Meet the Maker: Behind The Scenes of GA’s New JavaScript Development Course



Earlier today, we announced JavaScript Development as the latest addition to our catalogue of part-time courses in data, design, and technology. As one of the most prominent and versatile programming languages in use today, there is tremendous demand from employers for JavaScript knowledge. In fact, JavaScript skills are in the highest demand for web development, mobile development, UI/UX and design jobs, according to a 2015 study from Burning Glass and GA on the demand for business and technology skills.

This course is the result of months of research, planning, and hard work executed by our Product team and coordinated by Mehan Jayasuriya, the Product Manager of Engineering courses here at GA.

Mehan and his team have spent the past few months working closely with employers, engineers, and students to develop and perfect the JavaScript Development course curriculum. We sat down with Mehan to discuss his development process and what makes this course relevant in today’s job economy.

1. First and foremost, tell us about yourself! What were you doing before GA? What brought you here?

Before joining the team at GA, I held a bunch of different roles across web development, academia, and technology policy at places like Tumblr and NYU. Working on educational products at GA felt like a great way to leverage both my technical knowledge as well as my experience in education.

2. What does your role entail as Product Manager for engineering courses?

I basically oversee each course for the entirety of its lifecycle, from the initial research and scoping of the course, through the building and testing of the curriculum, all the way through to the delivery of the course across all of our campuses around the world.

For most of my time at GA, I’ve focused on engineering courses—namely Front-End Web Development, Back-End Web Development, and iOS Development. At the moment, my focus is on building new courses like JavaScript Development, which is super exciting—I basically get to spend all day thinking about where web and mobile development is headed in the future.

3. What is JavaScript?

JavaScript is the native language of the web. It has long been the only programming language that can run in a web browser; increasingly, it’s also being used to program everything from servers to mobile devices to micro-controllers. JavaScript has become an extremely versatile language and by some measures, it is the most popular programming language in the world.

4. Why is it a critical skill for developers today or a great first step for beginners?

No matter what part of the web stack you work on, JavaScript is an extremely valuable tool. Developers today are using JavaScript to build out back-ends and using back-end concepts like views and data models on the front-end. The line between “front-end” and “back-end” web development keeps getting blurrier and the versatility of JavaScript is one of the key factors driving this evolution.

As for beginners, if you’re going to learn how to program for the first time, why not learn what is likely the world’s most popular programming language?

5. Why is now the right time for GA to launch a course?

There’s a lot of excitement right now about front-end JavaScript frameworks like Angular, React, Ember and Backbone and what they might mean for the future of web development. That said, there’s still a lot of volatility in that space and there’s by no means a clear winner in terms of adoption.

We think now is an excellent time to learn how to build a modern web app in vanilla JavaScript, as that knowledge can serve as the foundation for learning any framework or library. Regardless of how things evolve, it’s clear that JavaScript fundamentals are going to be a crucial skill for anyone looking to work in web development in the next few years.

6. What is your goal for students? What skills do you want them to walk away with?

We want students to walk away from this course with a solid understanding of JavaScript, jQuery, APIs, the DOM, and the browser, as well as a single-page web application that leverages modern JavaScript design patterns.

7. Who is the course intended for?

This course is perfect for a range of students—folks who have learned HTML and CSS with us in the past and are looking to add to their stack, designers and marketers who are looking to add JavaScript to their skill set, first-time programmers who want to learn one of the most popular and versatile languages around.

8. What makes this course different from any other in-person or online JavaScript course?

We spent a lot of time making sure that we got the curriculum right for this course. We started with a list of potential skills that we wanted to teach, which was based on the results of a survey where we asked 45 different employers to identify what the most valuable web development skills are in the workplace today. We then worked with a panel of experts—including an academic, a CTO at a start-up and a veteran GA instructor—to refine that list of skills into a scope and sequence for the course. We then shopped that scope and sequence around to some of our hiring partners for feedback and based on that we finalized the syllabus.

All of the course content has been built out by a team of six subject matter experts (SMEs), working in conjunction with an expert in learning design. Our SMEs live and breathe JavaScript and use it on the job every day, in their roles at startups, dev shops, and design agencies.

In terms of what makes this course unique, this is the only part-time, campus course that focuses exclusively on JavaScript. If you’ve tried to learn JavaScript on your own or online, you’ve probably reached a point where you hit a wall. In our course, you’ll have in-person access to JavaScript experts who will help you troubleshoot and debug while you work on an original project of your own design.

We’re also going to be teaching you JavaScript using a command line-first approach. That means that you’ll understand the fundamentals of JavaScript and object-oriented programming before you start working in the browser. We think that running JavaScript on the command line is a great way to remove some of the complexity, allowing you to focus on the language and the syntax without any distractions.

Want to learn more about the native language of the web?

Explore our 10-week, part-time JavaScript Course