Fall, 2016 semester

The fall, 2016, semester started this Monday, August 15. As we start each school year, I take a moment and reflect on accomplishments (both last academic year and this summer) and think about the future. After all, the reason I teach web design and development is precisely because of the future. Sure, I could earn a lot more money working in the private sector, but I think it is more important to give back to the community. As Executive Director (and previously Director of Education) for WebProfessionals.org, I have observed a significant need for sustainability. History echos unless we learn from the past. There is a significant need for quality and current content in education for the areas of web design and development. This is why I teach (and why I strive to keep my classes up to date with emerging trends). It is also why I have never taught the same class twice (sure, same title, but the content is always updated).


To those who are just getting started with their education in our CMWEB program (and to those who are returning for another semester) – WELCOME! Yes, I was shouting. You are the future web professionals who will do significant things in your life. I challenge you to learn as much as you can from your professors and those you interact with in class. This is a great opportunity to focus on learning and to develop the behaviors which will enable you to become a web professional.

Remember that we (your professors) are here to help you learn and succeed. We often present problems in class assignments that seem nebulous and a little undefined. Guess what – that is what most business problems look like in life. I have spent decades developing websites for clients. Throughout my entire career, I have never encountered a simple problem where everyone already knew the solution. If that were the case, why would they need me (or you for that matter)? Sure, some of the problems are tough and most can not be solved in a single hour or two. Again, we are trying to help you develop behaviors which will enable you to succeed in a very competitive job environment.

Keep in mind it is up to you. Learning is a very personal activity. You need to practice and experiment, break your code, fix your code and learn from the effort. Always make mistakes. Never make the same mistake. Instead, learn and make new mistakes. Part of that learning process is that you should also begin to develop the skills to identify when your knowledge is outdated (and then stop and learn the new approach). This happens all the time when working with web technologies.

A good example of these changes today is JavaScript. We will soon be entering the era of ES6 (aka Ecmascript 2015). This is a major improvement to the existing JavaScript. It is also a significant shift in the capabilities of the language and how we approach and solve client problems using this technology. No, a lot of browsers do not presently support ES6, but that will rapidly change over the coming months. This is why we touch on bits and pieces in our JavaScript classes. This is also why we will focus more and more on this technology in future semesters. It wasn’t that long ago that we migrated all our classes to focus on HTML5 and CSS-3. The changes will keep coming. This is partly why you need to keep learning (don’t ever stop in this field).

I also encourage you to work with your classmates. Many bring different knowledge. The best way to fully understand a topic is to teach it. This is why some of the discussion forums in class will focus on specific technologies and ask you to do some research (and share it with classmates).

Have a great semester, learn as much as you can. Take advantage of opportunities to network with your classmates. We hold an open lab every Tuesday night in TC 314 on the East Peoria campus of ICC. We also hold online office hours on Wednesday night. Participate in these and get to know your professors. Show up even if you don’t have a specific question. Don’t forget we hold monthly Web Professionals meetings (second Tuesday of each month). Participate in those. Consider becoming a student officer. This will be looked upon very favorably by those who will be hiring you in a few short years. Also, give some thought to participating in the state web design contest we hold every spring. Make the commitment this fall to become a member and allocate the time for the contest.

Great opportunities await you this semester. But, you have to take the first step.

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