App Academy Open is NOT free or open source: When ‘free’ comes with strings attached.

App Academy Open is NOT free or open source: When ‘free’ comes with strings attached.

Image for postApp Academy Open frontpage claiming the entire curriculum is free.

To anyone that is potentially interested in App Academy Open?s ?free? course for full stack web development know that the course designers have made it intentionally harder to complete the program versus their paid version, and you may wish to pursue a truly free program like TheOdinProject or FreeCodeCamp instead which do not intentionally withhold materials, and do not have a conflict of interest in promoting their curriculums since they are 100% free.

Many students have found the course difficult to progress through after reaching later modules due to course materials that paid students only receive. This is a relevant point of consideration given that App Academy has promoted, multiple times, that the courses are identical.

1 year ago, App Academy posted on Reddit claiming that their Open (?free?) version is identical to their paid versions, but since then have been removing modules for the free students, as well as withholding homework, and project explanations that are essential for progressing through the course.

Here are conversations from that reddit thread from App Academy CEO Kush Patel (kpatel737) where he reiterates several times that the courses are identical:

kpatel737 11 points 1 year ago*

It?s the same curriculum! We have 2 paid options. The mentorship option is a $29.99/month subscription to a Slack channel (i.e. chat room) with one or more App Academy instructional staff 60 hours a week (M-F 6AM-6PM). If it sounds like an insanely good deal, that?s because it is 🙂 The placement based plan is the same experience as our full-time, in-person course, but online. You get instructional support, live q&a, pair programming, career support, etc. On this option, we don?t get paid until you find a job, so we keep fighting until you do. In that case, it?s 17% of your salary for two years, up to $30k total.*

*Note: App Academy costs roughly $30,000 for the majority of US students that go with the deferred tuition option, and if you do the in person program, throw another $10,000-$15,000 as you are required to live in San Francisco, CA or New York City for 3?6 months or more (and you are not allowed to work while you are looking for jobs after the initial 3 months to support yourself). At a potential cost of between $30,000-$45,000 it makes the value proposition of App Academy questionable compared to a BS in CS or a far cheaper boot camp.

kpatel737[S] 15 points 1 year ago

Lol idk about catch, but we are hoping that folks recognize the quality of our curriculum and tell their friends about it. If it helps increase interest in our paid services (online or in-person bootcamps or other classes), that would be awesome. If not, I?ll still be happy we did it because of how much I wished something like this existed back when I was learning how to code.

EinsteinTheory 2 points 12 months ago

Im kind of confuse, If you think it takes 2,000 hours (for the free version). How is it possible that your boot-camp only takes 12 weeks to complete?

kpatel737[S] 4 points 12 months ago

Because we provide a lot of external help 🙂 The instructional support and accountability mechanisms we have in place increases your velocity significantly.

kpatel737[S] 5 points 1 year ago*

Yep it?s from our paid service. We just launched the free curriculum, so we haven?t had time to place anybody from that yet unfortunately. That said, the curriculum on is the same exact one we use in our paid class.

This is further supported by their claims on that the courses are identical.

Image for postApp Academy Open claims that you will ? Get access to App Academy?s entire full-stack course for free? except for ?live video lectures,? ?live app academy TA help,? ?live pair programming,? ?graded assessments,? ?whiteboarding? ?job placement services,? ?alumni community access.? In reality, you will be missing out on more curriculum resources like HW/project explanations, and extra modules.

Yet students in the paid program get pre-recorded video explanations, and additional modules that are not given to free students. This is important because many students in the paid program have found explanations necessary to proceed through the course. So then why is App Academy claiming the programs are identical, removing content, and making it harder for free students by withholding content they?re supposed to get?

App Academy would like you to believe, as a prospective student, that the course is identical, but in reality they withhold materials that make progressing through the course easier as several students in the paid versions have mentioned. Of course, it is only fair, equitable, and reasonable to only offer certain services, mentoring, tutoring, live lectures, etc. to paid students , but it?s not right to promote your material claiming it is identical only to intentionally remove and withhold material from the free version in order to make it harder for them to proceed.

If this is what App Academy wishes to do, then they certainly shouldn?t be claiming the programs are identical which is a point they?ve made numerous times on their reddit thread, website, and slack chat. This is also a relevant point for students that are investing their own time in the curriculum, and while it is a nice gesture to share some but not all components of the course they are, from the start, making the course more difficult to proceed through. This is a relevant point because App Academy CEO Kush Patel states that reason why in course students complete the program by several hundred hours sooner is because ?[they] provide a lot of external help? The instructional support and accountability mechanisms we have in place increases your velocity significantly.? This external help is mentoring, live TA support, paired programming, and other coaching services.

Per this thread?s discussion:

Several commenters have mentioned how it is difficult to proceed past the initial modules. Once you reach Ruby/Rails, you will start to find that it becomes far more difficult to proceed through the course because of missing course materials.

In that thread, a few relevant points can be gleaned from the discussion: 1) App Academy has additional materials in a private repo that they do not share to Open students including explanations to HW and projects that are necessary for progressing through the course 2) That Open students are only provided terse, confusing, and limited solutions which impair progress.

Gyuudon 5 points 1 day ago

I was in the paid program. This was in person. We were given readings, videos and homework each night and a project to complete each day of class. We were given solutions and how they were solved for each project.

However, each project always had something at the end that only a handful of people finished. Like trying to solve N-Queens the first week of class. It was just there to be a time filler if you completed the other parts fast.

