be opening up Photoshop or In Design or Figma or whatever? Who was going to be slicing designs into HTML/CSS? Who was going to be implementing interactive prototypes and putting them in front of users? Who was responsible for ensuring that communication between the UX side and the technical side was happening effectively?
Who were the product and project managers (in title or de facto) and were they clear that this was their job?
In your interview with Vincent Woo, you said that "reviews were fine" for the UX cohort and then they suddenly fell off the cliff once labs began. This story more or less explains why: the students were strung along (intentionally or not) with the promise that it was labs that matters.
Once in labs, they find out: https://twitter.com/watsonwaswrite/status/123090468067232154...
If that was the promise, why wouldn't LS move heaven and Earth to make sure that labs was a home run? Why wouldn't LS ensure every student in the group project was crystal clear on expectations? Why wouldn't LS do a dry run version of the capstone project across cohorts to control for unanticipated group dynamics? Ensure that everyone in the web and UX cohorts has worked with at least 5-10 different people cross-functionally before capstone time?
And fine, maybe you "call an audible" — lord knows we had to do that at DBC. But why then wouldn't you then bring in 5-10 experienced project managers to facilitate things, communicate everything to everyone, and explain that this is what needs to happen to make the capstone a success for everyone?
Shouldn't asking and answering these questions before admitting a single student be table stakes?
The whole project seems half-baked from start to finish and this outcome 100% predictable.
Look at Dustin Myers and how he responds to criticism: https://twitter.com/dustint314/status/1156423191645917184
Look at Trevor McKendrick (Chief of Staff) and how he responds to criticism: https://twitter.com/TrevMcKendrick/status/108285421890879488...
Look at all of Austen's interactions on Twitter to students and how he gaslights them: https://twitter.com/Austen/status/1213711252175740928
Look at Ben Nelson (cofounder) and see how he only interacts with positive testimonials and discount negative ones: https://twitter.com/sunjieming/likes
Look at Ryan Holdaway and see how he only interacts with positive testimonials and discounts negative ones: https://twitter.com/Ryan_Holdaway/likes
Look at Ryan Hamblin - same thing: https://twitter.com/RyanleeHamblin/likes
There's a clear pattern here. These are key people in staff who should be listening and responding with empathy to the horrifying student stories throughout Lambda. All negative dissent is squashed by dividing and siloing students. They are made to think their issues with the "school" are due to some personal deficiency.
It is no wonder that negative student accounts rarely get amplified or even created. I was personally scared to write negative reviews for fear of being admonished by their "Student Success" team. There's been rumors circling of students removed from Slack after they complained about the quality of education. Leadership and key members of staff are all complicit.
What I see is definitely not behavior I'd want in instructors.
Did you not read the scathing letter? If you want to address these issues - why don't you publicly post the letter and address every single damning issue highlighted if you are so confident? There were things outlined outside of just "bad instruction" and "misaligned expectations". Do better.
I can see you’re obviously beyond frustrated and angry. I think it’s helpful to a point to “air dirty laundry” but when it appears to be someone out for retribution it really ceases to become appropriate for HN.
Not only that, but they are apparently pushing students to join their coding programs prior to completion of prework/entrance tests: https://twitter.com/CHERdotdev/status/1231661150619652096
For-profit education like bootcamps deserve to be scrutinized and regulated. There are real consequences to poor educational outcomes.
We all know UX is extremely important to the success of any startup, but quantifying it is a different story. Designers can’t even agree on their own responsibilities and what to call themselves, with job titles and responsibilities I’ve seen at many companies having 0 correlation to the next.
Any great UX/product/service/interaction/blah blah designer I’ve worked with is a former graphic designer with great taste, who over the years learned how to build usable software by working on tons of software products and spending tons of time with users.
It’s not exactly something that lends itself to the bootcamp model. It makes much more sense in an apprentice model.
If it makes her feel any better, I’m certain 90% of schools teaching multi-year “UX” design programs would not have done a better job. At least she doesn’t have to go into debt this way.
I agree 100%. I've been in the UX field for about 6 years, and if there's one thing I've noticed, it's intense fragmentation when it comes to that actual job title. What's the difference between them? I couldn't tell you as at each job my responsibilities were basically the same.
Also, one of the biggest issues that I have with UX bootcamps is that there's a lot of emphasis placed on making the portfolio look visually appealing, but when you get into it there's not always a lot of substance. Same goes for a lot of work on Dribbble that's tagged as "UX" or "UX/UI".
