SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Coding bootcamps are a popular way to learn the difficult skill of computer coding, but some students argued one particular bootcamp did not live up to its promises.
On Origin Code Academy’s website, it says you can “start your new career as a web developer in three months” and the camp has proven results.
Former student Sean Calma disagreed.
“I was assured so many times there would be the best instructors and they would teach me everything I need to know,” Calma said, adding the promise was not fulfilled.
“When you go and ask for help, they would often turn you away and say 'Google it',“ Calma said. “I could have stayed at home and Googled it or hired a private tutor.” He paid close to $13,000 for the bootcamp, which lasts several weeks.
Another student, Lane, who declined to use his last name, said he heard “Google it” so many times from instructors that he started to twitch. “I was tired of it being the stock answer,” Lane said.
He paid $12,500 for the bootcamp and said he asked numerous questions before signing up. “I'm going to get one-on-one instruction?” he asked the owner.
Lane said he was told yes and that they "will teach [me] everything [I] need to know.” But like Calma, he said that did not happen.
“One time, [the instructor] didn't even know what he was looking at on my computer screen. A second time, he was like, I don’t know what that is. Third time, he asked to go ask another instructor,” Lane said.
Both Lane and Sean asked for refunds. They said they were denied. Team 10 spoke to Jeff Winkler, the co-founder and CEO of Origin Code Academy.
“Learn how to code is hard, so it's called a bootcamp for a reason,” Winkler said.
When asked about the teaching process, Winkler said being able to Google is an important part of the process and was “super intentional.”
“Googling is something that senior engineers across the world do every 15 minutes basically,” Winkler said. Winkler said Calma did not consistently attend classes, making it difficult for his success.
Winkler shared Calma's contract which showed he needed to request a full refund within the first week of class. Calma, however, argued five days was not enough time to assess whether or not he would get the difficult material.
Calma also said he worked from home because he needed to free himself "from the distraction of the classroom" and that instructors were not helpful with what he needed to learn.
Team 10 discovered a citation by the Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) issued May 16 against Origin Code Academy.
It said the bootcamp was unapproved and offering programs it was not supposed to. The notice ordered it to stop “recruiting or enrolling students, and cease all instructional services.”
Origin Code Academy was also fined $100,000. When Team 10 visited the school, there were classes in session. Winkler said he had not seen the citation printed out before Team 10 showed him. According to him, it was mailed to Origin Code Academy’s old address.
In regards to the fine, Winkler said the large amount would “basically take all code schools out of business.” According to Winkler, he said the BPPE was "going around trying to find the bad actors" and schools like Origin Code Academy were going through this fine process.
He was adamant that his bootcamp was not a bad actor. When asked if he was supposed to shut the school down, Winkler said “that is a great question for the BPPE.”
“From our standpoint, we just continually work with them,” Winkler said.
A BPPE spokesperson told Team 10 that Winkler was made aware of the citation a day after it was issued. In an email, the spokesperson wrote the bootcamp "is operating illegally." He also wrote the school must "provide refunds to students, submit a school closure plan to BPPE, and pay the fine or appeal the decision by June 15.”
After Team 10's on-camera interview, Winkler said he finally received the paperwork to file an appeal, which he plans to do by the deadline.
Regarding Calma and Lane, Winkler said he would be willing to talk to them again and would be willing to discuss refunds without lawyers involved.
Winkler pointed out that there are dozens of satisfied graduates of Origin Code Academy, many now with jobs. He pointed to a recent graduate who got a highly-coveted job at Facebook.
Calma is now enrolled in San Diego City College programming courses. Regarding his negative experience with bootcamps, he urged people to “be very cautious, do your research, [and] make sure there is instruction.”
To search citations issued by the BPPE, consumers can check its website.