Working together for standards The Web Standards Project

On Quality Education

By Holly Marie Koltz | May 24th, 2006 | Filed in Education, Education TF, General

“What college or university has a good program for Web Development (or Design)?” is a question frequently encountered on mailing lists, in forums, or in conversations with others. Many would like to know the answer.

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Where Do I Go?

Finding a quality program is a challenge. Prospective students often ask about educational program choices or options. Those looking for a course of study frequently find they need to rely on information about the experiences of others. Comments from those with educational experience are commonly filled with less than positive recommendations for many institutions. In most cases and even today, students will need to learn about working with web standards and best practices on their own and not through their educational or degree program. It also seems that many institutions are even discouraging students to use standards and best practices on their work, assignments, or projects.

This is broken, this is wrong.

Lars Gunther: An Advocate for Educational Change

In recent months, Lars Gunther has been communicating with the WaSP EduTF and working on a letter for Skolverket, the Swedish National Agency for education. This letter is directed at Gymnasium. Gymnasium is a level of school similar to high school education in the United States, or pre college/university educational years. The letter document is available in Swedish and English versions and an effort to persuade or convince those involved with the education process to include instruction about best practices and web standards. Lars also sent a press release (in Swedish) out to about 20 Swedish magazines that write about the Internet and or education.

Roger Johansson of 456 Berea Street writes about Lars and the document at: A letter from WASP-EduTF to Skolverket. The comments following the entry are not uncommon but worth reading with many relating the inability of programs to teach quality web subject matter. One that caught my attention, Robert dM:

Things are no better in Belgium I’m afraid. I considered a php-course recently, but got put off when I saw that they also offered html-courses and were still advocating “building a site with frames” and “building a site with tables” in the course, no mention of CSS. So I coudn’t help but wonder about the quality of the php-course on offer and gracefully declined.

Another commenter mentioned that he did not think his instructor knew what the W3C is, and a another commenter recalls an interaction with his own instructor:

Finally, the site was finished, and i sort of hoped for a higher grade due to the code of this site because it was kind of a big project. And what´s his comment? “I don´t know if I can give you the higher grade. Your HMTL is kind of strange, and where is all the code”, he said. I explained that I wanted to seperate structure from presentation and thereby the other “code” is in the CSS-document. “Hmm, unnecessary that you have to keep two windows (the HTML and CSS) open all the time”, he said. And before this he was the last teacher I still had some respect for…

We need to help promote change.

Students, What you could do?

Whether you are looking for a program, are in a program, or have finished a program, you may still be able to have an effect on the institution:

  • Let all of the key people involved at institutions know why you are not choosing to enroll in their programs and why you are looking elsewhere.
  • For those completing a course that was outdated and or discouraging the use of web best practices and standards: Fill out those course and instructor evaluations and let the institution and instructors know what you think.
  • For those receiving lower grades for using standards on assignments, tests, or projects … discuss or debate for a change in those grades. You deserve the better grade and the program administrator and or department heads need to know where they are falling behind. The other option is to follow what they want you to do, and know that you will do otherwise when you leave the program or course.

If you know of good quality programs, do spread the word, and let the WaSP EduTF know, too.

What Educational Institutions Should Know

As more students become aware of web standards and web best practices before they enter a college or a university program, they are going to start looking closely at your programs and will also look at educational options. If your institution does not offer what they want or need, they may enroll elsewhere. Students have already been asking about good choices on mailing lists and forums for several years. The standards web community is well aware of the substandard educational issues. It is the year 2006 and there is no reason to be instructing practices and methods of 1996, or backwards and outdated materials. Students who are paying for a degree and education should receive a quality education.

A student bound for a medical studies, engineering, fine arts, or many other degrees will look at colleges and universities and will prefer to attend those that are well-known for their quality programs, or respected by those in the hiring fields. Would a medical school instruct its students with outdated materials and outdated practices, or would any other field or career program?

Educators need to update their knowledge and skills, and those educators who have updated need to have the ability to make changes in programs or update the learning material. Administration and departments should support and encourage these changes. Institutions should help instructors update.

Employers Could Also Help.

It is no surprise that many job listings show a stronger emphasis on acquired knowledge, skills, and experience, than on education or degrees in the associated subject matter. This could also be a reflection on the educational system as it is, and those hiring may also be aware that many education programs are lacking.

Employers working with student interns or hiring students could also take the time to let the associated educational institutions know that knowledge, skills, or topics are lacking and or what is missing from their programs.

A Few Final Thoughts

Finding or recommending educational institutions with quality education remains a challenge. We all need to get involved. We need to let the institutions know what we think — whether we are students applying or enrolling, whether we have finished a course or program, whether we are hiring or training interns, and or what we are recommending to others who ask. Until institutions start getting a stronger message or feedback from students and others, the current situation may continue.

It was Lars Gunther’s frustration which motivated his letter to Skolverket in Sweden, and the EduTF agrees with what he had to say:

But it is of utmost importance that the education provides a foundation, from which the students do not need to un-train and re-educate themselves, because they have been taught the wrong methods. The school should be an onramp to highway of the future, not a dead-end street into the past.

When schools like Gymnasium in Sweden start instructing web standards and best practices, students who will continue their education will need choices of good quality programs available at a universities or colleges. It would be great if many options existed — students should not have to un-learn web standards and best practices in order to get better grades or a degree.

Your Replies

#1 On May 24th, 2006 2:41 pm