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Ask Slashdot: Modern Web Development Applied Science Associates Degree? 246

Posted by samzenpus
from the teach-them-well dept.
First time accepted submitter campingman777 writes "I am being asked by students to develop an associates of applied science in modern web development at my community college. I proposed the curriculum to some other web forums and they were absolutely against it. Their argument was that students would not learn enough higher math, algorithms, and data structures to be viable employees when their industry changes every five years. As part of our mission is to turn out employees immediately ready for the work force, is teaching knowledge-based careers as a vocation appropriate?"
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Ask Slashdot: Modern Web Development Applied Science Associates Degree?

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  • by pieisgood (841871) on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:31PM (#46389963) Journal

    What would someone with an applied science in modern web development do?

    Would they work on the algorithms for applied science in a server side language like php?
    Would they work in python/c++/haskell or something like fortran and hook into php?

    I'd like to help, but I need some further information.

    Note: I looked up this degree on google and the last result on the first page was this submission.

    • Re:I'm confused (Score:5, Interesting)

      by campingman777 (1432017) on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:38PM (#46390029)

      SEMESTER 1
              English I
              Intro to computers (or waived) (CIS 100)
              Programming tools (Github, IDEs, StackExchange, JIRA)
              Intro to Programming Logic (CIS 104)

      SEMESTER 2
              Algebra I
              English II (tech writing)
              Project Management (software)
              Web Development I (HTML & CSS)

      SEMSTER 3
              Government
              Interpersonal Communication
              Databases I (re-visit & modify current offering)
              Web Development II (Javascript & jQuery)

      SEMESTER 4
              Cultural Anthropology
              Introduction to Unix (CIS 140)
              Web Development III (node.js, MVC frameworks, e-commerce)
              Capstone Project

      • by khasim (1285)

        The problem I see with that is that you don't have enough tech.

        You have 5 courses that I would consider "electives". English I and English II being examples of such.

        You have 5 "intro" courses.

        Which leaves 3 stages of web development and 1 stage of database ... whatever. You have more electives than core.

        Which leaves a basic math class and a project class. Dump the math class. If they don't have it already they can make it up outside of that program. Add another database class.

        Also dump the "programming tool

        • by DaveV1.0 (203135)
          Chances are those classes you think should be dumped are required by the certifying authority for this to qualify for an AAS. Many of the classes will be for people new to programming, so programming tools, etc. will be needed. There is no need for a basic web server admin class. There is most-likely an entirely different AAS degree for that kind of knowledge.
          • by khasim (1285)

            Chances are those classes you think should be dumped are required by the certifying authority for this to qualify for an AAS.

            A class on Algebra? Again, make it a prerequisite to the program. Use the slot to add another database program.

            Many of the classes will be for people new to programming, so programming tools, etc. will be needed.

            They won't be much use outside of a programming class. So don't spend time on them by themselves. Teach the IDE and github or whatever within the class itself.

            The idea being t

            • by DaveV1.0 (203135)
              There is probably a requirement for 1 math and 2 English credits.

              You would give up the limited time for teaching needed information in the programming class to teach the tools. That is a mistake. Your own stated goal would suffer because they would lose depth of knowledge in the programming classes.

              Knowing how to set up a web server is not important. Almost all the web programmers I have worked with couldn't set up a server and never needed to because there is someone like me whose job is doing that.
              • by khasim (1285)

                You would give up the limited time for teaching needed information in the programming class to teach the tools.

                If the tools take that much teaching then you've chosen the wrong tools. They should be 15 minutes at the most (with a handout on how to install them).

                Knowing how to set up a web server is not important. Almost all the web programmers I have worked with couldn't set up a server and never needed to because there is someone like me whose job is doing that.

                At which point you're getting into the "magic

        • English I and II are almost certainly required by any accredited school. Most accredited schools also have a humanities requirement, so Government and Anthropology are not unreasonable.

          I would consider Algebra I a remedial course, so I agreed, replace it.

