Design View | Design articles and news from Andy Rutledge

10/27/07

Texas-Sized Web Design Instruction

While I am known to deride the inadequate and antiquated Web design instruction offered by so many colleges and universities, this week I am encouraged! Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending my first advisory board meeting for the Texas State Technical College Web Design and Development Department in Waco, Texas. It would seem that not all collegiate Web design programs are worthless. Far from it, in this case.

I was initially skeptical of what their instruction might include. But I should have had some idea that TSTCs program would be better than most for the mere fact that they enlist an advisory board of industry professionals to help shape their curriculum. That sort of interest is not generally indicative of laxitude or myopia.

As the details of their programs were described during our meetings, I became more and more relieved and encouraged. I was surprised to learn that all of their fundamental instruction in crafting Web pages is standards-based, and semantics and accessibility issues are addressed early and often—whether the class is about HTML/CSS, flash, or ASP.net. It seems that table layouts and other deprecated or antiquated features of development have no place in their instruction (hooray!).

Fundamental design, too, seems to be adequately addressed in the curriculum, and the approach sensible. By the end of our time together I was fairly confident I could scarcely suggest any better approach for a basic Web design academic program. The class mix and coursework would seem to be solid and entirely appropriate for preparing students for our profession.

It was clear that the faculty and department administration are honestly invested in and respect the ideas of the advisory board—and that we had an impact on their programs

It is not just the curriculum that is exceptional. Every one of the instructors I met impressed me as being knowledgeable, caring, and truly enthusiastic about their endeavor. The ones that shared deeper insight into their approach were clearly not content to rest on what they already understood; indicating their penchant for continuously keeping up with developments in their specific discipline. The Web changes moment by moment and these folks clearly understand that and respond appropriately. The curriculum reflects their attention to the dynamic nature of Web design and development.

Even though this is already a solid program, we board members certainly had observations and suggestions. I was struck by how the faculty members treated each and every one of our questions, observations, or suggestions with great interest and attention. Our discussions were sober and fruitful. It was clear that the faculty and department administration are honestly invested in and respect the ideas of the advisory board—and that we had an impact on their programs.

Overall we had a very nice and very satisfying day. It was a pleasure to meet and work with my fellow board members; all formidable exponents of our profession. They included freelancers and those from agencies, from the very large to the very small. I am honored to be a new member of the board and look forward to working with all of these folks again, both board members and faculty.

Anyone who has worked with me or read many of my articles knows that I’m a rather uncompromising and demanding fellow, but I’m now quite a fan of what TSTC has going on in their Web design and development department. If you are an aspiring Web designer or developer and are looking for a quality college program, I suggest you move to Waco, Texas and enroll at TSTC (or perhaps even utilize their distance learning program). They’ve got it goin’ on, and I suspect that their students do, too.

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