Last weekend I did a major revamp of Qvault’s payment strategy, after toying with the first version since I launched in the summer of 2020, as it turns out, the microtransaction (gem) strategy didn’t work out to the benefit of my students, nor to the growth of Qvault. As a result, I’ve flipped my funding strategy on its head and decided to make all of Qvault’s content free to audit. Let’s take a look at exactly what that means.
What is Qvault?
If you don’t know already, Qvault is a code-in-the-browser computer science program. A few of the goals I had when I started building it out were:
- Linear program – clear starting and ending points.
- Focus on computer science. Too many boot camps and online courses skip CS fundamentals.
- Hands-on. We learn by writing and executing code, videos have their place but the majority of coding education should be interactive.
All of these were problems for my wife when I told her, “you don’t need to go back to school, you can learn online!”. She had problems just knowing where to start with popular course marketplaces and certainly couldn’t put together her own curriculum.
Free computer science courses
Qvault now works on a subscription model with a very permissive free tier. With the free plan, you can work through entire courses, you just aren’t able to verify your answers without supporting the project. In other words, you can read all the content and execute the code in a sandbox, you’ll just have to decide for yourself when you feel like you’ve mastered a concept.
I like this plan for now for several reasons. Before, since I was charging for courses themselves, my free users would just get a 7-question demo for free, which is practically useless if you can’t afford to spend any money. Now I feel like the free tier is quite a bit more useful, and I hope my free users will still support the project by following Qvault on social, sharing my blog posts, and telling others about the platform.
That said, I think for those that can spare a few bucks a month, the pro plan will be well worth it. Getting instant verification on answers will save students a ton of time, and the ability to take the quizzes will reinforce concepts learned. At this point, certifications are also only available to pro students simply because they’re the only ones that can prove completion, so if you need proof-of-completion for employment purposes you’ll want to seriously consider upgrading.
For just a cup of coffee…
If you supported every open-source project and indie hacker product on the basis of it only costing “the price of your daily coffee” you’d run out of money pretty quickly. Personally, I make my own coffee for $0.20. That said, one of the biggest goals of Qvault is to provide the user experience, certifications, and interactivity that open lectures from Stanford and Harvard are missing while keeping costs well below that of university or boot camp tuition.
- Traditional computer science degrees cost tens of thousands of dollars and take ~4 years.
- Bootcamps cost almost as much and take ~12 weeks, but skip important fundamentals.
- Qvault’s aim is to provide the same quality content as a CS degree via a certificate, but on your own time and for ~$6/mo.
The full CS curriculum is a work-in-progress, though I have a tentative roadmap put together. It’ll take more students supporting the project and more late-nights for me to make it happen! We can get there, even with my 6-week-old daughter making free-time a fleeting luxury.