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I've been considering taking some web-related programming courses from an online technology school (it's probably best if I don't name names). When I read the syllabi of the different courses on their website (which included courses on HTML, JS, PHP, Perl, DB admin, and Unix/Linux system admin), I was a little concerned that some of the content and descriptions sounded a bit dated. I emailed my concerns to their representative, who responded promptly. I hope I'm not outside the scope of this forum, but based on the rep's responses (below), I have two questions that I think only experienced programmers can answer:

  • Does the rep have a good point when she says that teaching earlier versions of technology is justified because "most people/sites/businesses do not change quickly"?

  • Is there such a thing as PHP in the SQL style? (I couldn't find anything on that)

Discussion with representative:

Hi, I'm wondering how much effort is taken to keep these courses up to date? Computer technologies and best practices change fairly quickly and I would obviously want to be taking courses based on current standards.

Yes you are correct that technology & practices change quickly, most people/sites/businesses do not change quickly. Most often the systems are several versions behind current upgrades. Our courses are kept as up to date as possible. However, we find the earlier versions are still in use and a good foundation for the majority of systems out there.

For example, is your web programming certificate based more on HTML 4 or HTML 5?

We are still teaching HTML/CSS from 5 years ago. We are currently in the process of creating a new HTML/CSS course for the newer technology, however it is not available yet.

Do you teach PHP in an object oriented style?

We are teaching PHP in the SQL style. Hopefully this answers your concerns. If not, please do not hesitate to contact us with more specific questions.

Wishing you all the best,

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Sounds like they've come up with an excuse why they haven't kept up with the latest tech. –  Juhana Aug 31 '11 at 17:39

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Answer 2.) is okay in my book. Fancy HTML 5 and CSS 3 is something that a good student can explore on their own later. Using a well-established CSS standard that is supported by (well, almost) all browsers as a basis for learning the fundamentals sounds fine to me.

However, 1.) and 3.) I find worrisome and they need additional checking.

However, we find the earlier versions are still in use and a good foundation for the majority of systems out there.

This of course is true in general. The latest new technologies are rarely a good basis for teaching basics. But if it means that they are still using PHP 4, then run away screaming. Check out what exactly they mean by this.

We are teaching PHP in the SQL style.

This may be a very unusual way of describing a specific programming style, but I personally have never heard of it. As @sirlancelot says, it might be just the representative not knowing what they're talking about - but if it's an euphemism of "we don't do OOP", run away. The server-side programming curriculum needs to be in tip-top shape.

You could consider requesting some sample learning materials. They are likely to give a very clear picture of what kind of technologies are being taught there.

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Asking for samples materials is a good idea. Thank you. –  Bill Aug 31 '11 at 17:56

The first two answers are acceptable. Schools just can't keep up with the changing times. If you want to stay on the bleeding edge of technology, you really have to be an independent learner who knows how to "ask the internet".

Answer #3 I'd say the representative just doesn't know, which is understandable. You should try getting in touch with the teacher(s) if possible. They should be able to tell you the PHP they are teaching is OO or functional.

Likewise, if they're still on PHP4, you should probably look somewhere else.

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Asking to get in touch with a teacher (who would obviously know a great deal more than the rep) is a great idea. Thanks. –  Bill Aug 31 '11 at 17:57
@sirlancelot you forgot the possibility that they are teaching procedural PHP (quite likely) –  Raynos Sep 1 '11 at 18:50

"Bleeding edge" would be the term I'd use to back up the idea of teaching versions that aren't the latest and greatest of a technology. At the same time, recognize that most companies will be somewhere in the spectrum and then there is the question of how low do you want to go,e.g. would you want to learn in Classic ASP? How about using Visual Studio from more than a few years back like 2005 or 2003?

I'm not familiar with a "SQL style" for anything except databases. At the same time, I'm not a PHP person so I may be out of the loop on that a bit.

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