All about Thinkful’s Web Development Bootcamp Curriculum

by Aaron Fried

Thinkful’s curriculum teaches you the skills needed to start working as a web developer. From the first lines of HTML to your final, fullstack JavaScript project, each step builds toward that goal. At its core, the Web Development Bootcamp curriculum is designed to take you beyond completing programming exercises, to the point where you can get creative and build your own apps.

We’ve built our curriculum from the ground up to get you to that point. At each step, the Thinkful curriculum drives toward the core concepts you need to know. To teach each concept, we follow a pattern that helps students succeed: describe, drill, and demonstrate.

Describe: Explain the concept in clear, beginner-friendly terms

Empathy is at the core of our approach. Teaching beginners requires understanding the challenges of being a beginner. Details that seem simple to people who have been coding for years, such as folder structure, best practices, and style, can be daunting to a beginner. We don’t skip over any crucial knowledge.

From the outset, we state the purpose and goal of each lesson explicitly, in plain English. As a student, you need to know why you’re learning something and how it fits into the broader context of web development.

To teach well, we strip away jargon and assumptions, and focus on putting information together step-by-step — just like a computer program. In the curriculum, you’ll see a clear method: state the purpose of learning a concept, explain the concept, and then show how the concept works using live code samples.

Drill: Practice concepts with challenging code exercises

At each stage of the curriculum, you’ll have an opportunity to practice. Every concept discussed has working code running, right there in the app, for you to experiment with and observe. That way, you can get a feel for how each component of a program works. We encourage you to test each part of the lesson as you read it.

To practice, you’ll be asked to accomplish different tasks with code, similar to problem sets in a college computer science program. For example, early in the course, you’ll tinker with live HTML and CSS samples to practice positioning elements on a webpage. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be asked to build a webpage that uses positioning to build a navigation bar like the one at the top of this page.

Each of these drills will teach you a discrete skill that you need to build a web page, build a dynamic app, or program a server. When you grasp all of these skills, you’ll be able to demonstrate your mastery of them with a project.

Demonstrate: Build a creative capstone project for your portfolio

Web developers build real, working apps. To become one, that’s what you need to do. By working your way up with smaller projects and drills, you’ll be able to start conceiving and creating new apps at each stage of the curriculum.

Capstone projects represent your mastery of a broad topic. When you build your API hack, you’ll be showing your basic frontend development chops. Later in the course, you’ll get to showcase what you’ve built in, backend development, advanced frontend development, and full-stack development. You work on these closely with your mentor to make sure that you meet all of the specifications laid out in the curriculum.

It also teaches you real-world developer skills outside of coding. Dev-ops, the process of getting your apps up and running in different environments, is a key piece of working in the industry. You can build a great app but you need to deploy it correctly, too. Additionally, you learn project management skills that will allow you to define a minimum viable product, create it by reaching attainable milestones, then iterate on it to make the project better and better.

In short, projects let you demonstrate to your future employer that you’re prepared to work as a web developer.

Common Misconceptions

We sometimes hear that our curriculum is just a collection of free resources curated from around the internet — that’s not true. Back when Thinkful first began (before our Bootcamp started), we wanted to use the best available learning resources from all over the internet. After listening closely to our students, it was clear that they wanted learning materials highly tailored to their specific needs, so that’s what we set out to do.

Years later, we’ve grown into a full-fledged Bootcamp, we’re confident that we can provide the best available instruction on any topic in our curriculum. Our in-house curriculum team builds every section of the curriculum, with a close eye on ways to make it better.

Constant Improvement

One of the benefits of an live, online curriculum app is that we can change it on the fly. No need to wait for the next print edition of a textbook.

On each page of the curriculum, we ask students to rate the level of instruction and provide feedback. On top of that, we’re always listening to mentors, program managers, and reviews to find out where we can add more value to the learning experience. As we iterate on the curriculum, it gets stronger with each pass.

Although we're proud that our curriculum has been rated #1 in America for Course Report's survey of the best coding bootcamps, we take that as another starting point. With our data-driven approach, we’ll keep improving our curriculum and landing more students in their first web developer jobs.