Creating an environment for classroom success

In my web applications development class, I have created a goal for my students: to develop sufficient knowledge of web programming and e-commerce concepts to successfully start a career as a web developer.

To achieve expert ability, evidence from many fields suggests that we need at least 10,000 hours of sustained focused practice.  Note the wording is sustained focused practice, not just experience or repetition of a skill.  Instead, it's conscious practicing toward improvement.  Although there are no agreed upon numbers for other levels, I suggest that 100 and 1,000 hours also offer plateaus in ability attainment.  At the 1,000 hours of practice, individuals establish their skills in a specialization to be fully productive in most occupations.  At the 100 hours of practice, individuals establish skills sufficient for entry level work.  By 100 hours, most employees have established the basic vocabulary and conceptual understanding to function within a domain for continued growth.  Without that basis, a new employee would be essentially worthless.  Some businesses require a new employee to have at least a little experience in this field.  Other employers might send new employees to 2-3 week training workshops (which takes approximately 100 hours).  My goal is to accomplish that within my class - 100 hours of deliberate practice.

In my class, we meet for 3 hours every week for 15 weeks for a total of 45 hours.  That means I need at least 55 more hours in out-of-class activities to reach the 100 hour mark.  The classroom activities and homework should integrate to form a complete package driving the development of conceptual understanding and programming skills for web application development.

To make this happen, I plan in class to lecture on e-commerce and web programming skills for 1 1/2 hours per week, provide exercises and lab work for 1 hour per week, and review and discuss class topics an additional 1/2 hour per week.  On their own time, students will every week read a chapter in the book for 1 hour, write two blog posts on class concepts in 1-2 hours, and complete web development assignments in roughly 1-3 hours. 

To help supplement their education, I will record all of my lectures and make them available online for later referral.  I will create short video clips on specific topics that might cause problems or that only a small set of students would be interested in learning.  Furthermore, there are numerous free web resources that will be provided to the students.  I will also maintain a Twitter feed that I will update with interesting links and commentary about current web development and e-commerce issues.

I have a number of other ideas on how to make this experience awesome, but I'm keeping a few of them under wraps for now.  It should be a good semester though and I'm looking forward to it.


  1. That's interesting stuff. Why 100? Was it just arbitrary or logorhythmically based (you like my musical spelling over the correct spelling? :))? Don't forget, though, that some students are going to get practice outside of both classroom AND homework environments. One size may not fit all.

    But I definitely think the 100, 1000, 10000 levels are interesting to explore further. I hope the fact that it's in HBR doesn't cause others to feel it only applies to business type environments. I can relate to it musically as well as academically. Neat stuff.

  2. Yes, the 100 hours is pretty arbitrary, though there could be a research project in there somewhere. Yes, some students get practice outside the class, but from my informal questioning at the beginning of the semester, 90% of them had 0 hours of experience developing web sites.

    Ericson's original research (where the 10000 number came from) was done on chessmasters, world class athletes and musicians. You can do a bit of searching around the Internet to learn more about the 10000 plateau. It's an interesting debate between talent and practice, where while talent may have some role, deliberate practice often makes the biggest impact on future success in any field.

  3. It's a fascinating topic. As a (former) musician I can relate. I admittedly didn't read the whole article, but I wonder how the different ways of "practicing" are accounted for. For instance, as a musician, it is equally important to LISTEN to music as it is to practice. While the time ratio may not be 1:1 it certainly counts somewhere. Could be an analogy to your students -- how can they design the best website without visiting some that are considered well done and analyzing what makes them good. Just brainstorming!