Modules 3-8 MS Expression Web curriculum

by cdwise 14. January 2011 09:43

Maybe because module 3 deals more with color theory, graphics and general design layout principles that don’t vary much between print and the web explains why other than the use of circa 2000-2002 graphics styles if find it pretty good.

Logos in module 4 is another good discussion but the  navigation section falls a little short with its emphasis on buttons, image maps and slicking but how to structure your navigation is worthwhile. Then emphasis on scanning seems a bit misplaced but what disturbed me more was telling the students to right click and download images for use in their project from Yahoo and other web pages. Especially after the first module’s discussion of copyright on the web. Much of the discussion re digital photography references things that have already happened though the composition related material is a useful introduction to digital photography.

Overall the modules on graphics are the best I’ve found in the entire series.

Module 5 – Beyond the Basics with Expression Web

When I opened the first assignment in this module – Scavenger Hunt I was immediately back in negative review mode since the first question was where to find the Layer Task Pane (which was renamed in v3 to Panel from Task Pane but I digress).  Layers seem to be emphasized and styles references include MsoNormal.  Can you hear me scream when the first CSS answer is given as:

Position absolute
Width 393px
Z-index 1

Others include Font Size= 12pt and <body><div#layer3><p.MsoNormal>

I do have to admit that in flipping through the PowerPoint slides (day 2) with Module 5:  Beyond the Basics with Expression Web 4 it is ironic that on slide 14 the screenshot clearly shows Expression Web 3. If they had only stayed away from using layers and dragging to size/position using the handles in design view I’d be able to give this module reasonable marks as far as the PowerPoint goes. The Beaches website created during this week could easily and probably more quickly be done using without using a single layer. See http://wizerways.net/beaches/index.html for how the basic site should have been coded.  I looked at the completed website and noticed that longdesc was used improperly as well. It shouldn’t have been used at all on a simple image, the alt attribute was more than adequate.

The actual assignments on using CSS, creating external stylesheets and DWTs are pretty well thought out and useful if the CSS taught wasn’t to use layers and interactive buttons instead of CSS rollovers. Remember that interactive buttons are a legacy from FrontPage and as such haven’t been updated in at least 8 years. Don’t use them.

Modules 6-7

These deal with the dynamics of working in a team and workflow. At this point I’m not going to critique these sections since while important aren’t things that relate to actually learning how to create a website so much as work skills.

Module 8

This final section covers launching your site from testing through publishing, search engine optimization and maintenance. Again, I didn’t spend any real time on these sections so I can’t critique them at this time. The topic timeline for this section looks good but the devil is in the details just as in Module 7 the “advanced” version of the Beaches site suffers from many of the same issues that the basic version does, especially with its concentration on layers and interactive buttons along with longdesc being used improperly.

In summary while I think the goal was good the reuse of old outdated material and the emphasis on what looks like an easy way to layout a site (layers) makes this material less useful than it should be for the educator. Pre-written courseware is not a substitute for the instructor having hands on knowledge of the subject they are teaching. If you are going to teach web design, especially to university or lower level students make sure that you teach them web standards or you will be doing them a disservice. If they leave your class with a firm foundation in HTML & CSS basics they will be in a position to understand and be capable of creating cross browser sites. They will also be prepared for changes that will come in the future as the web evolves whether they decide to create web sites professionally or not.

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