Working together for standards The Web Standards Project

Education Task Force Curriculum Survey Results

During the second quarter of 2007, The Web Standards Project Education Task Force conducted a survey with the intent to develop a standards-based curriculum. The Task Force targeted Education Professionals in both secondary and higher education. Educators were asked to complete a series of nine questions. The results of the survey are listed below.

Each question is followed by a chart, visually representing the responses. Following each chart is a list of possible choices that were presented for the question, with a numerical value indicating the number of individuals that marked that choice. Finally, optional written feedback is listed for each question when applicable.

For the purposes of this survey, the following terms are defined:

A unit of study that comprises a single cohesive topic, approximately 3 hours of lecture and one hour of lab/practical work.
Class, course or subject
A set of modules grouped together based on close relationship of information.
A group of classes or subjects that make up a comprehensive program of study in a particular area of knowledge which may lead to a certificate or degree in an area of study.
The period of time over which the curriculum is taught. A course may be a full degree or program, a part of a degree, or a casual course of study. An example program might be a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree or a certificate of study within a continuing education or professional education program.

1. What country do you primarily teach in?

Chart 1 showing country in which respondents taught

  • Australia—2
  • Belgium—1
  • Canada—2
  • Czech Republic—1
  • France—3
  • Germany—1
  • Greece—1
  • India—1
  • Italy—1
  • Peru—1
  • Portugal—1
  • Spain—3
  • Sweden—1
  • United Kingdom—3
  • United States—25

2. What is the primary study of the majority of your students?

Chart 2 showing primary area of study for students

  • Arts and Design (includes visual and communication arts)—12
  • Computing (IS and IT)—16
  • Engineering (includes Computer Science)—6
  • None of the above—13

Other areas of study reported were:

  • Modern languages for the web — Humanities.
  • Our students are from the College of Arts and Letters.
  • Combo of visual and web development students, continuing education or post graduate professional development.
  • General Students, all majors.
  • Some of them primarily study economics et cetera.
  • Web Design and Development
  • Web Design
  • Interactive Media Design
  • Creative computing department within a college and private teaching due to more freedom on deciding course content.
  • Education
  • Library and information studies
  • Personal
  • Distance Education

3. Which of the following concepts should be covered within this curriculum?

Chart 3 shows the concepts which should be covered in a curriculum

  • Addressing (URL, URI, IRI)—29
  • Documents (Markup Languages)—42
  • Protocols (HTTP, SOAP, Web services)—26
  • Information Architecture—31
  • Usability—41
  • Device Independence—29
  • Accessibility—41
  • Internationalisation/Localisation—25
  • Semantic markup—38
  • Evaluating/Validating (testing a Web site)—41
  • Deploying a Web site (e.g. using FTP, WebDAV)—34
  • Procuring a standards-conforming product—25
  • Web application development / programming—29
  • Requirements gathering—23
  • Project planning and management—32
  • Other—14

Other concepts that were suggested to be covered in a Web design and development curriculum:

  • Search engine optimization and visibility.
  • I omitted a couple that are important in the IT/CS area, but not in a design track. They are probably all important.
  • Security! It is unforgivable to omit security!
  • Benefits of standards.
  • Creating story boards of their design.
  • Besides all of the above, get more focus on particular problems of development and programming, especially web applications’ security etc. More, I miss here some stuff like sociology and generally closer approach to users. No, I don’t talk about usability and accessibility, I speak about users’ behaviour, social engeneering etc. Say, it all should be primarily about users, isn’t it?
  • I see these topics as two distinct courses. Course one being a standards based web design course, and course two being a development course.
  • nformation Security is extremely important. Web designers and developers need a CS-level understanding of IS.
  • I teach XHTML, CSS, and 508/WAI for the separation of content and presentation.
  • It will not allow me to!
  • How file paths (relative and absolute) work.
  • Though I deliver all of the above — the criteria and units stated in my course document are very outdated and compared to the level of my own delivery of lesson content — very basic and low — asking for now outdated techniques to be taught, delivered and assessed, such as table structures for page layouts, Director content, slicing of ImageReady layouts etc. I am lucky to have an open-minded management at college and an educated moderator who has some understanding my medium. Nonetheless the curriculum is hindering the progress of my students – this is why I started teaching privately as well to promote web standards much better.
  • Design issues.
  • Graphics Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.

4. Which of the following technologies should be covered within this curriculum?

Chart 4 showing technologies that should be covered in a curriculum

  • Web-related computing essentials (e.g. browsers, user-agents, protocols, clients/servers, publishing software)—38
  • Computing platform and operating system basics (Windows, OS X,Unix)—14
  • Internet Hypertext markup history—30
  • Server-side programming languages (PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby, Java)—22
  • HTML, XHTML—45
  • CSS—45
  • DOM, Javascript—30
  • XML—31
  • RDF—9
  • HTTP—21
  • SOAP—9
  • Other—10

Many of the respondents expanded on the list of technologies:

  • Understanding the DOM, JavaScript and programming languages is essential, but again I feel belongs in another track, not a design track. However, if the class revolves around something like Dreamweaver, then these would be natural to include in the curriculum.
  • MVC and other patterns. SQL and DB-design. REST. XSLT.
  • rich media, graphics/art. It would be nice to have basic foundations and advanced topics for some areas above, so that those leaning design could go deeper into more visual aspects with core foundations, and those more technical or dev/programming could go deeper into their topics but still understand the visual/ presentational aspects involved.
  • MySQL or some other database.
  • Basic concepts of databases.
  • FTP. Also, the concept of how to use includes – PHP includes or server side includes — with templates. In my Web Publishing 3 course this is what most Web design students say was the most valuable skill learned, every single semester!
  • https
  • SVG

