The Web Standardistas

These are just my notes, there may be inaccuracies. I share them because they’re more useful on the web than sitting in Google Docs. Thoughts, corrections etc, please put them in the comments.

This was the last presentation before lunch from last Monday’s Web Teaching Day that Richard Eskins (Lecturer in the Department of Information & Communications) so generously organised at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Christopher Murphy and Nik Persson (the Web Standardistas) from the University of Ulster.

The Context

Getting into web design people either came from an engineering or design background. The industry has grown and we now have this job title called “web designer”. In their course they used to mix-in only maybe a small part of the other side of web design. So, a graphic course would have a small part of code and vice versa. These were the old days, but it sometimes still exists now, there’s a separation of design and technical. They call it the “nerd/designer continuum”.

They have a good setup, some of their lecturers are from industry. They don’t want to lose touch with contemporary practice.

Segregation vs. Integration

They have two types of course set up:

Option A.
The course they’re teaching at the moment. Mostly computer science lead. There are 11 engineering modules and 7 design. The content of the course is based on what the people in engineering decide.

Option B.
The Visual Communication course only teaches one module on WordPress and how to go “from print to web”. The problem with this is that students learn nothing about web design. They think they can do it all in Flash.

What’s wrong with this segregated approach?

Everything. It’s not what the graduates of today need. We need to rethink how we do these courses urgently. They came up with a new course, they ran into political problems (again) over cannibalising numbers from older courses.

Can graduates leave without learning all of the basics they need? No. No employer should be expected to teach the rest of web design. industry is struggling to keep up with client demands, they have no time go teach web design (but it’s almost expected by some educators).

It’s a really big list of principles that people need to know if they want to learn web standards. They use a lot of exemplars, Koy Vin, FontDeck. The lecturers also need to keep learning more.

They don’t use Dreamweaver in their teaching, they use free tools. Their course is based on a deep understanding of markup. They create a lot of markup documents with intricate comments. This is part of their role as editors for their students, they make the files more useful for the students.

The Educators’ Toolbox

  • Face-to-face,
  • Lectures,
  • Seminars,
  • Tutorials,
  • Distance – using the tools at our disposal,
  • Engaging the audience,
  • Build communities.

They also have one-to-one time with students, including meeting in the pub. They scheduled a tutorial session between 1 and 5 on a Friday afternoon in order to weed out the less passionate (potentially time wasting) students.

I had a gap here where I zoned out responding to emails!

The language that you use in course documentation – they’ve been going through and removing specifics of mentioning HTML or any particular technology. They got to the stage where the engineering department wouldn’t teach CSS alongside it because it wasn’t mentioned in the course description.

Student feedback is important. Read the negatives and find out what’s not working there. Use the feedback to change your delivery. Ensure your teaching is fit for purpose.

Iterate. Sometimes lecturers focus too much on research projects. They don’t necessarily update their course content. Don’t be afraid of throwing away old content.


Q. Have they incorporated audio in their course?
A. They have thought about it, but are not in the situation where they going to implement it. They do change content all the time, partly inspired by what they learn from students. There are ways to change content.

Q. At undergraduate level what are the top 5 technologies their students have heard of?
A. HTML, CSS, JS, PHP and other more general content eg. Understanding comics by Scott McCloud.

Q. How do you differentiate the level of the content eg for undergraduate and postgraduate?
A. It’s just a different approach rather than different content.

Q. Surprisinng that they’re still doing one-to-one tutorials. Greenwich has studio critiques, how is it set up?
A. One to ones are lab based.

Posted on Sunday 12 September 2010.

Posted in education, wtd2010 | 7 comments »

7 Responses to “The Web Standardistas”

  1. Errm. You’re a fine one to talk about web standards when all the titles on your webpage are rendered using flash and are therefore rather inaccessible.

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Standardistas and Andrew Disley, Nick Smith. Nick Smith said: My notes from the @standardistas' talk at @webteachingday: #wtd2010 [...]

  3. @Alice – Thanks for the feedback on my site. I assure you I’ve not used Flash flippantly. I’ve put a lot of thought into the pros and cons of each of the technologies available. However I’m prepared to be brought into line. Can you elaborate on what you see is wrong?

  4. @Alice Read regarding the sIFR technique and accessibility issues

  5. Yeah ok, except it isn’t quite working. Block the flash using ad-block and you see no titles at all – the alternative spans with the actual text don’t show.

    Presumably you’ve some way of detecting whether the flash is or isn’t being loaded, and only displaying the actual text when flash isn’t loading. However that’s clearly failing when using Ad-block Plus in Firefox.

    And isn’t HTML5 and it’s new embedded font support supposed to be the way of handling fancy fonts and typefaces like this?

  6. @Jugglinpete, @Alice – you’re both making me want to write a blog post about this ;) Perhaps later in the week.

    @Alice – A lot of what you say is perfectly justified. HTML5 is definitely the way to go (I’d always support that), and it’s so close to doing what I need it to do. I’ve coded HTML5 sites, but I’m not the kind to jump on any bandwagons (especially where fonts are concerned). Have you ever tested sIFR, Cufon, @font-face, system fonts etc and compared their pros and cons? It’s a really interesting exercise. Highly recommended.

    Whatever the outcome, I agree the solution I have here is far from perfect.

  7. @Alice – oops, the mistake I’m always making in conversation. HTML5 brings with it no new font features. You may be talking about @font-face but that’s been around for ages (CSS2?).

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