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Saturday, 21 May 2011

PHP Pandemonium

Like lots of geeky engineers we have all put together web pages at one point or another. Most of us have come to grips with HTML but lots of degree students are having to complete a unit on PHP with little or no help.
So about four years ago I got myself a old PC and loaded a Linux server onto it and started playing around with hosting my own web site on it. As part of this I found PHP and started to teach myself it along with learning a bit of MySQL.
I was then lucky enough to be part of a recognised course on PHP, SQL and XML at work. This course was great as I could expand on what I had already learned myself and understand more about the options available. PHP is a lot like C in my option so found it really easy to pick up having been programming in C for nearly 20 years now.
However programming takes time. Its not just about learning syntax but also about learning a new way of thinking. So I was really surprised when I was first approached by a uni student though work who asked for help in writing PHP pages that access a MySQL database and display results. My horror was however the lack of help and support the student got.
The course they were taking was a business degree so firstly wondered why they were doing this unit at all. What I found is that there appear to be a number of core units these students go though including learning logic gates.! WTF.? Anyway I now seam to keep bumping into these students now and each time with the same comment - please help!
My issue is not with helping them - I enjoy teaching this stuff even if I’m not a expert PHP programmer. My issue is that the Uni’s are not helping or supporting them to get though it. There appears to be a major lack of guidance of where to start and how to go about programming in PHP. Then once you try adding on layers of HTML and SQL its can all get very confusing very quickly. I can understand that at Uni you should do a lot of research and self learning but come on guys - talk about in the deep end!
My other point I’d like to make is that I have found that each of these students has been put off doing any HTML, PHP or SQL programming ever again. Is this what the Uni’s are trying to do, turn people away from engineering skills?
Engineering really is fun you know and for anyone who has been turned off programming or any engineering - well that because you had crap lectures with no passion!

1 comment:

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

I've not bothered to learn php (no need for it on any of my projects yet), but it seems to be pretty straightforward to learn with lots of on-line tutorials.

The problem may be simply that the business students had never learned any programming. PHP does not strike me as a good place to start. So the problem may not be that the students had insufficient support for learning PHP, but the curriculum was badly designed and omitted essential prerequisite classes in programming using a more pedagogically appropriate language.