Saturday, July 4, 2009

Invoking the Internet

I have just finished my first post-BA course this week, an online programming course with this description:

Focuses on developing World Wide Web pages for the Internet using HTML. Covers writing HTML code, creating hypertext links, working with design elements, creating text and graphic tables, and coding frames and forms.

I can tell you I pretty much received none of that. I think I learned more by formatting my MySpace page a few years ago and obviously with the help of my better half coaching me through this 1990s era course.

For some background, I decided to take the course, which my job ever so kindly paid for, because I am enjoying blogging and would like to learn how to convert this blog to a website and the design aspects behind it. Watching Scott working on Web sites and helping Ashley out with the design and planning of her business, really intrigued me to learn more.

The course was six weeks long, roughly from Memorial Day to the 4th of July. We had one orientation meeting where the prof went over the syllabus and I kid you not, explained how to open a web browser with the words "invoke the internet." For a fleeting moment, I thought I might have needed a more advanced class. It was also one of those moments (which I swear happen a lot) where I look around to see if anyone else thought that was a rather special statement to make. Because this was an online course, I pictured more professionals like myself at the orientation but was pretty surprised to find many college students doing it on the side with a few older moms and one advanced child there with his own mom. If he could do it, I could.

The foundational problem with the course is that it is all purely theoretical web development. Students are graded on quizzes (which can be taken multiple times, with no time limit) based on material presented in the textbook and PowerPoint lectures. Projects are optional. WTF? How on earth am I going to learn to do this by theory? Clearly I planned to attempt the projects with Scott's help, so that I may actually gain something from this. With my job paying for it, I felt especially accountable to get their money's worth as well.

I did a fairly good job with Scott's assistance in building two quasi-websites with content provided to me. However, the projects were flawed by the instructor's poor planning. Because I am still new to the terminology and overall construction of website design, I can tell you in layman's (my own) terms, that the pages were not fitting the browser as it was resized and were utilizing out of date HTML code such as the font tag and framing, which I still can't wrap my brain around it's so archaic. Additionally, he would switch from CSS to HTML on the assumption that a beginner-level student knew the difference. Remember, this is coming from the man who said "invoke the Internet."

The grading rubric was also flawed. I am an over-achiever, always will be, and with the job paying for the course, I wanted to do well, just to well, say so. As I stated above, projects were optional and if the grade was higher than that of the final, would replace that final exam. I only completed 2/4 projects when I realized how much of a waste of time it was for me, and Scott who was coaching me through. I had prepared myself for a scary final full of code to decipher but was again met with theory and out of date questions that even the W3C would balk at. It was not until after I submitted the exam that I noticed the grading rubric INCLUDED the 4 projects in the total along with the exam. Again, WTF? It clearly states they are optional, so I have no idea what this guy is smoking. He's in his 60s, do the math.

So now I am left with maybe an ounce of gained HTML knoweldge and no real understanding of how to apply it. I definitely want to continue to pursue it-I set out hoping to further my skill set and still plan to. I will probably take another course offered by a work colleague and even have Scott help me with some work projects.

One thing I did learn was how truly hard it can be to be working full time and then having to devote time and attention to another need. Having finished school in December 2006 it has been almost 3 years since I've had to find time for academic work-I do not miss that. This experience also gave me some insight into working moms who go back to school, and what they must balance. Definitely an appreciation for their hard work and determination to succeed both professionally and at home.

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