Who’s Coding: Investigating UK Coding Course Experiences and Outcomes
Who’s Coding examines adult coding courses (e.g., coding bootcamps or “coding intensives”) in the UK, with a particular focus on how the social locations and identities of programme participants may impact their experiences in their programmes and their success on the job market afterward.
This project uses both qualitative and quantitative methods (i.e., mixed methods) in order to look at both the bigger picture of coding courses in the UK and to obtain richer, more nuanced data about the day-to-day experiences of the people who attend these programmes. We will be designing and administering a UK-wide survey to understand, on the whole, who attends coding courses? What are their motivations and expectations? After they finish, what kinds of jobs do they get? What kind of salaries do they make? Coding courses have been promoted as a one-way ticket to a better job, higher salary, and a better life, but to what extent is this true for the majority of people who attend these programmes? To complement the survey, Kate will be conducting a long-term ethnography at a UK coding school in order to examine some of the social dynamics present at these schools, and to gain a more nuanced understanding of who these coding courses work best for, and why.
Methodological Challenges and Questions
For the survey, one of our biggest challenges is sampling. There are hundreds of coding courses on offer in the UK; we had to make some clear choices about what kinds of courses we would be including in the study (i.e., short-term “coding intensives” that are meant to transform novices into programmers in 3-6 months). Even then, establishing the sample population is a real challenge: just how many people have completed these courses? What is an appropriate response rate? It’s not an easy thing to figure out. Then, of course, who chooses to respond to the survey will also impact the results: people who are either really enthusiastic or really upset with their experiences are the most likely to respond. For the ethnography, the key issue is always access; this is even harder when faced with a pandemic! But even once access is gained, establishing trust takes time and patience; understanding your own positionality in relation to your participants, the fieldsite, etc., is essential. Ethnographers always bring themselves to whatever research they do; there is no such thing as being a neutral or objective presence.
To administer the survey, we will be using Qualtrics; we are in the process of discussing the best tools to analyse the data that we’ll be gathering. For the ethnography, Kate will be using OneNote for her jottings and fieldnotes, and she’ll be using NVivo to analyse all of her ethnographic material (interview transcripts, fieldnotes, images, and so on).