Elevate Web Design at the University Level

by Leslie Jensen-Inman

80 Reader Comments

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  1. Wow, this article really struck me. I go to an online university, and I am dying for a better education. I though that getting my BA in web development would prepare me for this line of work. instead I feel that I am advanced for my classes and have wasted my time.
    Now I will owe a ton of money and not feel ready to work for a company.

    I should have continued the path that i started. I originally did all of my studying on my own. I read articles and studied websites online. I bought the latest books and magazines on website coding and trends. I could be spending my times studying on my own and learning more.

    Everyday I wish that I could meet real life web designers that could tutor me on the web development standards of today. I feel that as soon as I finally get down one thing, I have a hundred more things to learn. It can get very overwhelming at times. 

    My point is that this article is 100% true, and I wish I knew this before I started my online schooling venture. The web design teaching at universities needs some serious help!
    Thanks for this article!
    This article made me realize that I’m not the only one with the same thought on Universities and web design.

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  2. I think that employers should also be more assisting. I went out to get my degree because I am serious. So please work with me. Don’t expect me to come out of college knowing PHP, ASP, XHTML, CSS, Illustrator, Photoshop, Flash, etc. proficiently. I love to learn and enhance my skills, but many employers won’t even give me a chance.

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  3. nice article, thanks

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  4. I don’t think that many of the people interviewed in the article have a clue about the educational environment in the US. One of the overriding issues is accreditation. It is the accreditation groups that require the advanced degrees not the institution. There are valid reasons for this requirement in most cases.

    One thing I didn’t mention was Community Colleges. I teach in a community college and I full control (well almost) of the course work. We get to challenge our students with real, hands-on development from web design to graphics to databases to active web page development. From what I have heard the 4-year schools, due to their view of developing the whole person, cannot off this level of pure education in the tools of the trade.

    The issue of education cuts both ways. How many of the business types in this article were looking at a skill set that simply isn’t available in a 4-year degree setting but is at a 2-yr school. Yet they put a BSCS in their requirements for the position. Wake up people!

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  5. This article gives a commendable comprehensive description of the issue of education and technology.  Very thorough, very beautifully guides the reader through the fuzzy and intricate world of academia and web design.

    As a graduate of a master’s program in Digital Media Art & Technology at Michigan State University, I have seen a lot of really great things happening in the industry as well as many cultural challenges that will only take time to break down and move through.

    The “DMAT master’s program”:http://dmat.msu.edu/  at MSU does a lot of things right, and there are some very intelligent (and young!) professors leading the program as well as very intelligent students that come out of the program.  I’m happy to discuss these in more detail, but what I really want to touch on in this post is the cultural tension and the growth that I’ve observed happening in the higher education system.

    There is a lingering lack of understanding and respect for the creative and hands-on industry in the higher education institution.  This is because the higher education institution was built on the strengths of research and academia from its roots hundreds of years ago.  There is a cultural paradigm shift that is happening and needs to continue to gain momentum to really attack this problem.  And the cultural problems are the longest and hardest to change.

    Evangelizing the education system is just as complex as evangelizing any other industry that our industry is doing now.  For example, integrating social media into the journalism/current events industry is a slow but steady process that is mobilizing; same for government.  The fact that the recent www.recovery.gov was built on the Drupal CMS is a huge step that cannot be under-stated. 

    We need to do for education what Obama is supporting for government.  We need to show the education system what it means to make a useable and effective website.  Look at the university websites out there, as compared to the industry websites like Apple, HP, Media Temple, etc.  If our industry can show the education industry, a little bit at a time, what it means to make a good website, educators will see it, and they will want it for themselves.  When they want it for themselves, they will begin to get exposed to what it takes to create and maintain a dynamic and cutting edge website. 

    We need universities to be our clients.  And we need to make visible what it means to have and build a quality website.  This will fold over one staff member, one professor, one committee, one department, one college and one university at a time – motivating them to create better web professionals themselves, and teaching them what the best web professionals actually do.

    We need to hold their hands, teach the professors by fostering their involvement, and make it important to them.

    We’re the kids and they’re the parents.  Kids need to teach their parents how to do things different until the kids get the opportunity to do it their way and become parents.  :)

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  6. Great article Leslie! Very relevant to the current state of the education system. I’ve been similarly frustrated as I search for a graduate degrees pertaining to the web development.

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  7. http://www.digital-web.com/articles/education_of_freaks_and_geeks/

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  8. I was in an MLIS program with a focus on web design, but I left halfway through because I felt like I wasn’t really gaining practical knowledge.  Since then, I’ve learned a whole lot more from taking courses on CS3 and interning.  The program was a huge waste of time and money.  I think programs need to look at web design from a practical and academic perspective.  Ultimately, a course should enable you to actually be a web designer, and I don’t feel like my program allowed me to do that at all.

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  9. Although you hit several absolutely true notes about what Universities don’t have available to them, one thing they often do have is the sabbatical.

    Beginning with the premise that “to teach, you must first do”, and in any constantly churning and expanding area of knowledge you must keep on doing, then an internship for professors seems a logical solution.

    If that’s too hard on the ego for a professor, then call it “research”. On the other hand, the ego delating “internship” may be just what’s required.

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  10. As a new faculty member in the IT department of a comprehensive state university, I was hired to teach the intro to web development for our undergraduates. While I do have a Masters degree as required by the accrediting agency, I am a self-taught web developer who started back in the 90’s with HTML 3.2. There simply were no IT programs with a web emphasis to be found back then, and there are no Master’s programs that I know of that focus on the web, so I have tried to keep myself current over the years while working full time as an IT Manager and earning the Masters. Now I finally have a chance to make a difference — but it’s easier said or dreamed than done.
    Keep in mind that I work at a state institution and with repeated state budget cuts, funding for the IT program is non-existent (a total of 10K annually for the entire department excluding salaries). We are hard pressed to bring in professional web developers or hold conferences, although we are sponsoring GeekEnd in Savannah this year with the support of the university.  http://geekend2010.com/schedule

    Our IT program is only 8 years old and we’ve done a lot right, but there are also many challenges. Internships are required of all IT majors in order to graduate, and we see excellent placement rates for our graduates, with an average starting salary of 58K this past year. We have only 7 faculty members for the entire IT program, with 3 of us in the web & multimedia specialization. With all the funding cuts, we are now expected to bring in funds, grants, and donations when we can barely cover the teaching load. If any of you pros out there care to volunteer as a visiting lecturer, please let me know!

    Another issue”¦

    I’m now teaching XHTML 1.0 strict, CSS, and JavaScript in the intro web development course, having inherited the curriculum from the previous instructor. It is all well and good for students to learn good coding practices, but three quarters of my students are Communication Arts majors. Most of these students have no technical ability to speak of, but they are required to take the course. Some can’t even unzip or attach files let alone grasp XHTML syntax or JavaScript (me – pulling hair out in wads). I can’t help but feel we are going about this in the wrong way; and that the intro course should cover the big picture rather than jump head first into strict code.

    Assuming that I can revamp the curriculum to some extent, I’m hoping someone here can provide advice. I want to prepare my students for the future; and I must keep the code in the course, including JavaScript (lite) as it is written into the course objectives. With HTML5 upon us I’d like to make the switch for next semester. The biggest problem aside from HTML5 browser support is finding a text book or other course content that covers introductory HTML5, CSS and JavaScript, but delivers the material in a readable, visual, and interesting way in order to accommodate the needs of non-IT majors. Of course the material needs to challenge the IT majors in the class as well. Educational publishers are just beginning to incorporate HTML5. Can anyone recommend a text book currently in publication or perhaps open courseware that I can design my intro course around?

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