But yeah taking a quick glance at the Open AA curriculum, it doesnt to go as detailed as the curriculum that?s marked private in their Github.

StockDC2 -3 points 1 day ago

Not that I?m siding with App Academy but wouldn?t having to seek answers on Reddit and SO be beneficial in the long run? Very rarely is anything handed to you on a silver plate and if it is, it really gives you a narrow view on how a resource is used. As someone that has gone through tutorial hell, having someone hold your hand makes it very easy to think that you understand something. As soon as they let go, you realize that you don?t know anything.

salqueue 3 points 1 day ago

You bring up a fair point. If we follow that logic though, then App Academy shouldn?t offer these walkthrough videos to their paid students for the exact same reason. Since they decided that the tradeoff to offer this extra resource is worth it for their paid students, there?s no pedagogical reason to hold it back for free students.

MochaShakaKhan 5 points 1 day ago

Here?s what someone in slack said: ?I?ve had multiple software engineers look at some of these solutions and they?re far beyond the capabilities of a beginner dev. They also tend to have zero comments which makes it pretty hard to contextualize why certain decisions were made in the code. It?s not an impossible task to figure out how to progress through in spite of these shortcomings, but it does make the journey longer than it needs to be. This course would borderline absolute perfection if it had a bit more to offer students in the form of video walkthroughs. If not for every single project, at the very least for every few major projects.?

? I?m sure you would agree it wouldn?t have taken you 2 months to get through the Ruby section had we been able to watch a walkthrough every once in a while to pull all of the concepts together. I?m 1.5 months into the Ruby section myself and would move a lot quicker if I could digest an occasional deep dive. The fact that the main course does have these walkthroughs underscores how valuable of a tool they can be in any learning arsenal, especially auditory and visual learners.?

We all already google, and use stackexchange. The problem is that solutions are way beyond the scope of the material taught in the later modules (typically around ruby). It?s like being taught 2 + 2 = 4 and then being told to do 10 * 5.

So there?s inconsistencies like that and they omitted the explanations which are supposed to be part of the curriculum but only the paid students get (which they never said would be the case), and make learning the material more straightforward. At no point during the course do they say that you have to rely strongly on googling, or stackexchange, etc. which is things we implicitly already do.

While the Open course in its current form is not impossible to complete, in any way, there are gaps in material that need to be filled elsewhere. So it should be made clear that this is expected, and not some kind of ding against a students? ability to use the course materials. The A* pathfinding project, for instance, is extremely difficult to figure out without supplementary material.

This goes against the claim App Academy makes that the curriculums are identical ? but rather a two tiered system in provided educational materials and NOT only extra live coaching, mentoring, etc. Again, this is App Academy?s right to do so, but should be transparent about these differences which they have failed to do so. This is important to students who are eager, and willing to put time into their curriculum, at App Academy?s behest, that if they use the same materials they can succeed. To date, after 1 year of App Academy Open being published, with at least 3,000 people in the Open curriculum, there have been no public success stories. There have been some people that are already employed in the tech industry, or have taken a previous bootcamp who have progressed more easily in Open, but they are obvious exceptions.

Asking their staff for explanations why they?ve been removing material, Open students are given vague and ambiguous responses b/c they presumably do not want people to know that they?re giving more materials to the paid students that they?ve deemed ?necessary? to progress through the course. Of course, they can do what they want, but they claimed multiple times, and still do that their courses are identical when they?re not.

Effectively, since a year ago, no one in the free version has completed the program b/c they make it intentionally unnecessarily harder for Open students to get through once you reach later modules (for many students this has been around Ruby).

One may wonder why materials have been omitted from App Academy when they claim they are identical. The App Academy CEO does mention , ?..we are hoping that folks recognize the quality of our curriculum and tell their friends about it. If it helps increase interest in our paid services (online or in-person bootcamps or other classes)? which suggests that a possible motive of App Academy Open is to push people into their paid services instead. After all, if you make the free version harder than the paid one, that would only encourage frustrated students to pursue their paid options instead, and that, indeed, appears to be the case given that App Academy has had over a year to release the extra materials that are missing from the free one.

While I can?t say that App Academy?s intentions are inherently malicious, they are self-serving, and not entirely altruistic which does leave a bad taste that they withheld crucial information about this from prospective students. Having participated in App Academy Open for several months, and knowing that many students have run into similar issues, I am confident in saying that I am not alone in feeling a little upset in investing time in something that is inherently more difficult than the paid one without full disclosure by App Academy.

Mentioning these differences with App Academy?s staff leads to complete silence, and failure to answer a totally reasonable question. If App Academy is truly and genuinely interested in contributing to FOSS and opportunities for people all over the world, that cannot afford $18,000-$45,000 for their program, then they simply can?t withhold some information. If App Academy wanted to fix these issues, for starters, it needs to ensure that Open students have access to the same exact materials including video explanations and modules that the paid students get, and if it does not want to or will not, then it needs to communicate more clearly about these differences so that prospective students are not misled.

In a world of several completely free high quality MOOCs like FreeCodeCamp, CS50, Andrew Ng?s Stanford Artificial Intelligence course, TheOdinProject, even Wikipedia, etc. one should not feel guilty about insisting a program that claims to be entirely free stick to that claim. So until these differences are addressed, I will reluctantly drop ship from App Academy Open?s curriculum for greener pastures.


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