PIE: How did you get involved with the international education sector?
Jason Moss: I’ve been working in education for over 20 years, and I joined Kaplan in 2007. I was head of strategy for Kaplan Test Prep and we were talking about adjacent markets and new ways to grow beyond the core business. The conversation was not focused specifically on data science, it was focused on career acceleration, and that idea evolved into a coding bootcamp which we launched at the end of 2013. We called it Metis, from the Greek Titan associated with counsel and wisdom.
Then in 2014, Metis expanded to data science and, ultimately, exclusively focused on data science.
“Scepticism is natural, with any kind of new educational model it’s going to be there”
I got into this space not because I have a background in data science specifically but because I have a background in education and building businesses that are focused on outcomes.
The PIE: What are the goals of the business?
JM: We accelerate data science learning for individuals, companies and institutions through corporate training and accredited immersive bootcamps.
The first part – corporate training – is really focused on the B2B side. You know companies worldwide can’t hire enough data scientists or enough analysts, and given how much data they are amassing they have got to figure out ways to upskill their entire workforce. So we help them to do that; we come onsite and we work with companies all around the world.
On the B2C side, we run the only accredited, immersive data science bootcamp, which is aimed at helping people to pivot or accelerate their career into the data science and data analytics field. And while that has largely been US based with four campuses in the US, we’re starting to expand internationally.
“10% of our enrollments are now international students”
The PIE: Why are you looking to go international?
JM: One reason is that we receive a lot of applications from international students. About 10% of our enrollments are now international students because we can offer them student visas, which is quite unique to Metis as a bootcamp. Our recent collaboration with the Kaplan Learning Institute to expand our bootcamp to Singapore is one example of how we’re responding to this growing global demand.
So, both sides of the business are expanding beyond a US focus to an international one.
The PIE: There was a partnership formed recently with Dublin Business School. Can you tell me more about that?
JM: Dublin Business School is the first [international] partnership and it’s a really exciting one for us because everybody is trying to get their heads around how to have better-trained people in AI and data science.
A lot of people say “I’m going to go to Metis” as opposed to going to get a master’s or something like that, but the reality is our goal here is not to compete with universities, our goal is to figure out how to best collaborate with universities.
The Dublin Business School opportunity was particularly exciting because you have a very prestigious institute in Dublin that is wrestling with the fact they’ve got this successful analytics program but they periodically will struggle to find certain instructors that can teach the machine learning curriculum that they have.
We were able to collaborate with them in terms of leveraging our data science expertise, our instructors and our ability to create a really effective curriculum to develop a course that we could teach for them live online.
It met their goal of how to deliver effective instruction in machine learning as part of a larger master’s program and it met our goal of and how best to collaborate with universities and to expand our footprint outside of the US.
The course is currently going on and it’s proving to be a win-win situation.
The PIE: How is that class delivered?
JM: That class is delivered online. We use Zoom conferencing, so our instructor has a dedicated room here in the US and you’ve got all the students who are sitting in a classroom within the Dublin Business School. And Zoom combined with a well-trained teacher makes it very easy to have an engaging, interactive discussion.
“Our goal is not to compete with universities, our goal is to figure out how to best collaborate with universities”
You can chat with students informally, you can screen share, you can teach the lecture and then a lab. We also have our sort of counterpart within the business school faculty who’s also assisting on the ground.
So you’ve got this blended learning model that is quite effective and interactive, and the truth is that it is something that we knew. This is the benefit of coming from a Kaplan lineage – Kaplan has been doing this for a long time. And as they’ve shifted their own business model to do more live online learning they’ve continued to see how effective that is as a learning format.
We knew that we could borrow from those learnings and adapt them to data science. And you know there are several things that make a difference you’re dealing with code and things like that. But overall it’s a very powerful and interactive learning environment.
The PIE: Moving on to Singapore, where the latest Metis Data Science Bootcamp has been launched. I understand that it is a much larger project?
JM: Yes, and what is exciting about Singapore – and it is not alone in this respect – is how the government has made investments in the training of AI to its citizens a top priority. They put over S$100m towards training citizens in data science.
This is a really a response to the Singapore government wanting us to potentially expand to Singapore.
So, we are taking the successful bootcamp model that we’ve done here in the US for the past five years and now extending it there. We’re working with the Kaplan Learning Institute on the ground to run it and the Singapore government subsidises the tuition for those students who are accepted and enrolled.
When you think about it, in the US tuition is $17,000. You look at what a two-year-long master’s program might cost you – this is a fraction. So many students choose to pursue this kind of education, both because it is cost effective and more efficient in service. They believe this to be a faster path to get the type of employment that they’re seeking.
The PIE: How many students around the world have been taught through these courses?
JM: We don’t publicly share how many students are in our specific courses but if you think about a typical bootcamp, it could be 15 to 30 students and we do them quarterly in four cities within the US. And then in addition to that, we also have students who are with us for part-time preparatory courses as well as different corporate training courses.
The PIE: Do you ever get push-back from people in the sector, claiming that the bootcamp can never prepare students for their future career as well as a university program?
JM: Yes, there is certainly that kind of criticism from people who have not had any first-hand exposure to the program. But you know, number one we stand by the proof of what we do, which is quarter after quarter, year after year helping students get employed. We are the only accredited data science program and being accredited means that in a space that is lacking any kind of regulatory oversight we have made a voluntary decision to be regulated.
“Lots of people come to Metis already having a master’s or PhD”
We have an outside accreditor that we work with, we have to help people get employed or there is a lot of risk if we don’t. The other side of it, you know there’s no guarantee with higher education either.
In fact, lots of people come to Metis already having a master’s or PhD. There are a lot of ways to build skills, but then you know there is how to build a network, how you position yourself or how you build a portfolio to help get a job.
Scepticism is natural, but I think that with any kind of new educational model it’s going to be there – the proof comes in the outcome we deliver.
The PIE: Where does the bulk of students who wish to study data science come from, or is it global?
JM: I think that is truly global, I can think of many students who are from China, Australia, South America and all throughout Europe, India and Canada.
I would say right now the kind of the current trend we have with the bootcamp in Singapore is a healthy one. Where I see our future growth coming from is on the corporate side.