Learning Web Dev - online or local college?


(Rob) #1

I’m getting ready to sign up for web development certificate (2 years at local college) and wondering if taking it at my local college vs. online is better. Anyone have any experience? Any recommendations?

By the way, I’m using financial aid to pay for school so I"m sure that limits some of the choices.


(Leland Fiegel) #2

It depends on a few things.

  • How do you prefer to learn? Do you find it more effective to be in a physical classroom setting? Or would you rather set your own pace, and have the self-discipline to stick with it?
  • Do you have any idea how up-to-date the curriculum is? Are you going to be building sites in Frontpage? Or is it on-par with modern web development standards?

Personally, I highly recommend Code School. It starts at only $19 per month (if prepaid for a year) and you get access to everything. I’ve used it myself to brush up on some skills that I wasn’t familiar with. It does take discipline to stick with it though. There’s no professor to give you a bad grade if you fall behind. You’re basically just motivated by your desire to learn (which it sounds like you have, since you’re asking the question).

In my experience, college curriculum is hopelessly out of date, and extremely overpriced. Although I can’t speak for the local college you have in mind, in a lot of cases, the material hasn’t been updated in several years. Considering how quickly the web development industry moves, learning super dated material may hurt more than help.

If you want the best of both worlds, maybe there is an in-person class available put on by a private training company (i.e. not an accredited educational institution). The Iron Yard and General Assembly are a couple that come to mind, but not sure if they’re available in your area.


(Miroslav Glavić) #3

the standards in different colleges in different countries are huge.

The teacher I had when I went for Digital Media Arts (bits of everything) just to get the basics of all those bits was someone already in the WordPress community in Montreal. I live in Toronto.

After the updates, I upgraded my skills with practice.

Overpriced…meh…same could be said about many elements of our community. Many of those teachers will tell you no. Just like theme/plugin authors overpricing their themes/plugins, yet if you ask them if they are overpriced…they will most likely say no.


(Ben) #4

I got a degree in digital art - but there’s not much that I learnt in those three years that’s applicable now. Most of what I know about web design is self taught - so I’d suggest that.

As @leland said - there’s a lot of online courses that are awesome - and in general, just doing stuff is a great way to learn.


(Nate Wright) #5

I’ll echo what the others said about “self-learning”. It’s by far the more common way that people in the industry learn. And because you have to keep learning every single day you work in this industry, developing the ability to learn on your own is probably just as important as what you actually learn.

But motivation can be really difficult. If you go the self-learning route, I’d strongly encourage you to seek out and participate in local groups where you can meet other people who will inspire you, encourage you, keep your motivation up and help you out along the way.

You’ll find WordPress meetups, PHP meetups, frontend developer meetups and more. If you live too far from any of these meetups, find supportive online groups of people who you can stay in regular contact with. Even pay for this if you need to.


(ponvendhan) #6

One of my cousin is studying web design in a local college. Glad I didn’t. They are teaching html based on tables and columns. Most shocking is he don’t have any idea about linking separate css file, as he is styling everything in same html file. I told him that he is 20 years behind.


(Jason) #7

I’m entirely self-taught in the sense that I’ve learned as I go, but I’ve also had some awesome professional mentors along the way in the field, challenging me to think differently. I’ve been mentoring someone for a couple months now and they’ve done an awesome job progressing. We meet every other week and I give them homework (e.g. make a plugin that adds a custom post type with custom fields and columns) and have them use online resources (e.g. Code Academy). When we meet I just let him ask questions about concepts and anything he’s been struggling with.

To my knowledge, the issue academia is having presently is that it takes years for a curriculum to be written and accepted, and in that time web technology has progressed too quickly. Learning to develop online is like learning how to canoe in a river. It’s not just being able to traverse it at one given point, but being along the journey and having traveled some distance through shallows, depths, rapids, and forks. College teaches you all about the canoe, but what makes someone truly proficient is knowing the river itself. Going the self-taught route can be hard, especially if it’s alone, but by doing so you learn both the canoe and the river at the same time.

What I will give academia is that it does dive pretty deep into things like server-side management and computer science, which can give you a pretty intricate idea of not just how things work, but why things work. A good number of web developers I run into aren’t entirely sure what’s going on behind the scenes (especially front-end developers, which is an interested concept in and of itself). That extra knowledge can make you pretty formidable. It’s certainly possible to learn that yourself, but it is pretty difficult.

Hope this helps! :slight_smile: