First week at school: the School of Webcraft is officially awesome

The School of Webcraft is now in session — and the first week of classes has been awesome. 15 courses are now up and running on everything from WebDev 101 to Beginning Python to Programming Visual Media. What does the school’s report card look like so far — and what have we learned?

15 courses. Over 500 applicants. 345 learners.

Over 500 people applied for Fall Semester courses. 345 of those were approved to take part — with many more auditing or casually following along. This far exceeds the original goal of 12 courses with 200 learners — so an A+ on early metrics! (By way of comparison: 345 students would be enough to fill 7 school buses — and is only 50 less than the total number of Masters degrees granted from Harvard each year.)

This is the first-ever “beta” semester, so there’s been some natural hiccups with the user experience and web platform. But a huge amount of work and open project tools have come together:

Who’s attending?

In the Web Development 101 class I attended, there were learners participating via video chat from Tokyo, Berlin, Brooklyn, Toronto and St. Paul — ranging from a grad student wanting to update her department web site to an architect hacking on his online portfolio.

“The sense of collaboration is unlike any college I’ve seen”

The application letters students wrote give a great flavor for the high caliber of participants. And provide some great early validation that the School of Webcraft really is filling a valuable niche:

I can’t afford college tuition for programming courses — even if the university taught what I need (amazingly to me, it doesn’t.) Finally I may have the chance to learn what I need to create the new teaching/research tools I’ve conceived, and available for anyone with online access to use. — Pat, Web Dev 101

My working group here at Montana State University has some interest in using Processing to visualize solar data sets…. I like the examples of interactive visualization I’ve seen done with it and I like that it is open source. — Christine, Boseman, Montanna

I love visual art, programming and working with data. My goal with this course is explore some new visualization techniques and get more experience with programming in general.  — Radim, Prague

I love the concept of open education. I love the idea of learning from experts who volunteer to teach, because it almost assures us that the people teaching are doing it for the right reasons. I think that the Internet is an environment wholly alien to academia — the sense of collaboration, of eagerness is unlike any college I’ve seen or been to. –”Begining Python Web Services” student

I have certain plans of creating a learning programme for poor children in Romania and an on-line platform for translators. –”Begining Python Web Services” student

Attracting cool new audiences to Mozilla and the open web

If these and other user stories are any indication, the School of Webcraft shows real promise in Drumbeat’s larger mission to attract new audiences to Mozilla and the open web. Phillip Smith’s “Hacks and Hackers” class is pairing 20 developers with 20 journalists, with Mark Surman and Chris Blizzard leading off with a killer presentation on why the open web matters to journalists.

[slideshare id=5208381&doc=mozilladrumbeat-nnchallenge-100915121157-phpapp02]

Help us scale up for next semester?

The School of Webcraft has set an aggressive goal to double the number of courses and learners for the January Semester. To do that, we need:

  • Your course ideas for next semester. Especially courses geared towards intermediate-level learners.
  • Donations. We’re kicking off a fundraising campaign so that we can scale up to reach more aspiring web developers around the world. You can help by making a contribution or spreading the word.
  • Feedback. What’s working? What’s not? How do we help people around the world get skills and build careers using open web technologies? Leave comments here or on the School of Webcraft Drumbeat page.

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