          I also agree the programming tools class can be covered in other classes, including Project Management (Software).

          Move Intro to Unix to the first semester. Or maybe second, if Intro to Computers is needed. This will give them a foundation for the suggested

        • by vux984 (928602)

          You have 5 courses that I would consider "electives". English I and English II being examples of such.

          Far too many comp sci grads think basic language skills is an elective. It's not.

          Also dump the "programming tools" class. They can pick that up in their programming classes.

          Meaning they will learn the bare minimums to get their programming assignments done. No, these are worthy of their own classes.

          Add a class on basic web server administration. Install Apache and add modules and read logs. Install IIS and

          • by vux984 (928602)

            And to add to that... a course on security implementation / threat mitigation / etc.

            review XSS, cookie attacks, login systems, etc...

      • Yeah, there needs to be some server side programming in there some place. Maybe that's covered in Programming Logic and/or MVC frameworks.
    • Or they might learn to build the next Hadoop/Cassandra/etc.

  • There's nothing wrong with running a trade school. But "associate of applied science in modern web development" is a bit much. Still, you can now get an "associate degree" in heating, ventilating, and air conditioning. [vistacollege.edu] No classes in thermodynamics, but training in useful skills including brazing, soldering, and plumbing.

    • Of course the US and UK systems aren't exactly parallel, but it seems an Associate is on a par with a British HND. You can get those in all manner of things, mostly practical/vocational. One of my schoolmates did Hotel Management & Catering, another did Surveying & I knew a handful of people at University who were allowed to join straight into the second year by having them.

  • by vilanye (1906708) on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:35PM (#46390001)

    The fundamentals never change. With a solid base, there is nothing a programmer can't do.

    An AA program focused on what will get them hired today is exactly what will not get them hired tomorrow.

    • The fundamentals never change. With a solid base, there is nothing a programmer can't do.

      An AA program focused on what will get them hired today is exactly what will not get them hired tomorrow.

      That is true. And so many of us are thankful we learned the fundamentals and principles because we have had really gainfull and fulfilling careers because of it. But not everyone is like us.

      There are a lot of people who don't want to / cannot learn the fundamentals. But since they have been told the only path towards the middle class is to go to a 4 year school they will enroll and either drop out, flunk out, change majors, or graduate being barely competent in what they studied. And they will most lik

      • by sconeu (64226) on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:54PM (#46390199) Homepage Journal

        Precisely. When I was at UCSC, the students were agitating for a course in ... [wait for it] ... VAX Assembler.

        The department (quite rightly) ignored our plea.

        • Precisely. When I was at UCSC, the students were agitating for a course in ... [wait for it] ... VAX Assembler.

          The department (quite rightly) ignored our plea.

          lol the wisdom of history! I think you have now earned the right to include "get off my lawn kids" in your slashdot sig without losing karma.

        • by jrumney (197329)

          When I was at UCSC, the students were agitating for a course in ... [wait for it] ... VAX Assembler.

          You would never have been able to get a job at the Dyson factory with that on your CV.

    • by Ichijo (607641)

      The fundamentals of modern web development would be things like configuration management (including source control and deployment strategies), load testing, separation of content from presentation, accessibility, and so on. If you have a good understanding of these, you will remain relevant in the web development workforce long after we've moved away from HTML and JavaScript.

    • by ranton (36917)

      I agree, but this doesn't mean they need a full bachelors degree. I know you didn't say that specifically, but it kind of sounds like you are implying it. A class for each of the following topics would create a very employable web developer IMHO:

      Intro to programming - teaching the very basics in a language like Python
      Data structures and algorithms - one class can give a good enough to give an intro to data structures, sorting algorithms, etc.
      Intro to web development - teach HTML, CSS, and Javascript
      Advanced

  • Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by jnelson4765 (845296) on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:37PM (#46390017) Journal

    I work in a company writing online billing software. We use Perl and Ruby. We don't need people who know quicksort vs. bubble sort - we need people who understand browsers, and AJAX calls, and JSON, and business logic. I never touch anything more complicated in math than basic algebra.

