More than anything in the whole wide world, I love learning. An education is the one true ticket to opportunity; it is the key to innovation in our industry. For that reason I feel strongly about fostering a design community that teaches and pushes for reforms in our universities to create graduates who have the skills to make amazing designers and developers.
In recent years several organizations and ideas have formed to try to solve the web industry’s education challenges. Leslie Jesnsen-Inman and Jared Spool are working on a very promising endeavor currently referred to as “The Unicorn Institute” that would give students the opportunity to work with professionals on real world projects . SVA has developed an impressive MFA in Interaction Design and Mark Boulton’s design studio has championed the idea of hiring apprentices.
In addition to these deeply intensive solutions there has been a rise of organizations offering part-time classes on topics that affect tech and design. Targeting busy professionals, they offer students night and weekend instruction for a few weeks to gain basic skills in web-related topics. You have probably heard of one near you, they have integrated into the web community and have fantastic marketing.
I recently read a resume from a student who took one of these skills-based classes. On a resume with no prior web development experience, a 6 week class at one of these schools made them feel comfortable with boasting that they had expert knowledge in CSS3 and HTML5. Unfortunately many people reading the resume took the claims for what they were; they weren’t intimately familiar with the specifics of the class to make a judgement otherwise.
It wasn’t that the student or learning organization were being intentionally deceptive, there just aren’t any clear standards to define these metrics. We have to demand more specifics and hold people accountable for certain skill levels in order to further progress in our industry.
Oftentimes it takes building several (if not dozens) of sites to understand front end development on an expert level, how on earth could someone learn these complex concepts in a few weeks? This person probably didn’t even know enough to understand what they didn’t know.
Don’t get me wrong, I think all opportunities to learn are fantastic. But in building a curriculum for web education that will contribute to innovation, we should not confuse skill-based classes with a well-rounded education or experience. We will be selling ourselves short to take these at face value.