Upstream Coding finds new uses for its digital learning management system

By Julia Mericle – Reporter, Pittsburgh Business Times
Dec 16, 2020, 1:27pm EST

Pittsburgh-based Upstream Coding, a software development bootcamp, created its Turbine learning management system platform as a way to house curriculum and operate its programming.

However, Upstream soon realized a target market for Turbine LMS itself in supporting employee training and upskilling.

Upstream started collaborating with the Community College of Allegheny County Workforce program in September and recently established a partnership with the college to run almost all professional development courses through the platform, according to Josh Studl, co-founder of Upstream. Now, Upstream and CCAC plan to launch a “joint tech-centric upskilling and training initiative” in January or February 2021.

“We envision it as a regional workforce development and upskilling initiative to deliver job-ready technical programming and web development skills that are in-demand today,” Studl said. “We will be in-demand from the viable employers of the post-pandemic economy, and for the higher-wage jobs where these value-add skills can drive up productivity.”

Through this initiative, Studl said Upstream and CCAC will also partner to offer some of Upstream’s existing coding bootcamp curriculum to create a professional development course. Studl said in the coming years those skills will become necessary even for jobs outside the immediate tech sector.

Sylvia Elsayed, director of professional continuing education for CCAC Workforce, said prior to the Covid-19 pandemic the college ran its professional development programming in-person. As so much shifted online over the past several months, Elsayed said CCAC used the Turbine LMS platform to track attendance, upload materials and organize speakers for programs including a 12-week CPA course that hosted 69 people.

“When Upstream presented Turbine, it seemed to be the perfect platform to use for this program,” Elsayed said. “…Just using Zoom would have been very difficult.” Elsayed said CCAC Workforce plans to use Turbine LMS for other courses, including in accounting, law, real estate and engineering.

Studl said Upstream chose to target the workforce upskilling and training space, rather than traditional schools, because its platform proved particularly strong in monitoring employee progress and success throughout a curriculum. Next, Upstream will look for more partnerships, Studl said.

“Upskilling and training is needed everywhere,” Studl said. “Our strength we feel is going to be in corporate partnerships and corporate clients and really training their existing workforces. It’s easier to upskill existing employees and cheaper than it is to find that skill on the hiring market.”

Studl did not disclose Upstream’s revenue, and he said the Turbine LMS platform is self-funded. Upstream has two founders and a small engineering team, but he said the company is looking to hire in 2021. Upstream operates out of Beauty Shoppe coworking space in Lawrenceville.

Upstream first developed Turbine LMS as a software as a service in 2018, and Studl said the technology is not a knee-jerk response to needs during the pandemic.

“We did not scramble to be in the remote learning space,” Studl said. “This is where we positioned ourself with Upstream coding and grew and identified the value of the platform we had built to administer the curriculum for Upstream Coding. Our instructors and our students were our beta testers.”