    Javascript, CSS, and something other than PHP are what you need to know, with a leavening of SQL and XML. Screw all that CompSci crap - we don't use it in 99.9% of our code.

    • by khasim (1285)

      Screw all that CompSci crap - we don't use it in 99.9% of our code.

      It's not whether you use it in your code.

      CompSci teaches you the fundamentals that AJAX and JSON and such are built upon. That way you know what the alternatives are and what their strengths/weaknesses are.

    • by vilanye (1906708)

      I never touch anything more complicated in math than basic algebra.

      So you never program in an OO or functional language or use a database?

  • by OverlordQ (264228) on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:38PM (#46390031) Journal

    A Bachelors of Arts in anything scientific generally implies that you're not going to get enough exposure to anything you'll actually be doing, much less an associates. So sure, if you want to develop a program that teaches things they could pick up for $20 out of a book and make your college thousands, then 'Associates of Applied Science' sounds perfect.

    • A BA in a science means one of two things.

      1. You went to a school that offered a BA in science subjects as a certificate of attendance for those that spent 4 years studying a science but never got any of the 'science' or 'math' parts.
      2. You went to a school where the humanities control things. They don't like the _fact_ that BAs are second rate to BSs. So in the places run by the basket weaving departments, they just give 'bachelors' degrees or sometimes BAs in all subjects.

    • by starless (60879)

      A Bachelors of Arts in anything scientific generally implies that you're not going to get enough exposure to anything you'll actually be doing,...

      Or else that you went to Oxford University (for example) which doesn't award a Bachelor of Science degree:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D... [wikipedia.org]
      (And Oxford still managed to produce 5 physics and 11 chemistry Nobel prize winners.)

  • by OffTheLip (636691) on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:41PM (#46390059)
    After bouncing around the tech world several decades ago I settled into the affordable/employable community college path. After looking into my options and expenses transferring to a 4yr BS in CS was the right option for me. My local, affordable, community college was the springboard. I am grateful.
    • by pieisgood (841871)

      I'd mod you up, went to CC transferred and got my BS in Math and minor in CS. CC was also humbling, generally a learning experience all around.

  • Why Not? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EMG at MU (1194965) on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:43PM (#46390087)
    There are a lot of people who go to 4 year schools expecting a vocational training program and not a education in the principals of their field. AKA anyone who has complained about learning "fluff". A large percentage of a CompE/Computer Science program's students will state that they just want to learn what will get them a job in the real world. These same students are going to slack off in the "fluff' classes and come out with no ability to apply what they learned in those classes. It is wasted time, money, and energy. Give them another option.

    To me the question is who is better off: someone who half-assed their way through a CompE degree, got out with $50,000 in debt and is still barely employable as a entry level programmer? Or someone who skipped all the "fluff" and got a 2 year practical programming degree for a fraction of the cost, and is still barely employable as an entry level programmer? I'm arguing it is the guy with less debt.
    • not a education in the principals of their field.

      Indeed.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Here is why not: do baristas really need a college degree (in anything?) No. But if some graduates are desperate enough to apply, then they will probably get the job.

      That would be my concern with this vocational degree. Would you know enough to be productive? For those types of jobs, yes. But would you win one of the limited number of positions available? Less likely.

      This is the basic conundrum driving much of the college debt crisis - being qualified for a job doesn't mean you will get one. So i

    • Even half assing you way through a CompE degree is tough.

      Almost all that attempt it will funk out and end up in CS. Especially if you skip the 'Fluff' you will never get to the specialized stuff in an engineering program. The first two years of CompE are almost all 'fluff' as you define it.

  • #1 Do you mean planning and implementing a sever base? From customer requirements, backup provisioning, security and obselecense planning, servicing and reliability infractructure ....
    #2 Do you mean using a MS based GUI to stuff a toolkit based web site onto a cloud service server?

