HTML Education in Universities

Why, oh why, are website classes so extremely out of date in universities, colleges, and schools? I just spent the last few hours helping my wife with her Information Systems class. I’ve had to do similar assignments for technology classes, yet the things they are teaching are extremely out of date and a waste of time. Why? After taking these classes, to actually use HTML, I would have to unlearn 80% of what they taught, and re-learn from scratch.

It is one thing to keep things very simple. However, if I have a basic Account class, and I would expect to learn about Credits, Debits, and keeping a ledger. There isn’t a need to get into complex concepts or advanced journal entries. However, if I take an Accounting class, and they teach me incorrect concepts, that class would be 100% worthless. I’ve uploaded the project my wife had done for her class, after following their textbook and professors instructions. This is also after helping her remove as much “junk” HTML.

Her Website Assignment

For those HTML Gurus out there, if they look at the source, they’ll cringe. I haven’t seen this poor of HTML since the 90s. Also, guess what? The book they were following was published in 2008. How well does this example validate? Terrible. This was after I helped her strip every bad piece of HTML I could without “breaking” the instructions.

Why teach your students to use very, very old markup? I guess is the authors don’t have a clue. However, if I hired a person who says they know HTML, and the produced the stuff books teaches, I would very upset. I mean, who teaches their students to use background images like that? Here is what HTML classes need to teach:

HTML Structure

Don’t worry about styling at first. Just worry about the structure. That is why they invented CSS (Cascade Styles Sheets). Teach your students how to use your correct markup. Use strong, emphasis, and span tags. Here are some examples:


My Dog

Bold, Italics

Bold, Italics

Once they have a good base for HTML structure, then you can move on to Styling. There is no need to use Font, B, or I tags.

Cascade Styling

I can see why a professor would be leery to teach about Cascade Style-sheets. They can be confusing, and a new concept for their students. Also, Information System classes usually only have 2-3 weeks before moving onto another subject. So keep is very, very basic. Don’t even touch on ID and CLASS attributes if you don’t have time. Just show changing the colors of links, and maybe making strong and emphasis tags different colors. Keep it simple. However, do NOT resort to deprecated methods that may seem easier to use at first, but hurt the student’s full education on the subject.

Teach Principles, Not Motions

My wife’s professor held an optional saturday class to help with the assignment. If a student went, the teacher would walk through, step-by-step, what to put into notepad to make their websites. However, there wasn’t any discuss as to why they were typing what they we’re. Unfortunately, I feel like they were probably just going through the motions. The goal of teaching students is that they walk away with something. If you’re just spoon feeding the students what to type, what good is it doing? Isn’t it just a waste of time?

Don’t spend time getting a better “end result” by sacrificing the learning process. Teach students the “why” for what they are doing. If that means you only mention CSS, show how it works, but not require the students to write any, so be it. I know technology can be extremely difficult to teach. Many students have a hard time grasping concepts. Technology professions, such as website designers, usually rely heavily on self-taught technologies. Traditional classes usually aren’t well adapt to keeping up with the content.

What Should Professors Do?

Don’t worry about crazy backgrounds, changing colors, and different font sizes. Focus on good, validated content. If its super simple, thats fine. You can tell your students if they are interested in learning more, point them to websites like W3Schools.

Also, I would say a large portion of the blame lies on the Book Publishers. I would assume many of these teachers and professors are teaching general information systems classes. They aren’t experienced web designers and just teach what is in the books. The fact that students are buying brand new books with outdated content is rediculous. Maybe 2-3 years out of date, but not a decade.

I don’t know what else, other then there is nothing that drives me crazy more than sitting in a class learning something the wrong way.

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