TechMoms is a blended learning platform that empowers mothers who want to return to the workforce by helping them gain skills that allow them to be competitive in our digital knowledge economy: coding, front-end web development, UX design, marketing & branding. On top of that, TechMoms is purposefully designed for moms living in smaller cities or rural areas. This is important because while design and coding bootcamps are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in large cities such as San Francisco and New York, they are inaccessible for those living in other areas. Given the large divide between urban and rural communities in terms of income and access to information and opportunities, we thought it especially important to design for this audience. Another key feature of TechMoms is that it prepares students for freelance work, which could be particularly attractive for women who wish to have flexible schedules that allow them to spend more time with their families.
Because TechMoms’ audience lives in smaller cities (such as Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and Nashville) as well as rural areas, the platform brings industry experts to them through remote courses. We know that research has already demonstrated the low completion rates of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) – according to Inside Higher Ed, only 19.2% of the 50,000 people surveyed completed the MOOCs they took. Although more studies are needed to measure the effectiveness and level of engagement of students in MOOCs, it can be assumed that online-only courses result in lower levels of attention and completion as compared to traditional in-person courses. Therefore, TechMoms will utilize a variety of learning styles and strategies to optimize the remote learning experience:
- Short, sustained engagement: Students will attend short MOOC-like courses on their own time for approximately 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week
- Personal interaction: Students will attend one remote course with their instructor and classmates once per week, for 1.5 hours. This remote course will take place via a platform that allows students and the instructor to view each other. The instructor will be able to utilize media such as presentations, videos, interactive whiteboards, etc.
- Guided mentorship: Students will attend one-on-one remote meetings with their mentors every 2 weeks. These sessions offer a chance for students to gain individualized advice on their strengths and weaknesses, job search tips, and so on.
- Community building: Students will also attend a biweekly guided meetup with other moms within geographic proximity. During these meetings, the instructor will be on standby if the students have any questions, but these sessions are mostly an opportunity for the mothers to build a community of support as they work on individual projects.
- Networking: Students have the option of attending a professional development conference after the program, though it is also offered three times a year. These conferences are located in cities like SF, NY, Boston, & Chicago and are a chance to network with renowned and innovative companies, as well as other moms making a splash in the tech world.
Together, these strategies will hold students socially accountable and thus motivate them to keep persisting through the program. Additionally, TechMoms will employ various social media campaigns to encourage moms to share their progress with friends and family, while indirectly increasing TechMom’s brand presence and thereby recruiting more students.
The instructors are industry experts in the tech and design world. They might work at companies like Facebook and Linkedin. While the instructors are paid generously for their work, they are also motivated to work for TechMoms in order to attract freelance talent for their companies, to contribute to the mission of increasing the numbers of women in tech industries, and as a service to create greater access to opportunities in smaller cities and rural communities. Programs aimed at recruiting parents to re-enter the workforce in finance already show that those from unconventional backgrounds are still desired as long as they demonstrate valuable skills. As Peg Sullivan, global head of talent management at Morgan Stanley explained: “We are always looking for great talent, top talent wherever we can find it.”
The User Journey Map gives an overview of the content and structure for a UX design course. Most courses are 4 months long and are part-time. The last three weeks in the program are dedicated to internship work with an industry partner. The User Journey includes visuals for the type of work students are able to produce as a result of the training they receive each month. Post-graduation, students continue to have access to resources such as job support, mentorship, and the ability to attend additional workshops at a discounted rate. Because the tech world is constantly changing, TechMoms hopes to instill a culture of lifelong learning and the continual gaining of skills and knowledge.
Product + Platform: TechMoms is a learning platform where students can learn and interact with industry experts, build a community with fellow students, and develop a network for jobs and opportunities. It’s also a platform for industry experts to teach courses and recruit talent for their companies. The core products are blended learning courses that lead to expanded services for users who continue long-term.
Research: Our multimedia platform maximizes the potential of online videos as content-delivery by providing an interactive mix of whiteboard, file sharing, and messaging to enhance the effectiveness of online video education, as outlined in the Life Sciences Education journal here. We also add the mentorship and in-person community components in response to research from the Marketing Education Review indicating that students view traditional classes as more effective due to factors such as communication.
The education research firm Entangled Solutions identified trends in continuing education for adults that we have adapted in our design:
- Career services: we will use instructors from industry-run, employer-provided capstone projects and offer internships as an integral component of programs to emulate the career placement practices used by coding bootcamps, which boast high job placement rates and starting salaries for graduates
- On-demand learning: our courses are flexible and immediately accessible and the platform is centered on an online module followed by an immersive, in-person series of community events
- Competency-based model: students advance by mastering concepts, not on time-based measure such as credit hours. This allows us to personalize learning for students and create certificate programs that align with what employers need. This model is also easier to measure and iteratively improve than traditional time-based programs.