Alternative Web Design Education Options

Apr 5, 2013 • Josh Cramer

I was just responding to an email from someone interested in guidance on pursuing an education in web design and app development. This individual was considering attending a local community college and going through the web design program offered there. I ended up recommending some alternative educational resources and thought I’d share them with you all here.

While I think there is still merit in pursuing a traditional education, there are a number of other options available that may provide more pure educational value in some areas as compared to the web design courses at your local community college. Here are a few that I’m aware of:

Code School For pay online courses lead by experts.

Starter League World class, Chicago based, in-person courses that teach you how to code and build apps.

Coursera Free online collaborative courses from the world’s best institutions. Coursera offers a number of courses that span a range of topics.

Udacity More free online collaborative courses from leading institutions. Udacity offers lots of courses in topics other than app development and web design.

Tree House For-pay online web design and development courses and tutorials. We’ve used this in continuing education for members of our team. Great stuff!

Codecademy Free online interactive courses that teach anyone how to code. My 8 year old daughter obtained a Python certificate Codecademy. This is a great way to get introduced to the concept of coding. Everyone should do it! Professional grade tutorials, workshops, and screencasts on web/app design and development topics. They also offer a slick iPhone app.

O’Reilly School of Technology A variety of continuing education courses on various IT related topics. They also offer certificates of professional development.

I believe these options are the beginning of a major disruption of the traditional education model. We would be more likely to hire someone who had completed a sufficient number of these courses and had a relevant portfolio than someone who had a degree from a local community college in web design. Though, we always try to hire based on the true merit and culture fit of the individual as opposed to the amount of paper the candidate possesses.

Web design, coding, and app development, in particular, are all disciplines that are very difficult for the traditional educational models to effectively address. This is because they change so fast. The end result is that the web design courses at your typical community college are a bit out dated and irrelevant. Or they are taught by instructors who do not have adequate experience in the subject matters being taught. The one exception is that I think many traditional schools do a fine job at teaching the fundamentals of computer science. These principles have been established for long enough that the world has had enough opportunity to build up curriculum to support instruction in these areas.

My hope is that these alternative educational options will put pressure on many local community colleges and universities to step up the quality and relevancy of the educational value of their courses in these ares. They’ll need to in order to remain relevant over the long term and that will be good for everyone.