NU data bootcamp adds locations, courses


By Glenn Billman, news staff

Northeastern’s Level Analytics Bootcamp celebrated its anniversary Tuesday. What started in October 2015 as a two-month intensive course with a dozen postgraduate students has expanded to multiple classes on data visualization and computer programming at campuses across the country and the world.

Level was founded by Northeastern’s New Ventures, a team in the university’s Global Network office. The program now offers three courses — Level Core, Level Set and Amazon Web Services: Foundations of Cloud Computing — at campuses in Boston, Silicon Valley, Charlotte and Seattle, with a new location opening this winter in Toronto. A fourth course, the Internet of Things, will begin in Silicon Valley on Feb. 13.

“We see these things as being pieces of a puzzle that will all ultimately fit together,” said Level Founding Director Nick Ducoff. “It’s really about trying to create pathways for students that are personalized, and to be able to meet them where they are and take them from whatever level they are to the next level.”

In addition to the course offerings, students in Level are paired up with a company that they work with to create a Capstone project. At the end of the program, Level participants receive a certificate and present their projects to their employers.  

“Every company is accumulating massive amounts of data,” said David MacEachern, one of Level’s original students. “There’s a need for more people that are knowledgeable for taking it in, cleaning it, trying to figure out how to handle the data, what it means and how to efficiently process it.”

Level is the solution for people who want to learn data skills to advance their careers, but don’t have years to return to college or tens of thousands of dollars for tuition, MacEachern said.

“I see that rise coming up where people are going to get out of school, maybe go to work for a few years, figure out they might not be in love with what they do,” he said. “And [they] don’t want to go back to school for something else or to get a master’s, but maybe just to pick up a couple new skills in a short period of time and get back out to making money again and working again pretty quickly. And for the right, motivated people, [Level] can be very useful.”

MacEachern currently works as a full-time data analyst for Ellevation Education, a Boston-based company that develops tools for educators with English language learning students. He was partnered with the company during his Level Core class.

“Every time I hear a student [talk] about what job they get, that’s all I care about,” Ducoff said. “If they got a promotion, if they got a new job, for me it’s all about the outcomes.”

Juliana Lebowitz, Level’s head of marketing, credits the growing market for technology bootcamps, Level’s hands-on education model and Northeastern’s support with branding and networking for the company’s rapid expansion.

“Accredited college courses have to jump through a lot of hoops to change their curriculum and update it, so they can’t respond as quickly to industry trends,” she said. “Level can respond very quickly to new things in the market, so I think there’s always going to be new technologies coming up that we can build curriculums for much faster than in the traditional university context.”

University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and QS Stars placed Level on the shortlist for its joint 2016 Reimagine Education Award under the Hybrid Learning category. Ducoff was named an education finalist for BostInno’s 50 on Fire award, which celebrates field leaders and innovators across industries.

“I don’t care about that,” Ducoff said of being considered for the award. “It’s about the students; it’s about the team. The fact that we’re being rewarded by others is a nice kind of validation of the hard work and our commitment to reimagining education.”

Photo courtesy of Nick Ducoff