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Lift-off: The MDN Curriculum launch

Author avatarHermina Condei5 minute read

Today marks an exciting day for web education! The MDN Curriculum is now available on MDN, providing an important tool for those learning front-end development and also for those teaching it. In this article, we'll review the journey that led us up to this point, talk about the curriculum's key features and how to use it, and give you a sneak peek into the potential next steps.

How did we get here? A brief recap

Last August, we announced our plans to create a front-end web developer curriculum aimed at improving the state of web education. In particular, we wanted to address the problems highlighted in our discussions with web developers and educators through community conversations and more formal research. These problems included:

  • A lack of structured guidance on which topics to learn and when and a lack of consistency among training resources.
  • Limited awareness among new web developers of crucial best practices around topics such as accessibility, privacy, responsive design, general debugging/problem-solving, and performance.
  • A deficiency in soft skills including teamwork, giving and receiving feedback, and research and planning.
  • No recognized industry body to provide validity to curricula, courses, and certifications.

We decided to focus on creating a high-level curriculum – a single resource that lists all the fundamental and supplementary topics that front-end developers should learn about, along with trusted resources to get started on each of these topics.

The MDN Curriculum landing page, showing a woman sitting with a laptop, smiling and with a thumbs up, and introductory text that begins 'MDN Curriculum: The essential skillset for new front-end developers.'

Key features of the MDN Curriculum

To begin with, it's important to note that the curriculum will always be freely accessible. We believe in the world wide web — anyone should be able to take advantage of this resource for learning, regardless of geography, age, disability, or any other personal circumstances.

It is a curriculum in the academic sense of the word — it doesn't contain its own in-depth course material but instead lists all the topics we think you should know to succeed as a front-end web developer. There are a lot of high-quality resources already available for learning web development (including MDN!). Each module in the curriculum contains links to trusted key articles, videos, and other resources, to help beginners get started with learning each of the listed topics.

A group of tiles showing some of the curriculum core modules, for example Semantic HTML, CSS fundamentals, and Accessibility.

The curriculum is divided into three distinct module groups:

  • Getting started modules: While the subjects outlined in these modules aren't strictly web development topics, they're useful for anyone wanting to learn front-end web development. Learning these topics is not required before moving on to the core modules, but we believe students will have an easier time if they spend some time on these topics first.
  • Core modules: These modules cover topics that every web developer should have a good grounding in. This includes all the information needed to design and build responsive and accessible websites that follow modern best practices and to manage and deploy code using tools like GitHub.
  • Optional extension modules: These modules constitute useful additional skills for web developers to learn as they start to expand their knowledge and develop specialties.

How to use the MDN Curriculum

Our curriculum is useful to two main groups, students and educators.

Students can use our topic lists as a structured roadmap that outlines what they should learn and the order of topics they should follow. Using this guide can not only ensure their skill set is current, but can also help them in identifying any gaps in their knowledge. This is applicable to both individuals new to the tech industry pursuing a related qualification and existing web (or non-web) developers aiming to "level up" their skills.

Students should go forth and learn the topics outlined in our modules either via self-study, by enrolling in a course or boot camp, or by using a combination of these methods. Either way, upon completing a conforming course, students should be able to pass an examination that tests their understanding of the topics they have studied.

Educators can use our curriculum as a blueprint when creating programs, units, and assessment specifications for a web-related university degree, college course, coding school course, or similar. Conforming to the curriculum will help ensure that courses teach current techniques and best practices and avoid bad practices and out-of-date information.

We regard the "Core" modules as essential for any student to learn or any course to include. The "Getting started" modules are not essential, but we strongly encourage students and educators to include these on their learning agenda. For example, it is very useful to understand the environment you intend to use to build websites. In addition, students should develop their soft skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, research, and communication. These skills are useful for succeeding in job interviews and for succeeding in the job itself.

The "Extension" modules should supplement the "Core", to suit whatever specialization students may want to pursue once they've mastered the essentials. For example, you might want to head down more of a UI design path, steer towards information security (InfoSec), or see yourself as a pure JavaScript developer.

Next steps

With the MDN Curriculum launched, we are planning to explore several potential next steps:

  • In general, we'd love to see educators conform to the curriculum — updating their courses to teach, at a minimum, all of the topics outlined in the "Core" modules. We feel that having more consistent coverage of essential skills and best practices throughout available courses will lead to a general improvement in the standards of new web developers entering the industry, leading to a better, more accessible web overall. Eventually, it would be great to see the curriculum adopted as a recognized industry benchmark to aspire to when learning front-end development.
  • We want to start linking to recommended partner courses, both free and paid, so that students have a wide selection of complete course material to turn to for their learning needs. This will involve a set of very thorough review cycles — recommended courses must at least cover the curriculum "Core" and teach the contained topics with a high degree of quality.
  • We would like to start adding more extension modules to provide more guidance to students and educators as they continue their learning journeys after learning the "Core".
  • We want to create a certification based on the "Core". Once obtained, students will be able to use the certificate to prove that they know the fundamentals of front-end development. We are hoping that Mozilla's brand will give this validity, helping students prove their worth to employers and making hiring more efficient. The MDN Curriculum certificate could, for example, replace aspects of the hiring process such as the live coding test.

Go check it out!

We hope you find the MDN Curriculum useful in your front-end development journey! Please check it out. You're welcome to share your feedback in the curriculum content repository.

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