Our industry is rapidly changing which means it’s a tough area for educators to cover. So in what way does education benefit web developers that everyday adventurous work could not? Doctors, police officers and accountants need their education to perform but do we? If we do not need education to be fantastic web designers and developers, does that mean anyone can quickly learn to make great and scalable websites?
First of all, if education is valuable or not is a stupid question. All education is valuable in one way or another—you learn. If you learn easier, quicker or more enjoyable than you would by working, however, is more interesting. I believe the question is far too subjective for us to answer. Only you can tell if going for an education in web development is worth your time.
If you do decide that being a student suits you, what are the options for web design and development? While I do not plan to pursue an education myself, there’s a couple of schools I would consider if I did. Since I have not been looking for one, I’m not aware of any good English or American schools that offer education in this area. The ones I’m thinking about are both Swedish.
The one I’m most enthusiastic about is Berghs School of Communication. The web is a medium for communication and Berghs offer a few really interesting programs which prepares students for real-life work. They also connect students with well-known Swedish businesses which can give them a kick in the right direction.
Both Interactive Communication, Marketing/strategic communication, Project Management and Art Direction all look like very interesting studies. Since they are one year programs, they would not be a huge interruption to my work.
Hyper Island would be my second choice—their website is in English in case you’d like to have a look. From what I’ve heard, they are very digital/interactive and offer programs such as Interactive Art Director, Application Designer, and E-commerce Manager. I believe both developers and designers could benefit greatly from spending some time at this institution.
But we need to ask ourselves how we really enjoy learning. Personally, I’m more of a learning-by-doing kind of developer. The reason why I started my own business is that I want to pursue work that challenges me daily—work that I constantly learn from. A lot of people prefer this way of learning but there’s also many who really feel that the support of an institution like Hyper Island or Berghs is invaluable.
While I can’t say for sure, it seems as if these private institutions are very up-to-date with the industry and the students are very happy with the education they receive. It shouldn’t be very difficult to adapt each semester after the changes in technology and methodology, should it?
There are bad apples in the basket as well, of course. Some beginner web design courses teach methods of development and design that are far outdated or just plain bad practice. When I was studying business and marketing in Santa Monica, I selected a course on web design as part of my general education. After the first lesson I confidently dropped out, as the room was filled with people who obviously had no intention of ever becoming professionals—the teacher being one of them.
Many, if not most, courses (often at “regular” institutions) are ridiculous. They teach for months something that can be learned from online material in a week or less if you are an ambitious and somewhat technical person. But as shown here, there are schools that provide excellent education even for experienced web professionals.
We need to remember that it’s not only about the technical aspects. Most of us could learn a lot from courses in project management, interactive/marketing communication or even traditional business and marketing courses. These are perhaps more subtle areas which are harder to “see” but which are highly relevant and valuable for anyone dealing with interactivity and the web.
From what I feel right now, I won’t be pursuing an education any time soon. However, the possibility is there and I believe we should all at least consider the option before disposing of the idea completely. Just because you’re doing web design, a subject which is relatively new and fast-paced, doesn’t mean education is worthless.
So far I haven’t mentioned what others are so often discussing; is it beneficial to your resume and portfolio to be backed up by these educations. I will not discuss this since the question can be answered by applying a little bit of common sense. Of course it is a good thing to have education in your CV—some people will shred it immediately if you don’t. But work experience is also very valuable.
Stop making important decisions based on what “looks best”. Think about what you right now want to do, and what would be most useful for you. In the end, what matters most is the work you do. Great clients and dream jobs are the result of hard work, passion, will-power and most of all, repeatedly achieving fantastic results. The choice between doing that by applying knowledge from education or from previous work is entirely up to you.