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Interview with Robert Hughes, Computer Technology (CTEC) Department Chair

Recently I visited with Robert Hughes, the Clark College Chair for Computer Technology (CTEC) to ask about how it is he came to sponsor the first WordPress degree programs to be offered in the country and what he sees for the Information Technology future.

Bob Hughes, Dept Chair CTEC, Clark College Vancouver, WA

Robert Hughes has a long tradition at Clark where he currently serves as Chair for Computer Technology, CTEC Department at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington. Mr Hughes has been faculty at Clark for over 20 years, where he also attended as a student, earning degrees and certifications in Scientific-Technical Communications and Electronic Publishing. Mr Hughes came to Clark to explore a range of educational programs with a prior degree in the mid 1980s. His mission at CTEC (Computer Technology) is threefold:

  1. To develop the computer science programming and Information Technology curriculum, including the computer support program.
  2. To develop the programming and Information Technology curriculum of all computer-related programs offered by Networking Technology (NTEC), Computer Graphics Technology (CGT), and Business Technology (BTEC), and the computer curriculum of all other Clark degree and certificate programs.
  3. To supply foundational computer and technology related courses to the college and community-at-large.

Reidy: What was your inspiration to add two new WordPress (the first to be offered anywhere) degree programs at Clark College for Web Development and Web Graphic Design?

Hughes: I went to a lot of user group meetings and conferences during 2010-12, many during a sabbatical I was taking. The role that WordPress was playing in the web development and web design world became very apparent. The energy of the WordPress community was different. It had the same kind of excitement and energy associated with it that I saw in the mid-90s with the early development of the web. The decision to have it be a part of the Web Development program came first and I am grateful that it is now included as a degree requirement for the Web Design/Graphic Design program as well.

Reidy: How did you choose WordPress as a Content Management System over other blogging platforms like Google Blogger or Yahoo Tumblr? (Drupal/Joomla)

Hughes: Blogging kind of came along for the ride.  What we really knew is that we needed a Content Management System. If you are going to be successful in the Drupal community,  you require a hard coding skill set unless you are associated with the support and project management aspects of web site development. I had a lunch with an old friend who had developed a Web Development program in Drupal and it had to be shut down because it was not sustainable.

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Also the contrast at  Drupal Camp and a WordPress Camp events I attended were profound. The Drupal folks were coders. WordPress Camp was filled with all kinds of folks that loved WordPress because it gave them such great access and opportunity. I had a similar heartbreak of helping to develop a Linux (Open source UNIX) admin and programming degree when the hype was high in the late 90s and early 2000s that the Intel Silicon gulch south of Portland was going to be a revolutionary community for Linux. The crash came. There were no jobs.

WordPress is a kind of open source erector set for the web. It will survive. My instincts about its flexibility were reinforced when I went to WordCamp and WordPress User groups in 2010 met Lorelle VanFossen at WebVisions in 2011. The grant and research work we engaged in along with other faculty during the winter through summer 2012 confirmed this in a very big way.

Reidy: Is there a certificate program for WordPress?

Hughes: No,  not nationally or anywhere else I can find. Our WordPress options in the Web Development program are to use it as a web platform core, similar to how Microsoft serves the Business Technology department or how CISCO and Microsoft or even UNIX serve as a core component for our networking areas. Or even as PHP and JavaScript play a role in our  Web Development program.   The core of our program was really modeled on the Interact Web Standards Curriculum.

Reidy: Does the degree program transfer to a 4year college like WSU (Washington State University – Vancouver)?

Hughes: No. The CTEC and CGT programs are a part of the Workforce Career and Technical component of this community college. Vocational Ed, as it used to be called, not our transfer BA area. Our AAT degree has a terminus. But  who knows, many of these courses might be a part of an Applied Baccalaureate program offered at Clark. Or, if another Washington applied baccalaureate program is a good fit, we might see some transfer options there—but definitely that is in the deep future.

Reidy: What partnerships have you formed for internship with the Portland and Vancouver Workforce?

Hughes: Internships are a tricky business, especially in fields of programming and development.  We’ve done them with  students at the Columbian and some web design firms. So much is process right now. I foresee less internship and hopefully more for hire opportunities by employers for grads and those close to completing. Our advisory committee represents several employers and career paths. Many of our advisory members are also adjunct instructors which is excellent for us because they also have more opportunities to get engaged in curriculum development. Another big component of the Web Design classes is project work for real clients, often non-profits but sometimes for small businesses. Internships are one of several near-exit opportunities our students have for the professional development component of their degree work when they near completion.

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Additionally, some events and user groups such as WebVisions, Open Source Bridge,  Portland Bar Camp, WordPress Users Group and the Computer Human Interaction Forum of Oregon are sources of engagement for our students and faculty and have led to job opportunities for some of our students. Some partnerships and activities have already been created from those relationships and I only see more to come.

Reidy: What other departments are using WordPress? Does the College have plans for a Clark College Blog?

Hughes: Lorelle (VanFossen, WordPress Instructor at Clark Clark) has certainly been a bit of a WordPress evangelista here on campus.  She has demonstrated that WordPress has viability for a number of departments on campus including English, Career and Corporate Ed, Clark College Foundation.

A Clark College Blog would probably come out of our Communications and Marketing department. They will likely not switch over to WordPress but utilize the Clark web page CMS, but you never know. The employee engaged in the college’s front line social media and breaking news was one of the students in the first WordPress class we offered back in Winter 2012. She knows what the tool has to offer, so you never know.

Reidy: Where do you see the Clark WordPress programs going and what plans are there to incorporate it into the college?

Hughes: If the campus did not have the Canvas Learning Management System, I bet more folks would look at WordPress as a component for instructional delivery. I have a feeling we may see more of that as some instructors want to work on extensible options for teaching and learning at Clark that don’t require that.

Reidy: Thanks very much for your time Mr Hughes and thank you for sponsoring WordPress!

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