Microsoft Institute of Technology

Colleges Need To Align To Industry

Microsoft has a tight grasp on Institute of Technologies, and it’s choking the life out of the students.

The vast majority of computer science based courses in Ireland focus largely on teaching Microsoft technologies to the students, despite the fact that they’re only used in niche areas of the industry.

Ever thought about using VB Script as your client side scripting language? Of course not, it’s only supported by Internet Explorer. Want to build a web application powered by Microsoft Access? Don’t even think about it, it’s got a total absence of security features. Oh and it’ll also collapse in on itself with just a handful of simultaneous users. Want to build a web application with ASP? Don’t even bother, ASP is a joke.

Here’s a list of the typical technologies covered in computer science based courses in Ireland right now:

  • Microsoft ASP
  • Microsoft Visual Basic
  • Microsoft Batch Scripting
  • Microsoft Access
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • Microsoft Active Directory
  • Microsoft VB Script
  • Microsoft IIS

Do you see the pattern here?

Microsoft has it’s fingers in all the educational pies across the country that teach the next generation of IT workers and they know exactly how to maximise the use of their technologies in industry: to get’m while they’re young when they don’t know any better. But the reality is that these technologies are not used by the majority of Irish companies in the web industry. In the job market there’s only a minuscule portion of employers looking for graduates with skills in these areas.

Adjusting for the Industry

For college graduates, the majority are blissfully unaware that they are now armed with a set of useless skills that have no practical use in the real world. It’s only after a few job interviews and a rude awakening do they realise that the last four years has been spent learning skills that are worth almost nothing in the work place. They now face the long hard struggle of relearning everything all over again, getting to grips with the actual technologies used in the industry.

Here’s what that the above list should have looked like:

  • PHP
  • Java
  • Perl
  • MySQL
  • Oracle
  • JavaScript
  • Apache

But it a seems that unless you can provide lucrative course sponsorship or another similar type of sweetener, big businesses such as Microsoft, will win the syllabus wars over open source technologies for as long as colleges find the lure of the greenback more appealing then providing their graduates with real industry strength skills.

Better Doesn’t Mean Harder

Learning the industry standards, isn’t any more difficult or doesn’t take any longer then learning the poorer Microsoft alternative. It simply means a shift in the content of the course syllabus. Why spend time learning ASP and Access powered web applications when you could just as easily learn how to make a scalable, well structured PHP, MySQL powered web app? It makes no sense.

Calling All Students

If there are any students reading this doing an IT based course, then please consider going to your course director tomorrow morning and ask him/her why there are so many irrelevant Microsoft technologies taught in your course and request that a larger emphasis be put on open source technologies instead. It’ll save you having to relearn what you thought you knew, on a platform that’s actually used in the real world.


2 Comments added. Add comment?

  1. Andrew Duffy says:

    I think you’re being a little harsh – ASP.NET seems to be a pretty capable framework while PHP is, frankly, a mess; SQL server is an industry-standard RDBMS no more or less evil than Oracle; and understanding Active Directory is a valuable skill.
    I’d prefer to see students trained in a language like Python or Ruby rather than Java – they could learn how to write in a functional way yet be able to produce real programs (LISP, I’m looking at you).

    Jun 13, 2008
  2. Iarfhlaith says:

    Hey Andy,

    You’re probably right. It’s a bit of a rant, but I do feel very strongly that Microsoft’s presence in the course work of technology syllabuses holds too much emphasis.

    I agree with you that the .Net framework has it’s merits, but unfortunately that’s not what I was referring to here. I was talking more about plain old ASP, the one before the release of .Net. It’s still being taught in I.T’s around the country despite the fact it’s not considered as a serious option as a server side language anymore.

    As for PHP, it’s a very stable platform these days (take a look at version 6) and with initiatives like PEAR and PECL it’s mindblowingly easy to get big chunks of work done in record time. There is also a huge amount of really good MVC frameworks knocking around to help put a structure on projects of any size (even Facebook is built with PHP).

    Jun 14, 2008

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