Illinois Alumni Reenvision Online Education

Wanting to bring a fresh approach to online instruction in coding, University of Illinois alumni Dave Paola (BS CS ’10) and Roshan Choxi (BS ECE ’10) founded Bloc, a company that provides a 12-week program to teach the fundamentals of web design and development. What sets this apart from other online programs is its apprenticeship format.

Dave Paola (back) and Roshan Choxi founded Bloc to bring a new approach to teaching coding to the public.
Dave Paola (back) and Roshan Choxi founded Bloc to bring a new approach to teaching coding to the public.

For the 12-week program, students select a mentor, who works with them individually throughout the program to help insure their successful completion. During the program, students learn Ruby on Rails, CSS, and Javascript. They also create a wiki, a bookmarking service, and an analytics service.

The program leads to a final capstone project that each student comes up with on his or her own and then builds with feedback from their mentor. This is a way for the students to bring together everything they have learned to create something that reflects their own interests and goals.

The courses are designed with a time commitment of approximately 25 hours per week from the students. This time includes regular online chats with their mentors. The mentors work in multiple time zones, and several can speak languages other than English. The goal is to meet students’ needs as fully as possible.

Bloc recently raised $2 million in seed money. They plan to use the funds raised to continue to improve the online courses for their students.

The future is looking bright for Paola, Choxi, and Bloc.

You can read an interview with Paola and Choxi that appeared on SFGate.

Paola and Choxi are not the only Illinois alumni at Bloc. Emelyn Baker (BA Asian Language and Culture ’13, BFA Graphic Design ’13), Juline Lamusga (BS Advertising ’13), and Rob Smolinski (BS CS ’10, MS CS ’13) are part of their team at the company. Paola said that the company bleeds orange and blue, and they feel great love and gratitude towards the University of Illinois.