Two to three times a year, I teach a class for the Digital Media Studies (DMS) program at the University of Denver called “Web Building and Site Management”. In this class, undergraduates are introduced to the concepts of building (mostly) static websites with a strict, standards-based approach. The IDE used is Dreamweaver CS4 with “Design View” forbidden from use. There is a full introduction to pre-production planning using Fireworks and final design work is done through Photoshop. We also touch upon the Flash Platform and the integration of audio and video within a website. This probably does not differ much from most introductory website creation and management classes offered at universities across the world.
One aspect of the class that I find to be unique (and the point of this article), is that these students are assigned actual clients in groups of two or three and are tasked with providing them a completed website as a final project. I work with an organization on campus called the Digital Media Outreach Center (DMOC) to get this all together. The mission of DMOC is to provide digital media services such as website creation to “Colorado-based non-profit and not-for-profit organizations in a manner that also gives students and faculty opportunities to apply and extend curriculum-based learning to community-based projects”. For my class, they find clients and manage the student-client relationship as I teach the skills and concepts necessary to fulfill those requirements through the course.
In general, this approach is both beneficial for the students and for the clients. Students receive a hands-on educational experience in both the subject matter and client relations. Clients receive a simple- yet fully functional, standards-based website to promote themselves and interact with their members and clients. A few problems do occur, from time-to-time, but most are easily resolved and the students come away from the class with a greater level of experience than they otherwise would have.