The growth of the internet has led to innovations in the availability of online education. Web design and development is one area where there are many options to learn without having to attend a traditional in-person program.
Traditional College Programs Online
Certificate programs, associate degrees and bachelor's degrees from brick-and-mortar schools are one option for the new student.
Southern New Hampshire University
Offering both a bachelor's and master's degree program in web design, SNHU is an accredited university with online and in-person programs. SNHU is widely respected and ranked number one in innovative schools. The BA online program focuses heavily on graphic design with additional web design electives and typical general education requirements for a liberal arts college.
The MA program is more focused on web development and back end technology. The courses can be completed at a student's convenience. Tuition is $320 per credit hour as of 2018, and a total of 120 hours are required for the BA. For the MA, courses are $1,881 with 12 courses required. In addition, there is a $40 application fee and students need to purchase computer equipment for the homework exercises.
Champlain's home campus is located in Vermont and the college was one of the first traditional universities to offer an online program. Listed as one of the best online colleges, they offer an associate and bachelor's degree in web design. Both degree programs focus on both the front end and back end aspects of web design and development.
The associate degree requires 60 credits at $640 per credit to graduate. The bachelor's program requires 120 credits, 45 of which are general education requirements. Courses are typically seven weeks long with a few lasting as long as 15 weeks. There are also two certificate programs: one for web development (18 credits) and one for web design (15 credits). You can also start with the associate program and apply the credits to the bachelor's program as you progress.
Champlain's online programs are specifically directed toward adults and accommodate people with busy work schedules. The college also has a favorable transfer policy and you can complete the program faster by applying credits received from other accredited colleges.
Full Sail University
Full Sail's program is designed to "look, feel, and function like your industry." A student's entire experience is set up to mirror what you would find in the workplace as a designer or developer. Another advantage is that their degree programs can be completed in much less time than a traditional program so you can move into a web-related position more quickly.
They offer a BS in Web Design and Development which covers both design and server-side languages as well as general education requirements. The online program takes 29 months to complete. The program is $645 per credit hour which leads to a total of $77,500. Scholarships are available to help defray the cost, and their Project LaunchBox program helps students purchase a required Mac computer and Adobe Creative Cloud software at a discount.
The hefty price may be a disadvantage for some students looking to enter the field. The program also requires use of a Mac whereas programs like Champlain allow students to use their choice of PC or Mac. Full Sail has an 80.5% graduation rate, much higher than similar online programs.
These schools were created entirely for online education and most are focused specifically on web design and development only, with a few offering graphic design as well. While there are many online options available, these all provide a dedicated curriculum to follow.
If you're not sure if Lynda is for you, they offer a 30-day free trial. Two levels of membership are available. The Basic is $19.99 per month, and the Premium is $29.99 per month. Premium users have access to homework exercises and can study courses offline. Lynda is a very affordable option, although depending on your prospective employer, it may not be regarded as highly as a degree from an accredited college.
Lynda.com has a huge catalog of training for software and design fields. The student who wants to learn outside of his or her learning path has access to any videos they like as part of their membership, which is a definite plus for people who love to learn.
Like Lynda.com, Treehouse offers a wide variety of web design and development courses that you can take on your own. There are four "Techdegree" programs with a curriculum designed to move you into the profession as quickly as you are willing to complete them. The four programs are:
- Front End Development (150-190 hours)
- iOS (220-260 hours)
- Python Web Development (190-230 hours)
Students in the Techdegree programs complete 12 projects which can be used to make a professional portfolio. There is a dedicated Slack channel for students and a final exam, as well as a critique of your projects by real world professionals. Graduates of the program are eligible to become paid interns through LaunchCode, which reports 80% of interns receive full-time job offers.
For students who are short on funds, Treehouse is very affordable. Tuition is $199 per month and there is a free seven-day trial. The school offers a certification which, while not as comprehensive as a college degree, does carry weight as Treehouse is well-respected in the field. The school also regularly updates their content to meet the expectations of employers.
As the name implies, freeCodeCamp is a 100% free program with a very active and supportive community. In addition to the online Slack groups, in-person chapters in many international cities allow you to work in-person on projects with fellow students. freeCodeCamp offers three certifications:
- Data Visualization Certification covering SASS, React and D3
- Back End Development Certification covering Node,js, Express.js, Git, Mongo.DB and using APIs.
freeCodeCamp allows you to move through the certification at your own pace which is a plus for working people with limited time for study. Each certificate requires about 400 hours to complete but there is no time limit on completion. The school is a non-profit funded entirely by donations and there is a real focus on service. As part of your certificate, you will work with other students on creating websites or applications for real-world non-profit organizations.
Over one million students have used freeCodeCamp and the program boasts helping to place 5,000 students into full-time entry level web development jobs. One con of freeCodeCamp is that many students do not complete the program, and it requires a high level of self-motivation and discipline. A program that requires some monetary investment and has a clear time frame is more likely to motivate a student to finish, especially if your time management and initiative are not high.
With over 25 million users, Codecademy is one of the biggest names in online web instruction. While you can surf around Codecademy's course offerings and take whichever you like, the dedicated student can sign up for the Pro Intensive program.
As part of the program, you will follow a strict curriculum and work with web professionals to review your assignments. Graduates receive a certificate and a strong portfolio to help them find employment. A student community is available to discuss projects with as well as mentors and instructors.
There are six Pro Intensive programs:
- Build Websites From Scratch
- Build Front-End Web Apps
- Build Web APIs From Scratch
- Build Website UIs
- Test-Driven Development
- Introduction to Data Analysis
Students can work at their own pace and the school suggests setting aside 10 hours per week at a minimum. Each certificate is 10 weeks long and costs $199. There is also a mentor option where you can meet 30 minutes per week to get more individualized help. This option is $499 and is available for each certificate.
Codecademy's programs are geared to the beginner which make them a perfect option for those just starting out, but if you're looking for more advanced topics such as full stack development, you may need to supplement with other courses. Luckily, Codecademy offers other courses in such languages as Python, PHP, Ruby, SQL and more, so you have many additional options.
One difference with Codecademy from other programs is that students use a code editor within the website to do exercises rather than a text editor on their own computer or on a separate website such as Codepen. This may make learning to code easier for the beginner but doesn't get a student's "feet wet" in a real world web design environment.
Online Learning in Web Design
These are just a few strong examples of online schools available for the budding web designer or developer. When choosing a school, make sure the course of study fits your end goals in terms of front and back end development, design principles and your desired career path. Get feedback from past and current students as well and if possible, speak with course instructors and mentors. And always remember, becoming a successful web professional means engaging in a lifetime of learning and your choice of a program is just a start!