The challenge of teaching ASP.NET

I think about how people learn ASP.NET. I think about it a lot lately, because I'm trying to step away from my book and ask myself if my approach will cause light bulbs to appear over the heads of developers trying to learn the platform. There isn't much time for change at this point, but I still think about it.

In reading a lot of books over the last couple of years, I've started to notice a pattern. Most ASP.NET books are written with the assumption that the reader has a formal education in computer science or at the very least extensive experience with some other platform. My experience out in the world, including my own, is that few Web developers have that heritage. It would appear that most got into the field as a totally new career choice, probably within the last five years. The difference in experience might be subtle after many years of work, but I do think it merits a harder look at the approach used to reach these two audiences.

I'm not suggesting everything should be a For Dummies book, but I think even many beginning books either jump right in without providing context ("you do this because...") or they start talking about too much too soon ("ASP.NET page requests are handled by an HttpHandler...").

As I get more involved in the community I see myself getting like this, and I have to slow myself down. I don't know if I'll write another book, but I do expect that I'll be involved with some level of face-to-face teaching from time to time. I think it's critical that authors and publishers make sure that we still serve this market, because clearly it's huge (judging by the questions asked in various forums). It's critical to the developing market that is coming with the Express tools as well.

1 Comment

  • Agree, Jeff. Many web developers (myself included) have technical backgrounds, but found our way into this relatively new field as a second or third career.

    Case in point is a recent book I read by Dino Esposito. Now, Dino is one of my favorite authors, but this book was way over my head as I was first learning ASP.NET. It assumed way too much. Now that I'm strip-searching System.Web with Reflector and have a very good feel for the ASP.NET pipeline, Dino's book makes a lot of sense, but a paragraph or two of introduction to most of the chapters would have helped things.

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