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February 6, 2017 Issue

CEOCFO MAGAZINE

 

RefactorU, An Accelerated Learning Experiences Provider, Offers Coding Bootcamps in Web Development, Data Science, and other 21st Century Skills to the Post-Secondary and Career Education Market

 

 

Sean Daken

Founder & Chief Executive Officer

 

RefactorU

www.refactoru.com

 

Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – February 6, 2017

 

CEOCFO: Mr. Daken, would you tell us the concept behind RefactorU?

Mr. Daken: RefactorU is an educational services company -- a skills accelerator. I founded RefactorU four years ago while leading another company, and it was largely in response to the shortage of capable, early-career web developers. Our first cohort of students started in September 2013. Our core business to date has been focused on providing an accelerated “bootcamp” experience for people that want to become web application developers. Our typical student is an early-to-mid career switcher who wants to do something more creative and more technical, and we create a learning experience for them to rapidly acquire the skills they need to do that, we help them build professional networks, and help them with the next steps in their career, whether it’s working in a Fortune 500 company, a small organization, or launching their own company.

 

CEOCFO: You mentioned you have been doing this. Would you tell us your plans going forward and why are they changing?
Mr. Daken:
RefactorU is in the process of transitioning its business model to focus on providing turnkey solutions to post-secondary education providers and career colleges. This includes curriculum licensing, marketing, enrollment, program management, and related services for institutions adding skill-based, accelerated learning courses to their lineup of traditional for-credit courses and degrees. Rather than conducting one-off bootcamps ourselves, RefactorU will be helping academic and corporate institutions build and scale these types of learning experience for themselves. We are making this shift because we believe we can have broader impact this way. This shift is consistent with RefactorU’s mission, which is to accelerate the learning and development of the world’s aspiring creatives, makers, and technologists.

 

CEOCFO: Is higher education ready for this?

Mr. Daken: Yes. There is a tremendous need across higher education for the competency-based, skills-based learning experiences that we provide. There are significant trends across the market for shorter, skills-based course, and accelerated “just-in-time” learning models for people who have the desire to make a change. With higher education being so expensive, and the outcomes associated with that education are so uncertain, the value proposition around a four-year degree is nebulous at best. Whereas rapid, bootcamp educational experiences like the ones that RefactorU provides have a very compelling value proposition relative to traditional education. Higher education institutions have the desire to add these types of programs but those institutions are not equipped structurally to do that because they are locked into a traditional academic mindset. Our business model is primarily focused on curriculum licensing and services associated with program management, marketing, enrollment, etc. This is very attractive to higher education institutions, most of whom are actively seeking alternative course offerings because they are experiencing declining enrollments in their traditional programs, and/or they are running up against their “90/10” limit, which means that for institutions taking Title IV federal student aid, the most they can receive from Title IV sources is 90% of their overall revenue mix. That reality, combined with the trend associated shorter, skills-based courses, makes what RefactorU does very compelling to the post-secondary market, and career colleges in particular. RefactorU has created an offering and engagement process that packages our expertise in curriculum design and development, admissions, marketing, career services, community management, and ongoing program support to enable our clients, post-secondary educational institutions and career colleges, to rapidly deploy bootcamps. RefactorU greatly reduces the risk and uncertainty for those institutions. It is a turnkey approach. The landscape is changing rapidly and higher education is taking notice.

 

CEOCFO: What do you understand about creating a course that has a superior offering?

Mr. Daken: RefactorU’s team understands this market and we have been working in the space for many years -- running bootcamps, deploying corporate and end-user training, launching and managing degree programs at colleges, universities across the country. We deeply understand how to create experiences that gives individuals the skills, confidence, and networks they need to drastically change their career trajectories in a very short time.

 

CEOCFO: What is a typical student?

Mr. Daken: The typical student for our bootcamp offering, full-stack web application development bootcamp, has been someone who has some college or Bachelors degree (most often in an unrelated, non-technical field), and they are motivated to make a significant career change. These are people who have the grit and tenacity to succeed despite adversity, but for whom going back to school for a multi-year degree just does not make sense, particularly when the degree is expensive, slow, and is focused on theory rather than skills. It depends on the type of program though. In our full-stack web application development bootcamp, there is a broad range of educational backgrounds and life experience, from being just out of high school to having professional degrees and PhDs, though the later is rare. The common thread is that they are passionate about the path they are embarking on. In other programs, prior educational achievement may be more narrow.  As we rollout our data science program, the entry requirements are more skewed to significant prior quantitative experience. To answer the second part of your question, we are seeing a significant change in how enterprises perceive candidates. Formal credentials matter less than the rapid application of skills. We believe this trend will continue.

 

CEOCFO: How can you show the potential student the value that you offer and its uniqueness?

Mr. Daken: The type of student that is looking for a short, immersive bootcamp course understands that they are entering a field with significant supply/demand imbalances for those skills. It’s an easy sell for students. For someone who wants to become a data scientist or a web developer, they know that there is a massive shortage in those skills and that will continue for the foreseeable future. The value is obvious when we can cite industry-leading employment statistics in standardized, full-transparent way. Some of the educational institutions we are working with are constrained in what they can say around employment outcomes. In those cases, we work with those schools to leverage the strength of their brand, and ours, and the relevance of the to-be-acquired skills, to articulate a compelling value proposition for prospective students.

 

CEOCFO: How have you been reaching out to schools?

Mr. Daken: This pivot began in early/mid-2016, and until about six months ago we were not actively engaging in any other business development activities. Prospective clients were approaching us, which validates our new approach. Since the third quarter of 2016, our business development efforts have been targeted to specific organizations. We are not doing broad-based marketing or advertising our B2B services. It is really about relationship building at this point. We recognize the sales cycles are long, so we are focused on building strong relationships with clients who understand the value of what we do, and making sure there is a good fit for everyone. We want to work with highly reputable organizations where we have alignment on values and operating styles.

 

CEOCFO: What is the take-away from our readers and what should they remember about RefactorU?

Mr. Daken: The take-away is that the demand for people with technical skills such as web developers and data scientists, is growing rapidly. It’s projected that we’ll see a million-plus person shortfall in technically skilled workers by 2024. Accelerated skills-based learning models are rapidly augmenting or displacing traditional education. RefactorU has validated that higher education institutions recognize that need but they are not equipped to develop, refine, and deliver those types of learning experiences on their own. That’s where RefactorU comes in -- we help post-secondary institutions and career colleges accelerate the deployment of their technical bootcamp courses, while reducing their costs and risks, with proven curricula and processes, resulting in industry-leading outcomes, increased brand-equity, and incremental revenue for those institutions.

 

 

“RefactorU has created an offering and engagement process that packages our expertise in curriculum design and development, admissions, marketing, career services, community management, and ongoing program support to enable our clients, post-secondary educational institutions and career colleges, to rapidly deploy bootcamps. RefactorU greatly reduces the risk and uncertainty for those institutions. It is a turnkey approach. The landscape is changing rapidly and higher education is taking notice.”- Sean Daken


 

RefactorU

www.refactoru.com

 

Contact:

Sean Daken

720-441-2633 x1000

sean@refactoru.com



 


 

 



 

 


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