Why learning web development at college is good for you

I constantly hear people complaining that they aren’t getting what they want out of college, that they can do it alone and that they don’t want to be taught ‘behind the times’ ASP and that their college needs to be brought into the ‘current day teaching techniques’ – so here’s why I think all that is a load of crap.

With your teacher(s), you will more than likely deal with the hardest client you’ll ever have

With my first web development project at college we had to develop a random concept web site into XHTML/CSS. I submitted a div tag/CSS layout and was promptly asked where I took the code from and why I was trying to cheat in my college class. To which I explained that I had been developing outside of college for some time prior to joining the course, which wasn’t met by believing eyes.

You see this type of interaction with a teacher is what teaches you the fundamentals of dealing with bad clients, bad contractors and bad customers. Do you blow your lid and call the teacher a fool? Or do you politely explain you’ve got x years experience playing with sites beforehand?

If the teacher has past experience running their own company or doing client projects then they’ll be even further of a problem to you. They’ll teach you how old fashioned some clients can be by being old fashioned themselves – why aren’t you using tables? Does this validate to HTML 4.0 standards? Why aren’t you including food costs in your client billing breakdown?

Learning ASP isn’t all that bad, especially if you are in it for the money

There’s more money in ASP and there’s more real jobs available. The type where you sit in a company and develop all day long. The language teaches you structure, and gives you a first hand view of what it is like on the other side of the fence should you be a PHP/Ruby on Rails type of guy. Why is it a bad thing to be able to start a PHP/Ruby vs ASP argument with ‘well I’ve worked with ASP before, and…’?

If you’re good, you’ll learn to teach

I spent a lot of my time helping out my friends with problems at college, my grades suffered but at the end of the day but I gained a good knowledge of what it is like to teach. Today this is applied to how I can teach clients about how Rolled’s process works, how we teach them WordPress or basic XHTML for post formatting in their CMS.

At the end of the day I finished basic tasks in less than a minute, and spent the rest of the hour helping people out and learning from it – just because you’re finished with something doesn’t mean there’s nothing else to do.


I was useless at presenting when I first started on my college course, a nervous wreck when standing in front of the class. If your course includes presenting and you’re asking why – I honestly don’t know what you’re thinking.

The talent of being able to react to an incredibly tricky question from a teacher in front of 10-20 people and not look like an idiot is something of a secret that you can take to your grave. Putting passion into something you have no passion about when presenting is also another talent that few have, especially when it’s all put together the night before at 4am after getting in from a night out.

It teaches you how to place graphics, what fonts work and what don’t, how to present one idea but how to present another – and at the end of the day, it’s practice for pitching if you are to be in that position later on in life.

In conclusion

Stop whinging – stay in college and get your degree/diploma. College can teach you many things you wouldn’t learn outside of the boundaries until it’s too late. Do you want to present to a client having never done it before? Deal with a bad client for the first time on your newly acquired project? Have work go entirely dry and not have those Junior ASP programmer positions to apply to? Lose every PHP/Ruby vs ASP argument because you have no facts to use to back up your side of things?

At the end of the day it’s college, it’s not an experience many get more than twice for two to four years of their life. Suck it up, learn from it and experiment as much as possible whilst you can.

7 Responses

  1. Chris Ranjana

    Yes.. Ruby on Rails and Dot net would be a good combination to start with.

  2. Zach Holman

    The thing about presenting is that it’s one of those things that, while it can be difficult for some to pick up naturally, if you understand some of the base concepts you’re already doing really, really well. If there’s one thing I’ve picked up over the last couple of years, it’s that real presenting is a skill that most crash and burn on. For some reason people just don’t “get it”. Their slides are crap, they speak too much or too little, or they don’t understand how to target what they’re thinking into words that their audience will understand or pay attention to.

    If you do have some decent talent for presenting (either naturally or through practice or both), it really only takes a little bit to make yourself look better than everyone else when they’re presenting. I didn’t like presentations at first either, but now I love to do them; they’re an interesting challenge.

  3. Andy

    Nice post! I frequently bitched about the capabilities of my lecturers and tutors in my IS course.

    Never saw the silver lining in dealing with this environment until you pointed it out!

    Also, if you learn ASP first, PHP is a cinch to pickup (except the $ variable prefixes were hard to get used to)

  4. Stu

    Same could be said about not going to college/uni and getting work experience instead… you will pick up skills and learn things that will be not be learnt in college. In my opinion, going into the graphics/web design fields a degree is not really essential. A strong portfolio can make up for the fact you don’t have that degree.

  5. James

    I’d have to agree with your post – even though I spend a lot of time moaning about my teachers at the moment and will probably moan about my lecturers a lot at university, being taught teaches you how to deal with people and how to teach.

    (And after I handed in my brief for my last school Computing project last month [a PHP CMS] my teacher commented “so how much code have you taken off the internet for this then?” If you can be polite after that, I think you can be polite after anything.)

  6. Martyn

    I enjoy programming in ASP and PHP and neither of them have an X in the name too! Unfortunately I left education long before these languages were introduced and I would have loved the opportunity to have had some structure to learning them let alone whinge about them.

  7. Meera

    Absolutely! I took one web development course in college and that’s the one that got me addicted. I even went overboard by my helping out friends design and develop their websites for FREE. Couldn’t help it … just got hooked! :D

    Oh yea, affected my grades too but it was worth it. Knowledge gained from practical use is better than theory memorized by rote. In fact i just got back into web development after 2.5 year of doing systems programming. It was tough to switch back at first but I do remember the basics that i’ve learned back in college. So that helped increase the learning speed. Glad to be back!

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