Kat Thompson on academia

It took me a long time to understand what a really good education experience could be. I’ve got 3 degrees – business management, human resource management, and web design; it wasn’t until the third degree that I really got education.

A good degree – one that is worth your time, money, effort – has a number of elements, and I’m so lucky that I found this in the web design degree I studied. To get something worthwhile, I think you need:

  • Lecturers who really understand the subject matter. Being able to teach a student how to code semantically is all well and good, but why you code semantically? Explaining why Twitter is so useful? And why going back to the library to look at “dated” design books is as relevant today as 30 years ago? It’s a fundamental part of what we do, we need to know why.
  • Lecturers who know how to teach – the compassion and patience needed for a class of people are various levels is vital – my course was a mix of designers and developers with prior experience in different areas – how do you cover a subject that some people will breeze through, others will struggle with, and some won’t have a clue?
  • Your own motivation – it’s become too easy to slate web design degrees as having a crap teacher, but when did we, as adults, start expecting our teaching to be spoon fed to us? I was lucky and had a brilliant tutor, but I’m not going to lie – I put a lot of effort into my degree, into learning everything I could, learning for learning’s sake. The web moves to quickly that to stay up to date, you need the passion and drive to keep learning.

Probably the most essential skill I learned on my degree was how to learn – how to conduct good research that would stay relevant to what I was working on, how to dissect books and articles to get the most useful content to me, and how to use the wealth of information out there to my advantage. That lifelong learning skill is something I never got from my previous degrees, and not something I’d swap for the world. Some people come by this naturally, but a good degree is worth more than the price tag attached – the technical knowledge, the confidence building and the ability to learn is priceless.

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