5. Which of the following kind of curriculum structure is most useful to you?

Chart 2 showing breakdown of curriculum structure

  • The curriculum is broken down into classes within general areas of study. Example: Web design is a general area of study, and has these classes: Usability, Accessibility, Markup, CSS, which may be broken down into further modules or topics—16
  • The curriculum is broken down into necessary classes that fit into a program within a discipline, such as a design-oriented or computing-oriented program. Example: The curriculum lists program examples, such as Multimedia and Design, and Computer Science. For a Computer Science program, we list relevant classes from Web design (general area of study), such as Accessibility, Markup and CSS. For Multimedia and Design, we list relevant topics within classes such as Usability, Accessibility—14
  • The curriculum is broken down into classes within general areas of study, with suggestions of whether each module will be useful for a particular discipline, such as a design-oriented or computing- oriented program. Example: Web design is a general area of study, and has these classes: Usability, Accessibility, Markup, CSS, which may be broken down into further modules or topics. We recommend that a Computer Science program should cover modules in Markup, CSS and Accessibility (perhaps relating to accessible markup only)—17

6. Which of the following resource formats would you prefer?

Chart 6 showing preference in with regard to resource format

  • General outline of module content—7
  • Detailed description of each module—16
  • Material that you can adapt for teaching within each module—24

7. For each module or topic, which of the following components would you like to see?

Chart 7 showing component preferences for modules or topics

  • Essential concepts that are mandatory—44
  • Additional concepts that are optional—36
  • Examples of possible student assignments or projects—37

8. Which tools will you be using in your course?

Chart 8 showing tools that would be used in a course

  • Text-based web editors. Examples: Notepad, Simple Text, Notetab, EditPlus, BBedit, etc.—42
  • WYSWIYG based editors. Examples: Dreamweaver, FrontPage, GoLive, etc.—23
  • Browsers, graphical and text-based. Examples: FireFox, IE6, Opera, Lynx, w3m, etc.—41
  • Web development tools. Examples: Browser features, browser extensions, web developer toolbars, DOM inspectors, Firebug (debugger), HTML Tidy—34
  • Validators. Examples: Cynthia, the WAVE, W3C Markup Validator, CSS Validator, etc—41
  • Software development tools. Examples: ASP.NET, J2EE, Ruby on Rails, other MVC frameworks.—11
  • Other—8

Additional software tools that were suggested include:

  • Basic graphics tools for essentials.
  • Graphic tools such as Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator.
  • A real IDE such as Eclipse. Image and sound editing software.
  • Graphic and or rich media tools — it would also be nice to touch on the topic of presentation options. An added area might be a mention of capstone type project or course which would be a nice way for those in completion to display their work. A resume/working portfoliocreation shows skills and abilities.
  • Mostly I try to teach the foundation letting someone learn the rest on there own. for example if you learn markup by typing it in with an HTML editor like HTML Kit color coded then learning to use devlopement tool is not that hard.
  • Again, database servers, database clients, ftp/scp/sftp clients, debuggers, etc.
  • FTP software, such as Fetch.
  • Graphic design tools such as Photoshop/Fireworks.

9. What are your biggest challenges to implementing a curriculum for best practices, including accessibility and Web standards?

Chart 9 showing biggest challenges to implementing a curriculum for best practices

  • Lack of appropriate reference material or resources—14
  • Lack of appropriate material to aid teaching—24
  • Lack of interest in department, college or faculty—17
  • Lack of faculty with standards knowledge—27
  • Opposition from department, college or faculty—9
  • Other—12

Educational Professionals teaching Web standards still face many issues including:

  • State mandated requirements that are out of date.
  • Programming errors prevent submit in question 9
  • Red tape and convincing all involved with a program whether it is programming, communications, arts or any other higher ed department that standards are important in every aspect of delivering any content digitally, including student work.
  • I am the only one interested but that maybe changing.
  • I’ve been fortunate to have complete autonomy in developing my course in Web-based Design. Therefore, my biggest challenge in teaching best practices for Web design has been simply keeping up with developments and advancing technologies.
  • Lack of students interested in.
  • Lack of enrollment.
  • Student apathy towards modern design and/or adherence to previous and incorrect web design/development knowledge. It’s hard to make a student learn new tricks, evidently.
  • I write all my own course materials at this point. The college is willing to buy them and are extremely supportive of what I am trying to do. The other faculty members use old school methods, but have stepped aside to let me teach the courses on web design.
  • Teaching staff who are actively engaged with the Standards community and modern best practise.
  • We have total support for the way we implement web standards and accessility.
  • Overcoming the idea that Web design is much more than just how good a page visually looks – that valid coding, the separation of content and presentation, and functionality are as important as what the eye sees. It seems that most people still see Web design through a print mindset.

The Education Task Force would like to thank the Educational Professionals who completed the survey. The curriculum is currently under development. Watch the WaSP Buzz for updates and information about the curriculum project.

The Web Standards Project is a grassroots coalition fighting for standards which ensure simple, affordable access to web technologies for all.

All of the entries posted in WaSP Buzz express the opinions of their individual authors. They do not necessarily reflect the plans or positions of the Web Standards Project as a group.

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