Shopify and Carleton are reimagining experiential learning

Introducing full-stack education

The Carleton Shopify Bachelor of Computer Science Partnership is a first-of-its-kind program launching in September 2016. Students work full time at Shopify on industry-scale projects, applying concepts mapped to curriculum, in addition to attending academic courses at Carleton. This brings in-class learning closer to on-the-job experience.

We call this a “full-stack education.” In development, full stack means you have the complete range of skills to create a system or product end-to-end. When you look at a problem through different layers of the stack, you gain perspective for a big picture solution. Our stack places theory at the top and practice at the bottom, but we don’t cover them in isolation; instead, students work through the stack by applying what they learn in real-time.

Two women pair programming
Chart showing time spent at Shopify vs. in class per year

How the Carleton Shopify BCS Partnership works

The key to the program is aligning and integrating what we do at Shopify with the curriculum of a CS degree. We’ve developed a framework that maps standard competencies in a CS degree to work done on Shopify teams and courses at Carleton. Students start the program in first year and spend their entire degree with Shopify. They receive valuable work experience solving real-world problems and mentorship. Carleton faculty perform the evaluation for credits with students taking the same exams as those in the traditional option.

Why we’re doing it

Preparing students to start doing great things sooner

Applying theory in real time

In traditional programs, students experience a gap between when they learn theory and when they put it to practice. For some students, this separation is too great. Carleton Shopify BCS Partnership students learn in a real-world environment by working on teams that apply the concepts taught in courses. They move from team to team to fully cover course material, applying what they learn in real-time for a deep understanding.

Learning at their own pace

Students have a set of core competencies to master, but have the freedom to learn at their own pace. Instead of having to go at the same pace as everyone in a class of hundreds, they can speed through concepts they readily pick up and then take their time focusing on concepts they find trickier. Students get more control over their education.

Getting a meaningful head start

Students are considered full Shopify employees. They earn extensive work experience from tackling industry-scale projects that can span months or years, and they receive competitive wages and have their tuition covered. In addition to the Carleton network of professors and other students, they can build a Shopify network of coworkers and mentors.

Who the program is for

Qualities of the ideal candidate

Three people working together
  • You have a passion for CS, being a maker, and/or problem-solving (not necessarily through code)
  • You have a self-starter spirit and want to own your education
  • You can demonstrate initiative, either through academic grades, community projects, or other means
  • We’re invested in increasing diversity and inclusion, focusing on finding members of underrepresented groups. Full details for the program can be found on the Carleton University website.

How to apply

Anyone interested in entering first-year undergraduate studies in computer science can find details for the September 2017 class on the Carleton website

Learn more

How to learn more about this model

We’re calling this model “curriculum-aligned work-integrated learning,” and rather than trying to make it proprietary, it’s something we hope to actively share with others. We’ll be sharing our research behind the model, the resources we used, and results from it. In the future, we anticipate collaborating with other postsecondary institutions.

For more information, contact