User Experience Design Concentration Now Fully Online
Beginning fall 2013, the user experience design concentration in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management (IAKM) program will make the transition to a completely online format. IAKM is housed in the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS).
[Dave Robins] Previously many of the courses had scheduled face-to-face meeting times, although many were also online. With the transition to an all-online format, IAKM Associate Professor David Robins, Ph.D., hopes to see an increased enrollment in the program.
“The only way you can expand the enrollment in a program like this is to go online,” Robins said.
“We’re a professional master’s program,” said IAKM Assistant Professor Karl Fast, Ph.D.
“That means most of our students are already working. It’s often impossible for them to give up their life, move to Kent and become full-time students. Being online means we can design a program that acknowledges the realities of their life.”
The idea of making this program online has been discussed since Robins joined the IAKM faculty in 2004. Once he achieved tenure, he devoted his time to putting the program online. Currently, there are two online introductory courses to the program being offered. He has courses lined up for summer, fall and the following spring, as well.
“I’m really committed to user experience design as an emerging profession,” he said. “There is a real shortage of people to do work in this field. It’s a profession that’s really kicked off and you can’t get enough people. Kent State is one of the few programs that are developing a Master’s degree for this field.”
Faculty are emphasizing to students the importance of completing a digital portfolio at the end of the program. Students can take this to future employers to show them projects they’ve completed.
“This is really a project-based master’s degree,” Robins said. “It’s conceptual, but also has a lot of practice. These portfolios show employers that although some students don’t have three to five years of work experience, they can still do the work.”
Robins has been working with instructional designers at the university level to make sure these courses are of high quality for the students.
“This program has been identified as a strategic initiative for the university,” Robins said. “Due to the help I’ve gotten from the Office of Continuing and Distance Education Learning Team, these courses are the best courses I’ve ever developed and I want them to be high quality. I received the highest ratings I’ve ever gotten from students on two courses I just offered last fall. You don’t get these ratings the first time. This shows what you can do when you’re able to concentrate on one aspect of your job.”
Content strategy, a new part of the user experience design program that focuses on the content of websites rather than the designing, will be added to the curriculum. The structure of the curriculum is changing, as well. There are now two introductory courses that get everyone on the same page prior to taking any other courses. Once those two are complete, students are able to take the other 10 courses to finish their degree.
“We’re not trying to be everything to everybody,” Robins said. “We have really focused in on what we think is the core of user experience design from our perspective. We focused on information architecture, usability, content strategy, information technology and research. We want students to learn how to communicate the results of efforts in these areas. As a program, we know exactly who we are and what we are trying to communicate.”
--By Nicole Gennarelli