Wikipedia defines boot camps as "Intensive programs of skill development. They first appeared in 2011."
In a Boot Camp, hands-on training for a particular skill is given. It is different than a typical classroom where there are only lectures covering the theory part. Though a boot camp theory is covered too, the main stress is on "learning-by-doing ". By interacting with the experts, and actually doing it yourself more learning than just hearing about it from a lecture or video, can be achieved. This is the main principle boot camps are based on.
You can think of boot camps as the practical sessions we have in schools and colleges.
In a Boot Camp usually, there are few other learners who are trying to learn a particular skill. The boot camp can be for software development, design, data science, or any other skill.
The other value boot camps bring is the "relevancy" of the topics that are covered. They are generally very job-focused hence the chances of getting a job after going through a boot camp are higher than just learning in college or on your own. The industry linkages are provided by some boot camps that help in custom learning for the candidates.
Boot camps are usually short in duration ranging from a few weeks to a few months. The reason for this is that objective of boot camps is to provide a starting point for an absolute beginner and then let the learners learn on their own. The immersive and intense nature of boot camps lends them high learning outcomes.
There has been criticism of the boot camps that since they don't require any background eligibility criteria and are mostly open to all they don't lead to accurate understanding and learning. The short duration of the boot camps is also questioned stating how can an important skill be taught in such a small duration.
The response to the above criticism lies in the fact that if one learns from an expert at doing something rather than from a person who doesn't have "practical" knowledge of the subject then of course it will take a lot of time. The opportunity to interact with an expert at a skill can really pace up the learning and remove most doubts beginners have. Of course, a boot camp can't make you an expert at a skill, and the boot camps claim that should be avoided, but yes boot camps can help you "get started" in a particular skill. They are one of the best tools to get started on any skill.
So should you attend a boot camp or not?
It depends on your objectives and learning style. If you are just learning something as a hobby then you should try learning from free resources like videos on youtube, Coursera, etc. There are interactive applications like w3schools that you can try in case you are learning coding or technical skills.
But If you are learning to get a job or are not comfortable learning from free resources, then it makes sense to go to a boot camp. As learning from an expert will give you validation if you are on the right track and you will have the confidence to move forward. Another benefit can be access to the placement partners associated with the boot camp who can be potential employers for you. More so you will be a part of a community of people who are learning the same thing as you and might help you in peer-to-peer learning.
Important note: please check the credentials of the people running the Bootcamp before you join one. There are lots of low-value boot camps running that don't provide any serious learning and are just after the money. They claim the high salaries of their alumni, advertise 100% placement guarantees, and try to entice students. Please enquire thoroughly before you make any payment.
So in conclusion, we will say that boot camps are a good way to get started in learning any skill and should be taken if they are affordable. There have been many stories where people after doing boot camps have received good job offers and have changed their lives. Why should you not use the opportunity to make your life better? That is the question you have to answer.
Learn21 conducts an online Boot Camp for web development. If interested you can check the details here.