TTU offers state's first web design degree

Tennessee Tech University will offer the state’s only bachelor’s degree program in web design beginning this fall, providing a needed resource to students as well as to employers while also fulfilling the university’s mission of being the state’s only technological university.

The program merges a four-year academic program with the technical training on how to design sites for the World Wide Web. It essentially fuses professional communications, computer science, art and a variety of other subjects into a program tailored for one of today’s hottest markets, said Bob Clougherty, associate professor of English and faculty member in charge of the program.

"This program is big," he said. "You can find limited computer training in a lot of places, but they can’t offer the certification that a bachelor’s degree from a respected university does. Here we offer a strong liberal arts background to go along with the technical training."

The program main mission is to teach students how to communicate ideas via the web; they will be doing a lot more than simply learning how to make cute graphics and sound effects on personal homepages.

"We want our students to learn and to be able to use thought processes to write and organize geared towards a particular audience when designing a web page," Clougherty said. "We’re also interested in teaching them how to write their own codes instead of just using the software already out there."

The university developed the program using existing faculty and resources, so no new funding was required.

Potential employers of future TTU graduates are already praising the program, all saying that web design is an area in which they are frantically looking for more expertise.

In Tennessee specifically, the demand for web designers is great. A recent search of the employment website monster.com listed 34 jobs advertised for web designers in Tennessee's major metropolitan areas alone.

Clougherty stressed that ability to develop knowledge as critical considering how quickly technology changes. Often students are trained on technology that’s already outdated by the time they finish. But this four-year program will help students be trained on current technology and be prepared to develop and learn on anything new that comes along, he said.

"Not only will these students learn the basic knowledge they need, but because this is a four-year program, they’ll also learn the ability to develop and cultivate knowledge as they go," he said.

"While designed for today’s market, this degree offers more than just good job training. It combines and applies things like mode of thought, creativity and business practices into one multidisciplinary program," he added.

In addition to employers seeing a strong need for such a degree program, student demand is higher than expected, said Clougherty. Although the program has not been highly publicized, more than 20 students are inquiring about the program, one even from out-of-state, ready to enroll in the new program.

"Student demand for this degree exceeds all of our initial expectations," he said.

During the program, students will receive hands-on training through an internship that’s part of the program’s capstone requirement.

The Tennessee Higher Education Committee recently approved the program. A faculty committee was created to oversee the program and an advisory committee will include representatives from TTU’s academic programs, the campus Information Technology department and members of industry in the private sector.

"We are leading the field in preparing our students for the technological world," Clougherty said. "The future is now and we are in front."

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