Working together for standards The Web Standards Project

Back to School, Back to Reality

By Rob Dickerson | August 28th, 2006 | Filed in Education, Education TF, General

As a student of Interactive Media Design at the Art Institute of Dallas, Texas, Blake Elshire learned CSS as part of his course, then discovered that not all students were quite as charmed by the technology as he was. He shares his thoughts and insights with WaSP EduTF.

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At the time of year where many schools are starting a new term, some teachers are still demanding archaic Web practices as part of their syllabi. Whether Web standards is taught at educational institutions is an issue that is no longer new. And yet, it is not uncommon for a student to be penalized for using modern Web techniques. Factors contributing to why we are not yet seeing more valid university Web sites, or why fresh graduates are not more knowledgeable in Web standards, still constitute a multi-faceted problem.

Blake Elshire first caught the attention of EduTF via his comment to our Buzz On Quality Education. We invited him to tell us a little more about his experience as a student in interactive media design. Read the interview.

Your Replies

#1 On August 28th, 2006 1:39 pm Mark replied:

Talk about best practices…I sat for a few minutes wondering just where the content was on this post and moused over every link until finally seeing that “Blake Elshire” — his name — was a link to a URL that contained the word “interview.” Seriously?

#2 On August 28th, 2006 1:46 pm draco replied:

Yea I thought so too. Shouldn’t the link to the interview be like somewhere in the last sentence?

#3 On August 28th, 2006 2:00 pm Mark replied:

My comment reads a bit harsh. The WaSP site is possibly my favorite layout for presenting content. I’m just a bit lost in this post. The intro blurb seems to indicate the interview is following, and then it isn’t findable. Clean CSS is not the only practice that needs to be enforced in the next generation of web developers.

#4 On August 28th, 2006 2:22 pm Edward Clarke replied:

Luckily I and other students have been able to convince the faculty and staff to start moving the program forward

This feedback was probably the most productive point of the syllabus. The link between education and commerce just isn’t strong enough and that applies to all industries, not just new media and it’s a shame it takes a student to address this.

It’s just as important that a business that operates a website knows there is best practice for web development as well as the industry knowing how to implement it effectively.

That way, students of archaic web practices just won’t be productive. For a teacher, nothing is worse than a class of commercially useless students.

#5 On August 28th, 2006 2:24 pm WaSP Member rdickerson replied:

Thanks folks. That’s a great idea. The placement of the link to the interview was inadvertantly overlooked earlier. It’s now fixed thanks to you.

#6 On August 28th, 2006 2:37 pm Edward Clarke replied:

I’m just a bit lost in this post.

I know what you mean. Content delivery, grammar and spelling are just as important as semantic markup for clear and effective communication.

#7 On August 28th, 2006 6:12 pm Patrick Bruno replied:

I can tell you exactly why Mr. Blake is having a hard time at his school. It’s part of the “Art Institute” chain of mediocrity. I was accepted into the Art Institute of Los Angeles back in ’97 and I am elated that I backed out at the last minute. (I was also accepted over the phone to the location in Seattle in ’96! No portfolio, no transcript check either.) Once I saw their student demo reel with clips that looked like stuff from 15 years earlier, I knew something was amiss.
Being constantly pressured by the admissions director, hearing her give the same clichéd speil to another prospective student – then finding out they weren’t acredited – caused me to back out immediately. It took two months of fighting the school to get them to stop sending me tuition bills. If you are looking for a good art/design school, stay far away from this cheap franchise.

#8 On August 28th, 2006 9:28 pm Martin replied:

The program is less instructional and more focused on things like learning how to learn and learning concepts and the explanation of concepts, instead of just saying “this is how you do a certain thing.”

What a great direction! I guess the web isn’t just black and white, but ever-evolving shades of grey.

#9 On August 29th, 2006 11:09 am Practical Web Design » Blog Archive » Podcast: Make your site more accessible replied:

[...] The appalling state of web design education in schools [...]

#10 On August 29th, 2006 3:13 pm Jens Meiert replied:

Professionals, go, talk to students and teachers. Tell them what it’s all about. In Germany, we do (plan to do) so. (At least, we Webkrauts.)

