Back when I was at uni the web was relatively young, so while there were a load of courses for software development or graphic design there was nothing at all for web development. Unsurprising then that myself and and every front-ender of the time were self taught.
What is surprising is that that’s still mostly the case. While both the roles of software developer and web designer have changed at a manageable place (insofar as the latter is analogous to graphic designer), the in between that is front-end development moves so quickly that by the time a university curriculum on the subject can be approved it’s already time to re-write it.
So even now most front end developers (…creative technologists, front end engineers…) are self taught, and there’s a lot more to learn now as the number of technologies and tools has exploded. Thankfully so has the number of online resources to help: On top of the hundreds of blogs and youtube tutorials there are specialist sites like Code School, Codecademy, TutsPlus, Tree House, I’ve never been great at learning from books, so this interactive approach is awesome and much of it is free!
pros and cons:
There are upsides to being self-taught; it implies being something of a curious self-starter with a passion for Making It Work, and it starts a lifetime of learning habits and self-improvement that’s vital in the fast-paced world of front-end.
However I’ve found there can be downsides too: having learned a lot through trial and error I often lack the vocabulary and jargon to discuss programming, even when it’s just describing what I’m doing. Similarly when talking about design I learned some of what works, but rarely why, which is unfortunate as much of the design workflow in this industry is back-and-forths with clients.
Asking around at MetaBroadcast I’ve found a few fans of Coursera and khanacademy both for independent self-teaching and for supplementing traditional methods so it’s certainly not just front enders tap into this growing industry of remote learning!