A web-sized education problem?

by chrismills. 1 Comment

London Web Standards is pleased to present a guest blog post from Chris Mills.

The web industry is quite unique: It has been built on the fundamental values of openness and inclusivity, and it is these values that set it apart from other professional industries. However, this is a double edged sword — other professional industries have regulatory bodies who maintain codes of practice, and help to regulate qualifications and assessment. These are usually born out of a need for standards. The web has standards too, but these are much looser — the W3C standards are actually recommendations, and there is no means really to enforce them, although those who care to maintain the core values of our industry know that working to these standards, guidelines and associated best practices is the only way forward.

And this brings us to the web education conundrum. Right now, anyone with a computer and an internet connection can call themselves a web developer or a web designer, without the need for any formal qualifications. There are educational institutions currently offering web-related courses, but most are of a poor quality, are outdated and are not providing the necessary skills that a modern web professional needs. Bad web development is therefore propagated a lot more than it should, hanging around the Web like a bad smell.

Most website owners do not know what constitutes a “good” website and are at the mercy of web design and development agencies, of which there are some 2500 in the UK alone. There are cowboys in every sector, but in a fast growing, unregulated industry, it is akin to being in the wild west.

But I am optimistic. I have the good fortune to be a part of this passionate, caring and forward thinking web community, filled with amazing folk who want to evolve the Web, improve its overall standards and for the industry, which in its short life has become a central part of our global society, to get the respect and recognition it deserves.

And so, a bunch of us like-minded folk have got together and started to create resources to help educators do the right thing, as well as doing outreach to anyone that will listen, talking to educators and clients alike about what “good” web design is, and spreading the message as far as we can. Resources such as WaSP InterACT, a series of course structures, example assignments and other resources for educators to use to assemble a modern curriculum. Resources like the Opera web standards curriculum, a series of over 60 free tutorials teaching modern web standards and best practices. Resources that are based on open standards, available under Creative Commons, and aligned with the core values of openness and inclusivity.

We’ve also set up the open web education alliance, a grass roots organization dedicated to keeping the momentum going behind creating resources and outreach, and putting some structure behind it all.

If you want more information about these resources, and want to learn how you can help, read my SlideShare presentation — A web sized education problem?, and look for the contact details at the end.

Want to know more?

At the next London Web Standards event on Monday 18 October 2010, Anna Debenham and I will give you the lowdown on the state of web education, what the main problems are, what solutions we’re moving towards, and how you can help.

  • Why are graduates not coming to the web industry with the real world skills they need to get a job?
  • Why are a lot of young geeks turning their back on education and going it alone?
  • How can the community help to turn this state of affairs around?

So, come and join the conversation and help keep our industry evolving and awesome.

General release tickets are available at 1pm on Friday 8 October 2010 on EventBrite.

Chris Mills

Chris is a long time advocate of accessibility, web standards and associated best practices, who now works for Opera, the viking browser vendor. In his previous career, he was a technical and commissioning editor for various publishing houses, including Wrox, Apress, and friends of ED. He spends a lot of his time promoting web best practices and inclusive design by publishing articles of dev.opera.com (and other places), and giving lectures at conferences and universities worldwide. He is also the creator of the web standards curriculum (http://www.opera.com/wsc), a contributor to WaSP InterACT (http://interact.webstandards.org), and a core team member of the open web education alliance (http://openwebeducation.org/). He is also a coauthor of “InterACT with web standards: A holistic approach to web design” (New Riders, 2010, http://interactwithwebstandards.com/).

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