#11 On August 30th, 2006 7:20 pm John A. Bilicki III replied:

I was failed one class shy of an associates degree in Web Design in a portfolio class by a graphics teacher (and still haven’t been able to earn the degree). I did all the requirements that required actual sites in application/xhtml+xml (with fallback to text/html for IE) and he was looking for all Flash sites. I can change the mime, doctype, have 50 songs on a self-created music player that barely uses Flash (streaming audio portion only) and still I was failed. WAI AAA compliance and accessible pure CSS menus! Eh…no good.

Apparently those of us who code with standards in mind do not know how to create web sites.

#12 On August 30th, 2006 7:37 pm Jeremy Osborn replied:

My name is Jeremy Osborn and I’m the program director of graphic/interactive design at a school outside of Boston, MA. Our school is called the Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University and I’ve designed the web program from day one to throw students directly into the world of standards based xhtml and css sites.

My philosophy is to prepare students for the future of web design by giving them the training they need to be creative but also economically productive designers. It is simply a matter of time before the concepts of css/xhtml layout become mainstream and I want my graduates to be the innovators of the future, not maintainers of the past.

As far as “resistance” from universities and other educational institutions, this is a natural human phenomenon. All those web designers and instructors who were trained or self-taught in table layout are hesitant to change because it means their systems of working, their templates, their tested “hacks” all need to be thrown away (or at least modified). All those things represent a body of information and work that required blood, sweat and tears. Yet the arguments for throwing those investments away aren’t compelling to many people.

I could go on forever on this subject obviously :)

You can see our curricullum at CDIA here. Also, Dan Cederholm from Simplebits recently stopped by and had some nice things to say about the program, you can see that post here.

#13 On August 31st, 2006 2:47 pm Adam replied:

I work in a school in the schools ICT department and we ran a course called DiDA (Diploma in Digital Applications).

I haven’t read the criteria for the course but they have to build there own ePortfolio. From what I got when I was talking to students about it, they have to use things like frames, flash and PDF’s in there work in some way.

Now I couldnt quite beleive this. These kids that did this and walked away passing the course are going to go into a job thinking that flash is cool for navigation buttons, frames are great and PDF’s is the best way to deliver content.

There didnt seem to be any education involved to what was the best method, no upside or downside to each of them. It was just saying you need to use these so use them.

This is what kids where expected to create, this is aparently a passing grade. There doesnt even appear to be a basic tutorial of telling students about title pages.

More examples of passing peices of work here and here.

I know these are only 15-16 year old students but is this correct way to educate students who may want to enter the world of web/multimedia development?

This through no fault of the student and well done to them on passing their course, I just cant help but feel a little worried that they are thinking building websites like this is the best and way they should do it all the time.

I wonder how long it will on like this?

#14 On September 1st, 2006 8:57 am WaSP Member hmkoltz replied:

@Jens Meiert

I agree that Professionals should talk to students and teachers, I also think that businesses and corporations that hire could do the same. Wouldn’t it be interesting if companies like Google, Yahoo!, and many others sent speakers and recruiters to colleges, universities, and other institutions with web programs. It would be great if they spoke about what is needed [skills, practices, and ability to keep up with technology change] for the work force? I also still keep thinking about internship possibilities, where companies could work with and mentor students for on the job work experience. Maybe these internship programs could also give information on what basics are needed?

@ John A. Bilicki III

So sorry to hear about your issues with the failure from not complying with the use of archaic practices in your course. You are not alone, and I think it is unfortunate that students are paying money (and sometimes a lot of money) for poor quality education. You are fortunate that you know what you do, on the other hand I can imagine how frustrating it was for you to experience. If the program is a good one, they would look at what you know and want to know more, then adapt or change the materials.

@Jeremy Osborn

Your program is lucky to have a director like yourself. Thanks for the link to the Simple Bits: Education post by Dan Cedarholm. There are a lot of great replies on that post. It is really encouraging to see that positive changes are happening in the education field, and I hope we will see web education continue to improve across many more institutions. My hope is that students will start looking and asking questions — before they enroll — and those schools losing better students may start to look at their programs. Quality competition may start having an effect as more schools offer better programs than others, and this type of information gets out. Thanks for leaving your reply!

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