    There are several worlds of difference between #1 and #2.

  • This is not an isolated problem. All vocations either do or will require life long vocational retraining. New technologies are introduced very frequently in areas such as building construction, business systems, environmental systems, mining, agriculture, metalworking, and so on. The time has passed when you could learn to weld on the xyz welder, and thereafter be employed for life, working with only that tool and that skill. When John Henry saw the stream drill, what he should have done is to put down his
  • You will want a lot of backed-off stuff to teach historical-to-modern flow.

    Historically, CGI and SQL were used. Some files on disk stuff, executable programs, etc. Executable programs gave way to scripts like Perl and PHP.

    In modern times, raw SQL has been transformed into stuff like Python SQLAlchemy. CGI, being too slow--it takes longer to load/unload the interpreter (or even a C executable) than it does to execute the work--has given way to FastCGI, and then WSGI. Straight markup and scripting ha

  • ... a degree in puzzle solving.

    .
    Just trying to figure out which version of which browser supports what subset of CSS is one of the greatest puzzles facing mankind.....

  • Sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quietwalker (969769) <pdughi@gmail.com> on Monday March 03, 2014 @03:50PM (#46390159)

    This assumes 'web development' refers to web-based applications, not just informational webpages.

    This is likely to be an unpopular opinion to many, but I don't see the huge barrier here.

    I've been working as a software developer for nearly 20 years now, going from games programming to business apps to web development and machine learning. In that whole time, I can count only a small handful of times when I've ever had to exhibit mathematical skills more complex than trivial algebra. Oh sure, in college, they made me write my own compilers, I had to write my own vector math routines for my ray tracer, and so on, and I consider these valuable learning experiences. However, in the real world, where I'm employed and make money, I use software libraries for those sorts of things.

    When it comes to data structures, the languages of employers today, java and c#, provide me with the majority of structures and optimized-enough algorithms to manipulate them. I don't have to do a big-O analysis and determine if my data patterns will be better served by a skip-list than a quicksort, because we just throw memory and cpu at that anyway!

    The point is, if you spend 1-2 years learning to write software - not computer science theory - you'll be ready to enter the workforce. Sure, you're not going to be someone creating those frameworks, you're not going to be an architect, but you'll be able to use them. A few years of real world problems and google at your finger tips, and it's likely you'll have learned enough to start tackling those harder problems.

    Here's a list of what I'd prioritize before computer science theory, in regards to employment:
          - Proficient in SQL and at least one database type
          - Familiar with IDEs, source control, bug/task trackers, automated builds and testing, debugging tools and techniques.
          - Ability to work in a group software project.
          - Exposure and participation in a full blow software development life cycle (SDLC) from reading, writing, evaluating requirements, coding, debugging, QA, unit testing, the oft-overlooked documentation, etc. Include at least something waterfall and something agile-ish.
          - Expert with HTML & CSS, javascript, and awareness of javascript libraries and frameworks.

    I don't think I need to explain the value of any of these, and these practical concerns trump high level concepts like discrete mathematics or heuristic design for the entry-level developer.

    • As far as effort involved to usefulness ratio you have it right-- SQL is very easy to learn and immediately useful. I have recommended it to business folks that want to dabble in programming- thinking in terms of sets is pretty easy for most people to understand.

  • Students would not learn enough higher math, algorithms, and data structures to be viable employees when their industry changes every five years
    • It's lucky an associate degree is only two years then. By my lower maths and unsophisticated algorithms that leaves 3 years to be on the job, learning while earning.

      Sure, bricklayers don't learn many things that architects and civil engineers do do. But then architects & civil engineers don't learn all the things bricklayers do either.

  • It doesn't have to be math heavy ... you can focus more on 'web design' or even 'user experience design' rather than heavy programming 'web development'.

