Revamping College Tech Curricula

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Date posted: August 6, 2012

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  • Develop new processes for covering cutting-edge technologies.  Universities have well-established methodologies for adding new courses, most of which take significant time and effort.  In most cases, time is not of the essence when offering these courses, so it does not matter that it can take a year or two to develop a new course.  However, with technology courses, rapid development and deployment of classes is vital to maintaining a relevant, modern program.  Universities and accreditation bodies must work together to make sure students are taught relevant material in a timely fashion with less bureaucratic obstacles preventing this from taking place.
  • Pay adjunct instructors according to their worth.  Currently, adjunct instructors make little money teaching a course, sometimes as little as $15/hr with no benefits.  Adjuncts teach for the love of teaching.  Most have “day jobs” where they are using web design skills and staying on the cutting edge, and that is how they are valuable to colleges and universities.  Because of their real-world experience, they are best qualified to differentiate between trendy technology with a short shelf-life and substantial changes to the field.  When adjunct instructors can make $100/hr freelancing or $15/hr teaching, most will freelance instead.  If universities pay adjunct instructors more, they will attract higher quality instructors,  instructors who love teaching and don’t have to sacrifice their livelihood to teach students.

Until colleges and universities can offer an education of value to students, enrollments in web design courses will continue to decline.  Finding ways to keep the curriculum up-to-date, incorporating real-world perspectives and knowledge, and collaborating across departments to provide a complete picture of the field of web design are critical for increasing enrollments.

Thanks to my friend and colleague James Lambert for editing, suggestions, and great discussions about web design curriculum.

– Jen Kramer, BRIDGE Guest Blogger

For over twelve years, Jen Kramer has been educating clients, colleagues, friends and graduate students about the meaning of a “quality website.”  Jen develops sites that are functional, usable, accessible, and supportive of business and marketing goals.  She has built highly customized Joomla websites since 2005.

Jen is a lynda.com author with nine published titles, including the popular “Joomla 2.5 Essential Training” and “Web Site Strategy and Planning.”  She has written two books published by Wrox Press (a division of Wiley) – Joomla! Start to Finish: How to Plan, Execute, and Maintain Your Web Site and Joomla! 24-Hour Trainer.

Jen currently offers courses through Harvard Extension, Community College of Vermont, and the Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University.  Jen earned a BS in Biology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MS in Internet Strategy Management at the Marlboro College Graduate School.

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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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