We tried to build in design-heavy curriculum partway through when we realized how misaligned those expectations were, but couldn’t do an effective job in such a short time frame, so those students just got more frustrated.
It’s totally fair, we should have done a better job communicating and shouldn’t have tried to call an audible at the last minute to fix everything.
You say that no “professional environment” would encourage this, but it’s actually a legally protected right in every workplace:
I cannot believe how often Austen flat out lies on things so easily disproven.
Luckily, that's easy to fix by adding a sentence or two to this section.
“I wish there was a safe place for upset students to chat to each other outside of Lambda’s slack. A worry-free environment, unmonitored by Austen & whoever has viewing permissions on our messages. Fear and uncertainty would be eliminated, and the real issues would be uncovered”
“ That would not only be unwise for everyone involved but an enormous legal liability for the school. No professional environment you’ll ever be in will encourage something like that.
There are a huge number of ways to submit feedback or complaints and we read all of them.”
Which again, discussing your workplace conditions is protected, by law, under the NLRA. Why are you telling your students that “no professional environment you’ll ever be in will encourage something like that,” counter to what’s guaranteed them by US labor law?
Encouragement and acceptance are two completely different things.
Also, did you release the cohort from their contractual obligations after failing them?
We also put every student in a group of 8 students with one TA, where a TA is a student a few months ahead of them (on payroll). But that is only in addition to the full-time instructors.
You can set aside the issue of ISAs or anything about this woman.
This poor of a product from Lambda is indefensible. A consumer or enterprise software startup can get away beginning with an ineffective MVP and iterating. A school offering an educational opportunity has a much higher floor to responsibly operate. This person shows that Lambda is operating well below that floor.
Even if the students will never activate the repayment clauses of their ISAs Lambda has failed them. Silicon Valley seems to think that what it can't measure doesn't matter. But Lambda School, by pitching itself as a way for anyone to be a part of the tech boom gets up a person's hopes and then completely and utterly fails to deliver on its promise. That is on top of the opportunity cost of attending a school that fails to deliver anything close to the education advertised.
Still, though, I've noticed the ISAs create some nuanced perverse things happening that are specific to Lambda - students attracted to the value prop are often much lower income (Lambda cited $22K average starting salary amongst their students) than the average bootcamp student. If Lambda fails them, these students may leave in worse financial prospects than they started with no safety net.
The ISA also kicks in at 40% when you're only 4 weeks into a 40 week curriculum. After that point, it's very hard to leave due to sunk cost fallacy, and you are roped along wasting time, hoping for them to get their stuff together. I wish I and others left well before.
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I'm a big fan of Lambda and am a pretty vocal defender, but this is simply misleading.
Yes, I think it's fair to owe full tuition once you're past 10 weeks in Lambda School, especially given a generous 4-week dropout period during which you owe nothing.
I wasn't trying to talk past you. My original comment was that a specific complaint about the amount owed being 40% after 4 weeks, despite 4 weeks not representing 40% of the program, could be addressed by tying payment directly to portion of curriculum covered. You responded that this is how it works, but you redefined the denominator in the proportion from the original complaint.
I don't think you're doing this in bad faith, I'm legitimately just trying to point out a response something that is clearly a frustration isn't translating how you intended.
So if LS has organized their cirriculum into "sprints", and wants to follow the standard in higher education, there would be a brief dropout window at the start of each sprint, with no ISA applied for sprints that were never started.
Thanks for adding your insight and experience to this thread.
HN asks that as discussions intensify, we get more thoughtful and substantive.
I'll do my best to follow that norm as well as to converse with you, with Paul Graham's "How to Disagree" in mind .
I'm not quite sure how your response fits into Paul's disagreement hierarchy with my original post in mind, but it doesn't seem to get at the meat of what I said.
I do realize universities offer philosophy degrees. They certainly aren't STEM degrees that have set career paths outside of academia, however I would say that "useless" is too strong a descriptor.
For one, I bet we could both look and find a number of successful people in the startup world that HN encompasses who have philosophy degrees and are doing interesting things within companies (eg they have successful financial careers).
Second, there could be a solid argument that philosophy teaches a useful way of thinking.
Third, if we want to move the goal posts of this discussion to universities, I could go on for quite awhile about ineffective practices and ways they set students up to fail as well. My main concern is the students. Seeing students at any level from early childhood to university and beyond taken advantage/set up to fail/screwed over/bamboozled gets me fired up.
BTW, I checked out your webpage and enjoy the Spartan nature of it. The "end of page" is a nice touch I haven't seen before.