    Prince George's Community College [pgcc.edu] (PG County, Maryland) offers a lot of certificate programs, including ones on 'Computer Graphics' and 'Web Technology', that can be expanded into a AAS in IT (which would require you to take some programming courses, even if concentrating graphics)

    Take a look at the pages numbered 116 to 124 the PDF of their 'programs of st

  • My cohort was full of 25-to-30-something professionals who had already been in the workforce for several years, all of whom had an undergrad degree in something (ranged from English to comp sci), and all of whom were highly motivated to finish the program because advancement in existing careers depended on it.

    Could we have done it if we were 18-year-olds fresh from high school? I doubt it. It's not that the work was difficult (well, aside from server side Java, which was a headache and a half) but the pa
  • Data structures (and associated algorithms) is the most vital part of a programmers learning. If you had a good data structures course (and coursework) you are set for life.

    And also data structures should be taught in a language with POINTERS (C or Pascal are the usual picks). I don't care if you are teaching a 10 year old, if you don't teach pointers you might as well be teaching Basic.

    You don't need to go VERY deep into the subject, B-trees and such are probably overkill for your aims. But the kids need t

  • Web design isn't CS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by khb (266593) on Monday March 03, 2014 @04:03PM (#46390277)

    Such a degree, if it were to exist, should focus NOT on the basics of CS, but on good design.

    1) Do cover human factor engineering principles and techniques. Include lab work to do usability testing.
    2) Do cover the basics of good design (perhaps a joint Art department effort).
    3) Do cover the foundations of programming, but using several web focused languages. C/C++/Algol and friends are wonderful, but you have limited hours.
    4) Do provide an introduction to computer security. Chances are it is folks in the backend that need to focus on it, but security holes can occur anywhere.

    Good luck.

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Monday March 03, 2014 @04:38PM (#46390637)

    When I was in college, one of my computer science professors told us that everything he was teaching us would be obsolete by the time we graduated. However, the concepts behind what we were learning would be valuable our entire career. Sure enough, I've never used the exact code in the exact language he taught us, but the generic concepts behind that work in almost any language I program in.

  • by plopez (54068) on Monday March 03, 2014 @05:01PM (#46390879) Journal

    Think of the revenue stream. Every 5 years they have to retrain.

  • by jon3k (691256) on Monday March 03, 2014 @05:05PM (#46390939)
    Not everyone building C.R.U.D. web apps needs a fucking degree. It's practically a trade skill. What we need is a mass of "good enough" programmers to do 90% of the grunt work out there and do it CHEAP.
  • First of all, what I have seen in my past 25 years is that, schools teaching science or technology are really bad at it.

    For the following two reasons:

    1) Web is moving really fast. If your school isn't working with a industrial company, what you will teach is crap.

    2) Experience. Knowledge is good, experience trumps knowledge. That is why you have to pay attention to what you teach. If it does not teach experience, then it is a waste of time and money.

    Every student should be interned or working on a open sour

  • As part of our mission is to turn out employees immediately ready for the work force, is teaching knowledge-based careers as a vocation appropriate?

    So... what are the employers in your area asking for?
    I'll suggest working with the top 5 employers who want what you're contemplating and enlist their guidance; let them drive the skills they want to see (also, ask them how they'd like to see those skills be tested and/or demonstrated, so your students will have an easier time meeting their prospective employer's requirements).

    Also, iterate often - track the placement + feedback of employers that do hire your students so you can find out what works well,

  • Our local state college has numerous AAS/AS degrees, these are generally designed to teach a skill more advanced then high school that you can make some use of.

    The AS in computer information technology has a lot of room for specialization, allowing students to select from a large range of in-field electives in this topic such as:

    Website Development, Introduction to E-Commerce, Web Animation, E-Commerce Design, Multimedia Programming, Java Programming, Web Programming, Introduction to Computer Programming, A

  • The vast majority of web development positions need a guy who can select good Joomla components and write some bits of glue code, tweak some CSS here and some jQuery there.

    Not the guy who thinks he needs to invent his own sorting routine every afternoon, and then brag about how his interfaces are so abstract that nobody, not even he, can figure out what the heck they are supposed to do ...

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