Scrapbook / Web Design & Devleopment

Plymouth university experience

Plymouth University
Plymouth University – Photo by Jason Truscott

On 12th May 2014, I finished my last exam. Everybody was getting ready to start their jobs or taking some time off.

I however, have chosen to pursue a freelance career, using my Web Applications Development degree and the knowledge I have gained while studying, in the hope I can start my own business in the future.

This is just a small recap on my Plymouth University experience.

Year 1

The first year was great! I moved from Glastonbury, Somerset to Plymouth. Plymouth’s a lively city and was a good opportunity for me to enjoy myself before I had to enter what some people call “the real world”.

It was difficult at first having never really left home so there was a pretty long adjusting period. Luckily I moved to Plymouth with a friend and we ended up living with some fantastic people who made my University experience amazing.

I wasn’t very prepared for my degree when I started. I didn’t realise the scale of what I was undertaking so it was a pretty big shock. Looking back on that though, with a little hard work, it’s always possible to catch up. The first year consisted of a variety of modules that let me discover what I was good at, what I wasn’t so good at and what I enjoyed. This ended up leading me more down the design and front end development route. The year included modules covering some of the basics in digital arts, front end technologies such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript, software development using C#, Database development and how to be an I.T professional.

Year 2

The second year was just as good as the first! I stayed with the same people I had lived with before so it was familiar territory. Plus we had a roof terrace which meant we could enjoy the sun (when it appeared).

The second year moved more away from the design and front-end development and much more towards the back-end development. This wasn’t an issue, although it wasn’t my strongest point, and allowed me to learn things I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. The second year was also where I picked up an interest in HCI and the theory behind technology and interface design and how it works on a psychological and sociological level. I also got to try my hand at Java, Android development (Java), more advanced HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript techniques, system design and design process, advanced database design and E-commerce.

The year also involved the not so fun task of finding a placement. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy. It’s not just about finding a placement. It’s about finding a placement that suits you or interests you and can push you and help you learn something from within a real working environment. I was incredibly lucky on this front as I found a great placement and just in time, I was getting ready to give up when I got the call telling me I was hired!

The year also involved my first web and creative event called Digpen. It was recommended by Daniel Groves, a friend and fellow student on Web Applications Development. Dan wrote a great article on the event which was based in Plymouth that year. At first I was apprehensive but I really enjoyed it.

Year 3

Year 3 was all about the placement. It was so much fun and I can’t recommend doing a placement year enough. You can read more on that in the post I wrote just after finishing my placement year at Rokk Media.

I also managed to find the time to go to that years Digpen conference, this time hosted at the Eden Project, Cornwall. As well as Digpen, myself and Daniel Groves were invited to go to Agile on the beach. This was an incredibly intense weekend of learning but still great fun.

Agile on the beach
Agile on the beach 2013 – (left to right – Myself, Daniel Groves)

Year 4

The final year is what it all boils down to. It’s the pinnacle of a degree and when you need to be in overdrive if you want to achieve highly. When you look back on it, you can see why the module choices were what they were and why, at the time, some weren’t satisfied.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time on my work through this year so I could achieve a good grade, which paid off. It showed that a little hard work does actually get recognised.

My final year project was a car enthusiast community named Coilover which I intend on working on more in the future so it’s ready to be sent out into the wild. It allowed me to work with many technologies, frameworks and workflows I had picked up over the years and also some that were new to me. The main aim was to refine the process so that it could be created a quickly and cleanly as possible. In stereotypical final year project style, it didn’t go exactly to plan but still achieved what I had originally set out to do.

Coilover home page design
Coilover – Home page design

As well as the final year, project we got to touch on API development using PHP, .NET, Node.js and advanced JavaScript. It also allowed me to write an academic research paper and covered theory on being an IT professional which allowed ethics and legal issues to be considered.

Final thoughts

It’s sad to think it’s all over now, but also quite nice. I can sleep at a reasonable time and wake up at a reasonable time. I can have evenings and weekends free to do as I please. If given the choice to do it all over again, I would! I wouldn’t even need to think about it. Yes it’s hard, yes its busy, but it’s an experience I think everybody should have and deserves.

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I'm constantly working on new and exciting projects. Check out my web design and development portfolio with write-ups on how each project was conducted. Looking for some great photography? Check out my latest photography articles or browse the whole colection. Finally, I love to write. I write about everything from the web and photography to many other subjects that interest me.