The Ultimate Guide to VR and AR Courses: Comparing MOOCs, Bootcamps, and Universities
Last Updated: July 16 2019
When choosing a VR or AR development course, how do you decide between online courses, bootcamps, or university?
Here, we break down the pros and cons of MOOCs, bootcamps, and traditional university VR and AR courses to help you find the most effective option.
One effective way to choose between learning options is to determine how they balance between teaching surface-level foundations and deep-level specifics.
Will this course be a hoop to jump through or a stepping-stone to your goals?
Will this course give me the knowledge I need to start a career in the VR/AR industry?
Earning a university or college degree, whether computer science or a different focus, demonstrates that you have a deep understanding of technical fundamentals. You have an advantage when it comes to more senior level roles.
Bootcamps and MOOCs help generalists develop skills in a specialized subject. So whether you are a generalist in your field through post-secondary education or practical hands-on experience, you’ll develop a specialization through bootcamps and MOOCs.
But how do you find a way to combine a general foundational approach and a specialized approach? We’ll answer this question; but first, here are the pros and cons of MOOCs, bootcamps, and traditional university and college courses for virtual and augmented reality.
VR and AR Development MOOCs
MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses like those offered through Coursera or Udacity.
Classes aren’t limited to where you live in the world, and the cost of courses is minimal compared to bootcamps or traditional university courses.
Online courses are taught mainly through recorded videos, so progress is self-paced and flexible with your own schedule. This makes MOOCs a great option when balancing between work and life. (We researched and reviewed online virtual and augmented reality courses in this article here.)
There are drawbacks though.
Because online courses are taught through recorded videos, there’s a risk the content is out-of-date. Video tutorials mean a one-way learning experience; there’s no opportunity for instructor support or course personalization.
This usually results in course content being simplified or generalized rather than in-depth — it’s easier to keep basic content up-to-date.
For these reasons, MOOCs are best used to supplement rather than replace other learning methods. You can gain a broad understanding of concepts without going in-depth, and expand your current understandings of development.
Consider how you learn best — are you motivated to finish the course material and troubleshoot issues on your own? How will you learn without feedback on projects? Do you absorb information from video tutorials better than from a live instructor?
VR and AR Coding Bootcamps
Bootcamps are intensive courses that take place in physical locations designed to specialize in a specific skill. Where MOOCs offer breadth, bootcamps provide specificity. We’ve catalogued virtual and augmented reality bootcamps in this article here.
While bootcamps can be costly, they are faster and cheaper than university. They are designed to completely immerse you in a topic to learn fast, learn by doing, and immediately be able to apply these new skills in a specific way.
You’ll learn up-to-date skills and industry best practices. The immersive and intense experience makes it a great place to bond and network with your peers.
But, bootcamps require full time hours to handle the workload. You have to learn fast. If you can’t keep up, you’ll have to learn on your own at the same time.
If you can handle the pressure of this intense full time learning environment, bootcamps can be a great option. You’ll learn by doing, diving into the code, and fully understand a specific topic.
VR/AR University and College Courses
The traditional college learning experience is a polar opposite to the condensed learning in a bootcamp. In universities and colleges, your degree will take four years at minimum, but results in both breadth and depth of understanding.
You’ll have well-rounded knowledge in virtual and augmented reality development as well as other topics.
There may be VR/AR development courses available, but these are in addition to a variety of other classes you must complete for your degree — your education is likely geared towards understanding theory and foundational concepts rather than on the specifics of VR/AR development.
It’s a slower process, but you’ll earn a broader and deeper understanding (We compiled a list of universities that offer VR and AR courses in this article here.)
There are downsides to considering a University degree. Universities and colleges require a significant time and financial investment. Compared to a two to three month bootcamp, university and college degrees can take up to four years to complete.
A potential downside, the curriculum at colleges and universities often lags behind the quickly changing industry best practices and standards.
University and college is the best option if you’re looking to finish with a well-rounded understanding of software development. But, employers care more about your skill than where you learned your skill, so a degree isn’t everything.
What are your goals in learning VR/AR development?
Why do you want to learn virtual or augmented reality development? What do you need to know? Whether you already have general knowledge or practical skills, choosing between MOOCs, bootcamps, or traditional college courses comes down to your goals in learning VR and AR development.
I have a specific project in mind.
You know what you want to build, now it’s just figuring out how to get there. You’ll need balance of generalized development knowledge and specialized skills to build your application. If you understand the fundamentals of C# or Unity, then you can specialize in VR or AR development.
A bootcamp or MOOC would be a good option in this case, but in both cases the curriculum is condensed and generalized; you’ll invest time on a set of pre-built projects.
As an alternative, at Circuit Stream our curriculum covers the fundamentals of C#, Unity and VR/AR development while devoting time to build towards your own personal project.
I’m building a project for work.
You have a technical background and an idea of an application for work, but you’re not sure how viable it is nor how to make it happen. You need a solution that will help you build and test your own prototype.
A MOOC would give you the basics, but not support working on your own application.
A bootcamp has the ideal time frame, but is probably not focused exclusively on VR/AR development, the skills you need right now.
Our instructors are experts from the VR/AR industry who are well-equipped to determine your project’s viability, and how to make it even better.
After 10 weeks, you’ll have a working prototype so you can demonstrate your application to your team. Plus, you’ll have the skill set needed to maintain the application after launch.
Working with Circuit Stream is an investment in both your expertise and the continued success of your work’s application.
I need to upgrade my skills to get a job.
MOOCs and bootcamps are great options to supplement your existing development expertise. Again, especially with MOOCs you’ll be building a set of pre-built projects defined in their curriculum, not working on your own portfolio.
With Circuit Stream, you will develop the knowledge to build industry standard VR/AR applications and work on your own portfolio. You’ll finish with a working prototype to demonstrate your skills to employers.
I’m interested in learning more about the technology.
If VR/AR development is a hobby or an interest for a potential side hustle, a MOOC is the best option. The low barriers to entry, schedule flexibility, and generalized standardized surface-level curriculum will give you a taste of VR/AR development without having to commit to a full meal.
However, many students feel overwhelmed by the steep learning curve and lack of student support in online courses.
A good alternative is attending one of Circuit Stream’s Intro to VR or AR online classes. These are held live online so you can interact with our instructor while also being introduced to VR/AR development foundations.
Whatever your goal is in learning VR and AR development, there are options to help you achieve it. If you’re dedicated to learning on your own, we have an in-depth guide to VR/AR programming that includes advice from our instructors and a long list of resources.
Reaching your goals in VR/AR Development
There are many paths to strengthening your expertise in VR/AR development. MOOCs, bootcamps, and traditional university and college courses are tried-and-true options.
Circuit Stream has taken the best aspects of these three options and incorporated them into our 10 week course. The time and money investment is less than a university degree, but you still get a hybrid of foundations and specific skills for VR and AR development.
We’ve kept the flexibility of an online course while preserving the student support that is integral to a well-rounded education.
Whether your goal is to develop your own project, determine the viability of a work application, or upgrade your skill set, Circuit Stream’s 10 week live online VR/AR development with Unity course is a valuable option to consider.
Download our syllabus to see what you’ll learn with Circuit Stream, from cross-platform development to C# coding to development of custom shaders.