Capital One Empowers Digital Learning

Providing technology assistance to digital education partners and educating youth online

John Failla founded Trilogy Mentors with one simple vision — online learning as the future of education. Failla estimated virtual learning could match the popularity of in-person sessions in five years' time. But little did he know, the future is now. 

While online tutoring accounted for just 10% of instruction in the U.S. as of early March 2020, digital education became the universal method of learning just two weeks later as the outbreak of COVID-19 shut down in-person learning across the country. 

Overwhelmed by freelance tutors looking to digitize classroom instruction, Trilogy Mentors became inundated seemingly overnight with requests to use their services. 

As members of Virginia startup accelerators, Startup Virginia and Lighthouse Labs, Trilogy Mentors came to Capital One’s 1717 Innovation Center to connect with the startup ecosystem which includes Capital One associates who provide coaching and mentorship.

Failla’s informal brainstorming sessions with our card and tech teams turned into a specific request for an urgent need. Fortunately for Trilogy Mentors, help was on the way. 

“Capital One was able to assemble a world-class, tiger-team of product associates to help us automate our client onboarding,” Failla said. “We can now empower more educators and business owners than ever during their greatest time of need.”

For Stephen Krieger, a product director at Capital One, the decision to lend a hand was instinctive. In the early days of the pandemic, Krieger and his teammates felt isolated at home and were eager to make an impact and help others.

“From a human perspective, we saw Trilogy as a way of fighting back against the disruptions in education that a lot of us personally have felt,” Krieger said. “We actually grew the amount of knowledge in the world because of our technology platform.”

Training the Technologists of Tomorrow

This commitment to resuming opportunities for learning can be seen from associates across lines of business. This summer, 20 Capital One associates are volunteering as virtual teaching assistants at CodePath, a technical training company that seeks to eliminate inequality in technical education starting with college computer science education. 

CodePath was founded by Michael Ellison, a Black entrepreneur, educator and tech leader on a mission to remedy the disproportionately low number of minority leaders in the tech industry. As the 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics Outlook handbook indicates, employment for computer and information technology occupations is on track to grow 12 percent between 2018 and 2028, adding about 546,200 new jobs. Yet while Black and Latinx people together earn nearly 20% of computer science Bachelor’s Degrees, they make up only five percent of the technical workforce at top tech companies.

Every Saturday for 12 weeks this summer, more than 20 Capital One associates volunteer for CodePath’s Technical Interview Prep to help college students of diverse backgrounds break that cycle by preparing for technical interviews.

Each Capital One associate works with a Pod of six students — helping a total of 120 sophomores, juniors and seniors in the computer science field.

“CodePath could not exist without volunteers, like the ones from Capital One,” Ellison said. “When a student is accepted to this course, they are linked up with a Capital One professional in a Pod. Their Pod is their family. They build a relationship and can go to their Pod when they need help.”

Equipping Households with Digital Access

More than three million households with school-aged children don’t have wired broadband connection. In light of this, the Capital One Coders program has reallocated $500,000 to meet immediate digital access gaps for low to moderate income students across our partner schools in Chicago, Virginia, San Francisco, Plano, Wilmington, Boston and New York City.

According to Jay Sanne, a managing vice president of Capital One’s Tech team, school building closures revealed that digital access is a substantial barrier for virtual learning. School districts can’t provide the same online education to every student when some can’t log on at all. 

“Conversations with our school districts revealed that families are having to take extensive measures to continue their learning with some having to sit in parked cars at their schools to connect to WiFi,” Sanne said. “Other families have no computers at home, and many more are having to share devices across multiple children. In the midst of this crisis, I’m motivated now more than ever by our Coders vision to help students succeed in the digital age.”

In addition to providing technology and access for students, Capital One Coders is shifting to virtual instruction this summer to help students better understand and pursue their interests in STEM by teaching coding basics. 

With over 90% of Coders programming serving low to moderate income students, Capital One is helping those in vulnerable situations keep pace.

Our commitment to bridging this gap extends across the Atlantic, as we have issued 500 Learning at Home Kits to 10 schools in the UK near our London and Nottingham offices. Each kit contains a Chromebook laptop, WiFi hotspot with 20GB data and a stationary set. 

Given this increased need for digital access, we’re also accelerating the Capital One Digital Access (CODA) program, a pilot program in three affordable housing developments we’ve helped to finance in The Bronx. CODA includes free internet access, Chromebooks and digital education training for residents.

Additionally, we partnered to donate 40 laptops to the YMCA of Greater Richmond to support hundreds of summer campers, enabling them to attend programs like Capital One Coders online. This donation builds on our initial $160,000 digital access investment in central Virginia during school closures, which in turn provided 500 students in Richmond with laptops and enabled 500 low-income families to obtain internet access in Chesterfield.

The Path to Keep on Growing

Capital One remains committed to empowering students across the country with the technology they need to adjust and will continue to invest in digital learning and digital access for students.

For Kreiger, this commitment reflects what brought him to Capital One in the first place.

“One of the reasons I joined Capital One was because I really believed in their mission to change banking for good,” Krieger said. “To be able to leverage the skills we’ve applied to banking for education has been an incredible privilege.”

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