First off, philosophy is an interesting subject in its own right. You're probably not going to get a good job in it. However nobody goes into philosphy thinking they're going to become a millionaire.
The issue in this thread is that lambda school isn't as described. Tricking people is very different than teaching people some esoteric stuff they know upfront is kind of useless pragmatically
I was very wrong. The ISA incentive appears to be nothing to the VC/startup incentive to Show! Massive! Growth! as you chase ever-larger chunks of money. Somehow we've gone from "move fast and break things" (which is not a terrible slogan to encourage experimentation on non-consequential things) to "move fast and break people" (which horrifies me).
I hope this doesn't make people discard the ISA idea altogether because of a bad implementation that is unrelated to the ISA itself.
When talking about student debt forgiveness, I think it's too extremely. We can make it milder like forgiving interest or converting it to some sort of a capped ISA. This is a much less controversial idea than forgiving the whole debt that I'm not sure I agree with.
I think of education as like roads, policing, and courts. It's fundamental societal infrastructure. Because the benefits are widespread and diffuse, charging directly for it is difficult. As with primary and secondary education, I think it's ultimately easier to just pay for it as a society and get it back in taxes later.
That exists: https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/repayment/plans/income-d...
A capped ISA (like what Lambda offers) would be livable and capped.
Why does everyone not get onto this program?
- With the Lambda ISA, your remaining balance is forgiven after 2 years of payments, while the federal income-driven repayment plans require 20-25 years of payments.
- Lambda ISA has a fixed dollar "cap" (currently $30k), but the "cap" for income-driven repayment plans is however much you borrowed + interest that accrues over the life of the loan.
- Most importantly, the Lambda ISA is for a much smaller amount of money. Very few of the news articles about student debt profile students with a balance of only $30k. The horror stories tend to be students who borrowed >$100k, often for graduate study.
>IBR is not capped
It's capped at the 10 year pay off amount.
> takes 25 years for forgiveness
That's only for people who borrowed before 2014. For people after it's only 20 years.
>equires payments the entire time (regardless of whether or not you have an income)
Nope. Deferment time counts towards the 20 years. And you will never be required to make payments if you have no income.
>the amount forgiven is treated as taxable income (so you get a tax bomb when you actually receive the benefit)
Nope. Only the amount forgiven up to the point of solvency. If you don't manage to pay off your debts in 20 years time, you likely lack assets, which means almost none of it will be treated as income.
That's not so likely, really. Assets counted in solvency include your car, your laptop, your clothes, retirement accounts like 401ks and even the value of any life insurance policy held. Standard financial advice is to contribute to retirement before paying above the minimum on student loans, and often even to put away additional savings as well.
If you make enough that you have significant assets, you almost certainly make enough that you'll be paying the max under the income based repayment plan, and you'll pay off your loans in 10 years.
Remember that it's assets minus liabilities just before the discharge, which means the discharged debt counts. The minimum payment is 10% of your discretionary income, and if 10% of your discretionary income didn't pay that loan debt after 20 years, it's very unlikely your income was high enough to build assets that are significantly greater than said loan.
Either way it's unlikely that you spend much time not making enough to cover interest payments with the minimum payment.
In the case that you do spend years with basically no income, you aren't likely to start making enough to build assets significantly faster than you are paying down your loan because the minimum payment are pegged to income. Most people with low enough income for this to be problem are saving at most few % in their 401k, and are renting a home.
I'm not saying that this can never happen, but you'd need to perfect storm of circumstances for it to be a major issue. And regardless, the tax burden is never going to be more than around ~25% of your assets--even in the worst case.
>25% of people have >$50k in loans - and unfortunately not all of them are doctors
That's including private loans, which don't come with income based repayment, so it's irrelevant.
Unfortunately, there's still a fundamental broken feedback loop here: the people purchasing an education are definitionally unqualified to evaluate it. I don't see a way to fix that without significant regulation, which unfortunately acts as a brake on evolution of both program content and educational methods.
Half the point of school is to get students to first fail in a low-stakes way.
Groups need time to develop. Any change in a group will cause it to storm before re-norming.
The higher the stakes the more critical it is to navigate storming effectively. You "learn by doing", i.e., by getting students to storm 50 times before the the stakes are high.
Students should not have to pay the price for someone else's crash course in learning design.
and Lambda School fits into many of the described.
Why do you feel that this is an under appreciated topic?
Did you mean to say “can it be over-appreciated”?
It can be that, too. It ain’t slavery.
Your last line jumps the shark.