How BCIT Computing’s FWD program supports students in becoming front-end web developers

With strong connections to industry, BCIT programs are frequently reviewed and modified to ensure they stay relevant to sector needs. BCIT Computing’s fast-track six-month web development program, previously known as Technical Web Designer, has been updated and relaunched as Front-End Web Developer (FWD) to reflect the changes in this dynamic industry.

We caught up with Program Head Michael Whyte to learn more about the program’s evolution in this most busy time for all things web.

Q: Why was FWD updated?

The original Technical Web Designer program was developed over 10 years ago. At the time – 2010 – web development was in the midst of a paradigm shift from fixed-width desktop-based sites to more mobile-friendly responsive designs. At the same time, the growth of importance of web applications was sharply increasing. The program has served us well for almost a decade, with many successful grads now working in industry.

Read about recent program grads who completely changed careers, started their own business, or decided to teach what they’d mastered.

The fundamental goals of the new program remain the same: to give students the skill sets needed to start a career as a front-end web developer. Program updates include bringing FWD more in-line with traditional BCIT certificate programs, revising curriculum, and making it easier to implement some modern learning tools that BCIT provides.

Q: Why the new name?

Job titles of “Web Developer” or “Front-End Web Developer” are now very common for people who specialize in writing the code for web sites or web applications. Titles such as “UX Designer” or “UI Designer” are used for people who specialize more in the user interface design of a web site.

The new program covers both the development and the design side of web development, but our emphasis is on the development side: some design, a lot of code. We felt “Front-End Web Developer” was the best fit, a name that keeps the program connected to current industry job titles.

Q: How did you engage with industry to ensure grads would have the skills they needed to succeed?

A lot work went into developing the new program. Although the goals of the program remained the same, we needed to make sure that our approach, materials, and learning outcomes were grounded in modern front-end web development.

We spent a lot of time interviewing industry professionals, employers, former grads, current students, and fellow educators at other post-secondary institutions. We sought their input on the program and courses, and received many great ideas which we have tried to incorporate.

For instance, based on that feedback, we created a new course dedicated to learning how to develop online e-commerce experiences. The importance of e-commerce has increased so much in recent months due to the current situation. We were fortunate to have expanded our instructional hours dedicated to creating e-commerce-based web sites for the program.

Another area where the industry has seen huge changes is the importance of JavaScript. A decade ago, JavaScript was just starting to expand from a simple scripting language into a fully-fledged object-oriented language used to build full-featured applications for the web. The new FWD program reflects this change with a significant increase to our JavaScript courses.

Throughout this process, it’s our top priority to ensure FWD grads have the skills required to successfully meet the needs of industry.

Q: How will the changes to FWD better meet student needs?

There are some key changes to the structure of the program, which are specifically designed to serve students better. FWD will be divided into single-subject courses, where before we had larger umbrella-type courses. Students will get one grade and one instructor per course, and we will be able to use all BCIT’s learning tools more effectively.

For instance, the new courses are embedded in BCIT’s Learning Hub, which offers centralized access to course content, grades, discussions, and more.

We also know that industry values graduates who are critical thinkers and can communicate well when developing web sites and applications as part of a development team. So we’re adding more focus on that to help our students grow and thrive.

“It’s our top priority to ensure FWD grads have the skills required to successfully meet the needs of industry” – Michael Whyte, Program Head

Q: Most recently, you’ve switched program delivery to online – how is that going?

FWD has successfully switched to a synchronous online learning model until further notice. While we miss the face-to-face interaction, switching to online delivery offers a few advantages.

All our online lectures are now streamed in real time via Zoom, and every lecture is recorded. So students can re-watch all the lectures at a later time if they need clarification, need to review a particularly difficult lesson, or perhaps missed a lecture due to a personal situation. Students must still attend the live streamed classroom sessions, but if they miss a lecture, they have an easier time catching up.

The online delivery model has also allowed students who may live in a more remote community to attend our program without the additional commute costs, or having to re-locate to the Vancouver area. This means students from all over BC, and beyond, can enroll in our program.

I am very excited to get this newly developed program up and started. There’s been two years of hard work done by so many people at BCIT, and now we’ll see it come to life!

Learn more about the Front-End Web Developer (FWD) program at an upcoming information session.

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