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CodePath Will Receive $3 Million Investment from Walmart, Microsoft, and Cognizant

By Henry Kronk
November 19, 2019

On November 19, Walmart, the Cognizant U.S. Foundation, and Microsoft Philanthropies announced they would be committing a combined $3 million investment in CodePath to advance computer science education in the U.S.

CodePath is a non-profit dedicated to supporting CS education among communities who are underrepresented in tech. The  organization says they have helped teach 6,000 students since transitioning from a for-profit in 2017. Of those, 40% have been women or underrepresented minorities and 40% have been first-generation college students.

CodePath Partners with Higher Ed to Offer Industry-Aligned Instruction

The organization partners with colleges around the U.S. According to a statement announcing the investment, the $3 million will allow CodePath to triple their number of institutional partners.They expect to serve an additional 7,000 students by 2021.

Many coding bootcamps began taking off in the 2010s by recognizing that American higher education wasn’t efficiently preparing professionals for jobs in tech. But recently, some have found success and massive investments by partnering with higher education.

“The computer science coursework offered by most colleges today is disconnected from shifting industry demands. But closing equity gaps in tech requires that we not only equip students with the technical skills employers are looking for, but also prepare them to navigate technical interviews and other barriers that often close the door on tech careers for women and students of color,” said Michael Ellison, founder and CEO of CodePath, in a statement. “The support from Cognizant U.S. Foundation, Walmart.org, and Microsoft Philanthropies is fueling a paradigm shift in talent development where, instead of competing for the top students at a few elite institutions, we scale systems that can teach any student, in any classroom to excel in tech.”

CodePath originally launched as a for-profit instructor promising to help onboard workers at big tech companies. They initially worked with Google, Netflix, Airbnb, Facebook, and Dropbox. In this function, the company developed a large curriculum of industry-aligned courses.

The curricula they developed focus on cybersecurity and hacking, and app development for iOS and Android. These courses will be available at 150 colleges around the U.S. in the spring semester of 2020.

While most of their work today focuses on in-person, on-campus classes, they also offer online options as well, such as an upcoming mobile app design workshop series. The org also does a good deal of work behind the scenes, training teaching assistants and helping to develop course content. They also make  industry experts available to offer guidance and assistance. Much of these functions are carried out by volunteers.

A Commitment to Equity in Tech

While alarms about the skills gap in tech have begun to quiet, the tech sector remains largely male and White. In their announcement, Cognizant says that just 7.8% of tech workers are Black and 8% are Latinx.

“Building a more diverse technology sector is good for business and society,” said Julie Gehrki, vice president of Philanthropy at Walmart, in a statement. “We are proud to support CodePath.org in their efforts to provide more opportunities for women and people of color while building a more inclusive technology sector.”

“One of the fundamental challenges in the technology sector is the need to increase opportunities for women and people of color,” said Kate Behncken, vice president and lead of Microsoft Philanthropies, in a statement. “Building on Microsoft’s longstanding commitment to helping young people access and learn computer science, our collective partnership with CodePath.org will help scale its unique model to ensure everyone, no matter their background, can be the leaders and computer scientists solving tomorrow’s challenges.”

Featured Image: Christopher Gower, Unsplash.

2 Comments

  1. “As bots enter the classroom, both teachers and learners will have to reflect on their uses and outcomes. They will need to adopt an awareness of AI’s presence. Teachers must recognize AI’s short comings, such as inherently developing biases and its inability to process human emotions.”

    This statement is correct as it relates to AI, generally; however, it assumes that AI exists as THE entity that students directly interact with. There are many potential expressions of AI, including a human-in-the-loop approach, in which it is configured in such as way as to facilitate dialogs and interactions between people, either studentteacher or studentstudent.

    For example, we’re building an L2 language speaking practice app (Language Hero Smart Chat). We use AI to enable beginning students, who speak different languages, to have natural, real life conversations in each other’s language from Day 1. They speak directly to each other, interacting with the system only to select from multiple content choices suggested by it, designed to facilitate a real free-ranging dialog resulting in real bonding, to the extent it’s possible, rather than to practice a particular lexical structure (they can also text or go off the grid to have pure video chat).

    Teachers can use this system as well for group chat. They can upload their own curriculum as well (the Smart Chat system configures it as multiple vector (branching script) chat or merges it with the system curriculum (focused on real life useful topics like travel, food, shopping, social chat, expressing ideas, etc.). Everything they say is comprehensible to their students, and so are all student responses.

    When such a system is implemented in a manner that pays particular attention to the affective components that make human interaction so effective for creating the desire to learn (and corresponding openness to processing L2 content, in this case), we think it can be a more effective tool than bot chat.