Revamping College Tech Curricula

This Post was written by admin
Date posted: August 6, 2012

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Solving these issues is not straightforward or simple.  Universities must maintain the quality of their courses, but at the same time need to rapidly shift to new technologies.  There are, however, steps that universities can take to ensure their curricula are more up-to-date than they currently are:

    • Collaborate with the business community and alumni.  Talk with recent graduates and employers about the latest skills being employed in the field.  These conversations will help institutions and faculty identify new techniques and technologies that need to be covered in their courses.  Ask recent grads where and how they are learning new skills, including relevant blogs, conferences, and publications.  Find out where employers are having trouble finding skilled or qualified employees and be sure to offer courses in those areas.
    • Evaluate syllabi annually.  Where generic course names are used (such as Web Design 1, 2, and 3), it’s possible to adapt the curriculum for these courses on an annual basis.  Revisit curricula frequently, and make sure all instructors are up-to-date with the latest methods.
    • Develop centralized teaching resources.  Rather than relying on books to provide a course structure, look for resources online instead.  Teach students how to evaluate the credibility of any given resource.  Create a wiki for sharing these resources that anyone can modify with the latest links and resources so everyone may benefit.
    • Bring in more guest speakers.  Rather than having the course instructors lecture students every class, bring in more guest speakers with industry experience.  This practice will help students understand the real world of web design, where clients affect projects and timelines and where compromises concerning quality, money, and time are made every day.
    • Consider bridges to graduate level work.  Undergraduates learning web design should know that additional education can take their skills to a new level.  Make students aware of post-graduate opportunities.  Many schools offer an MBA with an e-commerce or internet marketing concentration.  Front-end design students might enjoy obtaining a Master’s or PhD in Human-Computer Interaction.  Students might also take a different but related path, working on a Master’s or PhD in Instructional Design.  Be sure that courses offered at the undergraduate level prepare students for success at the graduate level.
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4 thoughts on “Revamping College Tech Curricula

  1. deb

    I have a child who will be applying to Universities this coming year. Can you recommend any schools that seem to be doing the best job of handling this challenge? Thank you.

  2. Jen Kramer

    Hi Deb — I have been impressed with DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media
    http://www.cdm.depaul.edu/academics/Pages/Undergraduate.aspx

    I do have suggestions for evaluating schools of interest. Look at the course catalog and see what’s offered for web design and development. Some schools offer a specific major in this, while others take a route of an emphasis (the degree is in art, but you took the graphic design option, for example). The degree programs may present more of a unified approach to web design, as opposed to an emphasis within one department — but this is not always the case.

    Speak with one of the department professors and get a sense of what’s offered for the curriculum, and ask specifically what the department is doing to stay on the cutting edge.

    Ask for names of recent alumni that you can contact about their experience at the school. Ask the alum whether they were prepared for the working world, and how their experience at the school has helped them in their working lives. (Most schools have alumni you can contact about their programs. Keep in mind these alums largely say positive things about the school!)

    It would be great if others would note schools that are doing a great job of keeping curricula up to date here in the comments. Also, if you have suggestions for evaluating a school — particularly when you don’t have a tech background! — please post those as well.

  3. suz62

    I thought this was going to be an article on college computer science programs in general, but it focuses almost exclusively on web design courses. Let me tell you – CS Department shortcomings affect all branches of computer science, not just web design! For example, we only covered SQL briefly in class, yet if I want to get into database management, it is a skill I have to learn. Now I have to figure out a way to learn SQL as well as other database technologies, and get good at them, in order to be employable. So I can pay back the student debt I racked up to get a degree which gives me no real workplace IT skills.

  4. Jen Kramer

    My background is in web design, so I just commented on those aspects of it. However, I agree — computer science in general is a bit behind in their offerings.

    Computer science majors graduate thinking their are ready for their first job. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. Most employers know that they must teach the graduate how to work in the real world.

    For example, if you’re given an assignment, you have some period of time to complete it. You can spend 100% of your waking hours on it if you want. In the real world, though, your boss will give you an assignment and say spend no more than X hours on it. How does that impact your thinking and approach on a project? That’s almost never covered at the college level, and it’s a critical job skill.

    And I haven’t even touched the tech side of things yet. 🙂

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