W3DevCampus – a trainer’s perspective / HTML5 online course


Last week, at the WWW2013 conference in Rio de Janeiro, I gave the HTML5 tutorial within W3C’s tutorial track. I met one of my online students who told me how good the course was. That made my day, believe me :-) In the picture, from left to right: Marie-Claire Forgue (Head of W3C Training – W3DevCampus), Michel Buffa (trainer), Rivka Niesten (online student of the HTML5 March 2013 training course). Photo Credit: Jessikah Niesten.

I’m Michel Buffa, professor at the University of Nice, in the south of France, and researcher in the WIMMICS group from I3S/INRIA laboratory, which research is focused on Semantic Web and Linked Data. With this blog post, I want to share my incredible experience as W3DevCampus trainer.

I have been teaching HTML5 to my master students since 2010, and after my HTML5 tutorial at last year’s WWW conference, Marie-Claire contacted me to develop and run a W3C HTML5 online course, as part of the W3DevCampus program.

I started to write this course in September 2012 and it actually took a lot of time to complete it. I had to turn the material I had been using at the University into a full featured and structured course and suited for online learning, develop many new interactive examples (nearly 90 of them, most running on the jsbin.com online IDE). I did my best to cover the HTML5 specification with the W3C staff helping me stay tuned with regards to the latest developments.

The course started on 13 March 2013 and lasted 6 weeks. It was my first course with the W3DevCampus, and while I was hoping it would meet everybody’s expectations, I discovered what a good reward it was when I started to interact with the 80 registered students. At the beginning of each week, a new chapter was made available, and during this week students read the course content, ran the examples, and interacted in the forum. Each time someone posted a message in the forum, I got an email alert. I did my best to help students but students also helped each other.

HTML5 is composed of new elements, new attributes but also new JavaScript APIs. JavaScript beginners worried a lot at the beginning but soon I made sure to propose different assignments to ensure students would be able to keep up. Three out of the four assignments had different subjects: one for JavaScript beginners, one for people with basic JavaScript knowledge and one for people fluent in JavaScript.

In the new version of the course, that will start on 3 June 2013 (register asap! – there is one week left), we also added a new section “JavaScript for beginners, what you need to know” that will be helpful – no worries, it will take less than an hour to get into it. Also, some courses will have different difficulty indicators. For example, if you are interested in HTML5 client side persistence, but are not going to write applications that need a transactional database, you might jump over the IndexedDB part. Again, no worries, this will not make you fail the assignment as we’ll provide another subject more suited to your interests/JavaScript level.

There have been around 300 posts in the forum, I got nearly 100 personal emails which I tried to answer promptly. It took me a lot of time but I really loved the experience, having instant feedback from the students.

At the end of the course, students had to fill in an evaluation form. We took into account many of their suggestions, such as adding a section about JavaScript for beginners. All in all, it seems that everything went really fine. Some students even opened a thread to thank me about how awesome a teacher I have been (thanks so much guys, I had such a big smile for the whole day after that!).

Some comments told us that some chapters have too much content while some others said they really appreciated the full coverage of the HTML5 features in those same chapters. So we decided to add some online help to guide students such as “you might jump over this section if you do not need that…”, etc.

Next is to send the certificates of completion to students who successfully passed all assignments. Quite a nice success rate. I’m now looking forward to the next course session, to start next week!.

Register soon!