Why we made Scrunchup

By Anna Debenham

In January 2009, A List Apart published 2 articles about the current state of education in this industry.

Aaron Walter wrote this in his article Brighter Horizons for Web Education:

Schools that teach web design struggle to keep pace with our industry, and those just starting their curricula often set off in the wrong direction because the breadth and depth of our medium can be daunting.

Leslie Jensen-Inman quoted the following in her article titled Elevate Web Design at the University Level:

Let’s face it. Technology moves fast; academia doesn’t.

Practitioners in the web industry often make the point that students leaving courses are largely not at the required level of standard. Their courses have taught them how to build sites as they were built years ago, but not how they are currently built, and there are few that teach how to build bulletproof sites using semantic and valid code. Many put an emphasis on how the pages look, rather than the usability, accessibility and the code behind them.

Why Should We Care

If we want the web to progress, we have to start with the younger generation, and by that I mean primary and secondary school students. Web design is part of the ICT GCSE curriculum now, and students are also learning about it outside of school by customising their MySpace profiles. However, we believe that the current curriculum is not adequate to teach the skills they need to work in the industry.

Chris Mills nails the problems young people face in his article how do we educate the web standards kids?

The problem is that many of the pre-higher education age group have nowhere to go if they want to be taught web design or development. [...] The next stage is for the geekier kids to start looking further into the Web. They want more. they want to start creating their own web pages. They can start to tinker, view source, read blogs, and learn the craft themselves, but having a course to do at their school would be a much easier and more effective path for them to follow. But most schools do not offer this. In fact, you are unlikely to find anything except basic Microsoft office tuition at the average high school!

The IT curriculum that is being taught at GCSE level across the country is largely teaching web design to a very poor standard. Students are being taught how to build sites in tables, using frames, inline styles, or even in PowerPoint. They are encouraged to take images straight from Google, and nobody seems to know any better.

Here is what AQA’s specification for 2010's GCSE ICT says about what students should learn about web design:
In addition to generic features, [the student is expected to] understand the features of web design software to design pages and links between them, master pages, hotspot, hyperlink, navigation bar, templates and layout guides, forms, marquee, animation, flash tools, RSS feed, counters and conversion to HTML.

In fact, the code isn’t even looked at by the exam board:

Candidates need only print a final hardcopy of the web pages in colour. Printouts of earlier key stages may be in black and white or colour.

If we don’t do anything about this problem now, this may be the future of web design.

What we want to achieve

We want Scrunchup to be a place where young people interested in web design can come to learn skills that are vital to their job prospects and will make them employable in a highly competitive industry. We want to give access to a wide number of topics that the curriculum doesn’t cover. We also want to encourage institutions to adopt more up-to-date curricula such as Opera’s Web Standards Curriculum and WaSP’s Interact Curriculum. We want to help move this young industry forward.

Anna Debenham

Why we made Scrunchup

After finishing her A-Levels, Anna set up as a freelance front end developer. At the beginning of 2009, finished a 4-month internship at Clearleft