As the web and mobile app development industries continue to rise in popularity and revenue, a growing population of designers and programmers are searching for affordable education options. Over 12,000 students have begun learning with Treehouse, an online platform that features a wide variety of video lessons taught by experts in each topic area.
“Requests from our students tend to lead our decisions,” said Nick Pettit, Treehouse’s head of content creation. “In addition, we also consider what’s going to be popular and important in the near future so that we can anticipate the needs of our customers.”
Treehouse was officially launched in November 2011. Since the founding, the company has accrued over 12,000 paying customers. Team member Michaela Ehimikia pointed out, “That’s not just 12,000 people signed up to an email list for free classes they don’t get much out of. That’s 12,000 students paying at least $25/month and regularly investing time in their education.”
“We have one customer who used our product and is now making between $3,000 and $4,000 per month making iPhone apps,” said Eric Siu, Treehouse’s lead for growing the company’s user base. “He started with no experience, spent a few months on Treehouse, and voila.”
The company sees itself as an alternative to expensive higher learning options. As tuition costs skyrocket and people grow increasingly attracted to educational platforms that teach specific skills, Treehouse looks like an attractive option to aspiring coders. Treehouse’s competitors include Code School, Codecademy, Code Avengers and most recently, Khan Academy after it revamped its computer science section.
Nick Pettit believes Treehouse offers a unique kind of experience that revolves around community.
“Our thriving community on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere around the web is filled with direct interaction from our community managers, product engineers, the teaching team and even Ryan Carson, our founder,” he said. “We regularly answer questions from students and they also get the opportunity to interact with one another.” The company is in the process of developing an official Treehouse forum to provide additional options for students to interact with each other.
The company’s videos are also high-gloss, impressive productions that are easy to listen to and follow. Each one seems to cater to what Pettit describes as the company’s “cinematic sensibilities.” Each video is combined with the platform’s quizzes and code challenges, giving Treehouse its unique social and personable flavor.
The Treehouse learning experience features a “gamified” user interface that features badges and achievements. But Eric Siu says that those features aren’t just in place to make the learning experience engaging and fun, but rather a precursor to what the company has planned for its paying customers.
“Eventually we’d like to see recruiters look through a Treehouse member’s profile and see what badges they have before making a hiring decision.” One other new player in the online higher ed movement is World Education University, which is also planning a kind of digital snapshot for each of its students, perhaps indicating a new trend for future social media users seeking employment.
Treehouse’s plans for expansion include international growth and additional lessons like coding for the Android platform. Eventually, the company wants to incorporate some of its content into school curriculum. But will it be able to simultaneously maintain its business model as an affordable alternative to higher ed? Eric Siu views Treehouse and other platforms that challenge the current higher ed model as necessary in a changing economy. “There’s room for everyone to create an affordable, effective solution,” he said.
Are you part of Treehouse’s community of learners? Tell us about your experience learning with them in the comments below.