As a 2016 graduate of Kent State University’s online user experience design (UXD) master’s program, Chad C. was kind enough to share a few bits of advice and wisdom from his experience that will likely enhance and improve yours.
Key Takeaways from UXD Alumnus Chad C., ‘16
1) Assignments – Great portfolio material, but document the process
I can’t emphasize this enough: Consider each deliverable as possible portfolio material. Starting the course, I was so focused on learning, getting good grades and hitting those deadlines that I often overlooked adequately documenting the process. When it came time to create my portfolio, I struggled to recall all of the steps I took to arrive at my solution. Be sure to take some time after portfolio-worthy assignments to note the steps, objectives and results of your efforts. Your life will be much easier later on.
2) Course Loading or Pacing – It varies, so just roll with it
You may have read somewhere in the orientation material that the average amount of time students spend on coursework is about 20 hours per week. Personally, I found it to be much less. There were weeks when I spent more than 20 hours on coursework, but the majority were less. Course pacing also varies, as they aren’t evenly loaded from start to finish. Some weeks will be much busier than others. The key is to begin each course by looking at the score associated with each of the assignments. Generally, the higher the score, the more time it will take. Bigger assignments generally cause more questions, so read early and start asking questions during the week. Don’t save them for the weekend as, many times, the response may warrant follow-up questions.
3) Faculty Chats and Instructor Hangouts – Always worth your time
You may be an introvert and prefer the fly-on-the-wall approach, but that’s not going to cut it. Go ahead, ask any question you like—the faculty’s there to help, and they want to help. In fact, they probably love to talk about UX as much as you do. Chances are others have the same question(s). If your instructor does not offer weekly Google Hangouts, suggest it. There’s no benefit to being shy; ask away until you understand, then help others understand when you see the same question pop up on Slack from someone who didn’t attend the chat session. You’ll be surprised how often that happens.
4) Slack – Use it
Let’s face it, interaction with other students and instructors is the main downfall of 100 percent online programs. Slack, although not an official channel of communication, goes a long way to fill that gap and connect you with your peers and instructors. The UXD program is a much better experience the sooner you start engaging with your classmates on Slack. Don’t wait, join the general channel, join the channels for your courses and participate in the conversation. There’s even a student-only channel when you need to vent about an assignment, an instructor or life in general. Ask to be invited to that ASAP.
5) Profile Pics – They’re not for you
If you’re serious about becoming a UXer or advancing your UX career, think like a true UX designer and consider your users. You’re likely to meet your classmates or instructors at an event, gathering or business function at some point in the future, so unless you plan on bringing your pet(s), wearing the default Slack pattern or that lovely LinkedIn silhouette over your face, help them out and choose a photo of you. You can still share your pet pics—just do it in the general channel, or create your own Slack channel.
6) Blackboard – Calendar integration
Blackboard automatically posts all assignment due dates to your calendar. You can find this feature by clicking/tapping on the calendar icon found at the bottom of the icon stack located in the upper right corner or lower left edge of the screen.
7) LinkedIn – Use it
It’s never too early to start making professional connections, and if you take the Capstone course, you’ll end up doing this anyway. Create a profile, use a real photo and start making connections right away, in every course, all the way through to graduation. You’ll be glad you did.