Why we’ve created [re]start – Part One

We’ve been teaching people how to get a job in the creative and digital industries for a long time, with all of that time spent in formal education: Colleges, Universities, that kind of thing.

When I first started teaching I always wanted to achieve 2 things:

  1. Give back to the industry that I love dearly
  2. Make a difference

Giving back to the industry

I’ve worked as a professional designer for nearly 13 years. I dare say I’ve picked up a trick or two along the way, and Steve managed to convince me a while ago to give teaching a shot. I loved it.

I never decided to get into teaching because of the copious amounts of money in it (because there isn’t) or because I needed a job (because I didn’t). I wanted to give back. 

I’ve always believed the best way to pass industry knowledge on is through more experienced people helping out less experienced people. It’s the unwritten law of the craftsperson: you become good at your craft, and you pass on your knowledge to others who are wanting to learn your craft.

Our craft is incredibly complicated, so it’s doubly important that there’s craftspeople around prepared to give their time back to people wanting to learn their skills.

I give my time freely and openly to students and graduates looking to break into the creative industries because I know how hard it can be for people to do exactly that. It’s also getting harder too.

I’ve been teaching for a while, so I can confidently say I’ve achieved given back to the industry, but have I made a difference? That’s a harder one to quantify.

Making a difference

I’ve certainly made a difference to individuals: Steve and I have both helped people achieve new careers, restart their lives. But I always knew there was a bigger game at play here: transforming how creative and digital education is taught, sold, marketed, delivered, understood. Everything.

The problem with trying to make a difference in formal education

Changing any of that is next to impossible to do in a formal education establishment. I don’t envy lecturers and teachers working in formal education at all because their hands are tied.

Not only are their hands tied, they’ve been blindfolded and put on the wrong bus to work.

In the UK right now, it’s a tough time more than ever for formal education to stay relevant, and nowhere is that more visible than in our technical subjects.

When we tried to make a difference in formal education, to truly change how education was taught, we came up against lots of things.

An inflexible timetable constantly being squeezed by management.

Just before we started Learn the Web our students in formal education were getting only 7 hours of tutor time per week. This wasn’t something we chose nor something we could change as it had been dictated by management.

7 hours face-to-face time per week with somebody to teach the complexities of an already complicated subject just wasn’t enough. Not only that: the students were getting charged through the nose for the “privilege”.

Limiting the amount of time students get with their tutors has more knock-on effects than you’d think. It means tutors can’t take risks, can’t teach the more complex side of anything and can’t go into great detail. It’s bad for everybody.

In the creative industry this is often a thing that’s thrown back at the teachers. The teachers are utilising outdated techniques, their knowledge is poor and they just don’t teach the right things. Unfortunately—because of the structure of formal education—they haven’t got the time to teach things properly.

7 hours face-to-face time per week with somebody to teach the complexities of an already complicated subject just wasn’t enough. Not only that: the students were getting charged through the nose for the “privilege”.

We created [re]start to tackle this. We didn’t want to make the same mistakes that formal education continues to make, and we didn’t want to limit the student’s access to teachers or the teacher’s ability to teach the way they wanted to. We wanted to make the entire course all about face-to-face time between students and teachers.

I think we’ve achieved that. Face-to-face time is the primary goal of [re]start: 4 days a week for 14 weeks of dedicated specialist tutor time, no compromises.

Traditional education can’t keep up

A formal curriculum signed off by a group of education professionals sounds great in theory, but in practice? Not so much.

It ties you to teaching certain things—despite their relevancy—because you’ve set them in stone in the curriculum.

A curriculum usually takes 6-9 months to get signed off. In our industry people can switch entire technology stacks in 6 months, making that curriculum potentially irrelevant as soon as it hits the University.

To a certain degree a curriculum is important. A curriculum should be a plan of what you’ll teach. But a fixed curriculum—even if it’s just fixed for a year—puts the students at a major disadvantage in the creative and digital industries.

Our industry just moves fast. Really fast. This week I’ve tried out at least 2 or 3 new graphic design apps, and I’ve been trying out a range of graphic design apps on my iPad to see which one is the best. Off the top of my head, to design a website right now you could use:

Add there’s lots more. Like I said, they are the ones I can think of in an instant. This landscape is changing weekly, and this is only when we consider designing a website. When it comes to developing a website and how you do it things are changing equally as fast. If not faster.

If I want to teach you the most current and relevant knowledge I can about the creative and digital industries, which apps I’d recommend and what order to learn them in, I need freedom to change what I’d show you on a weekly basis. So with [re]start, we threw out the fixed curriculum from traditional education.

We have a curriculum, it’s just flexible. It’s flexible to the needs of us needing to teach different people different things. It’s flexible to the fact that things change. It’s flexible to the voices of the industry.

With [re]start, we have a board of employers and business owners we regularly consult to find out what the most relevant skills to them are right now.

From our constant research, battle-tested knowledge and our group of industry members, none of our curriculum is set in stone and could change within 24 hours if we felt it had to.

We want to deliver the most relevant and current creative and digital education your money can buy.

I’ve got loads more to say about this—and so has Steve—but I don’t want to bore you to death by writing a dissertation for our first article.

We’ll be back soon with Part Two.