Removing Hours from Launch School

“How long does it take to finish the program?”

This is one of the first questions we get at Launch School. It’s a natural question to ask whenever one is about to begin any learning endeavor. Duration, over all else, is typically the primary constraint driving all major learning decisions. For example, an undergraduate education takes 4 years, a boot camp 3 months, a Masters degree 2–3 years, etc. We must know the duration before we can adequately evaluate the program, including tuition, opportunity cost, alternatives, etc.

In a Mastery-based Learning environment, however, mastery is fixed and duration is variable. Though people understand this idea at a philosophical level, we still receive numerous questions along the lines of “I get it, you fix mastery. But, how long will it really take?” After a while, we succumbed to this line of questioning and put up some hours to give a bit of guidance around an estimated duration for the courses.

The problem is that despite our best intentions, the estimated hours are completely wrong.

There are several reasons for this. First, students at Launch School are a diverse bunch ranging from 17 years old to over 67 — that’s from high school students to retirees. Most are in the middle of that range and are working professionals who come from a variety of industries and programming backgrounds. Second, some people click with programming concepts faster than others. Some are coming straight out of graduate school whose study habits are fresh, while others haven’t touched a textbook in decades. Students have different experiences with the assignments and homework. Last, people have different schedules, which affects the duration. Some are working on Launch School full-time, while others are putting in 12–15 hours/week while holding down a full-time job.

Starting today, we’re going to remove the estimated hours from the website and give a generic guidance that Launch School will take anywhere from 6 months at the fastest to 18+ months. Most people who ask the question are in the earliest stages of the program. Unfortunately, that’s when we know the least about them and their background, so we can’t narrow the estimate beyond that range.

If you’re interested in Launch School, but the 6- to 18-month range seems too broad, I invite you to dig deeper into the Launch School experience. The Launch School Podcast contains stories from current students that will help answer your questions, and help you get a better feel for how long it may take.

Chris Lee is an instructor at Launch School, an online school for developers. He enjoys programming, teaching and talking about Mastery Based Learning.

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