Skyrocketing university tuition and pricy unaccredited boot camps aren’t helping to bring socioeconomic diversity to the field of UX. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of completely free learning resources from top companies and universities such as University of Michigan, Georgia Institute of Technology, Facebook, University of California San Diego, Google, M.I.T, University of Minnesota and more.
The field of user experience has gained significant popularity in recent years. While companies like FreeCodeCamp and 42 are offering free options for people to learn how to code, learning UX doesn’t seem to have the same support network for self-motivated and driven individuals.
I often encounter discussions on UX forums and (sometimes heated) debates on UX education accessibility on my LinkedIn feed, with people asking how to get a quality education in this space if one does not have the funds for tuition. People looking to break into the field professionally often contemplate going to school for a UX related degree like Human Computer Interaction, Interaction Design, Psychology, or even taking (an often times unaccredited and pricy) boot camp. After reading an article by David Venturi on how he created his own affordable Data Science Master’sprogram using online resources through platforms such as EdX, Coursera and Udacity to gain access to material from world class institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, M.I.T and Johns Hopkins University, I was inspired to create a similar framework for UX design.
I’ve curated this list of online courses and resources in hopes of helping people learn about human centred design for free and hopefully bring more socioeconomic diversity to the sector as a whole. While online and open source learning is by no means a replacement for mentorship and real world experience, these resources will hopefully give any aspiring UX professional an in-depth foundational education and help cultivate new skills. I’ve scoured the internet and compiled a list of interactive, engaging and top reviewed classes and material. Lifelong learning is a mind-set critical to any user experience professional and whether you are new to UX or are currently working in the field and looking to brush up your skills, I hope this list will be of value.
Using course ratings and reviews from Class Central as well as word of mouth feedback from senior UX practitioners and various industry community members in my network, I selected the best material from world class educational institutions and companies. I’ve also compiled a short list of reading materials, podcast resources and online UX group spaces to go with this online curriculum.
*Although some of the programs featured on this list do come with a price tag, I made sure to only feature courses in which you can apply for fast financial assistance and receive the course and credential for free, or audit all course material without having to pay.
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”
― Henry Ford
(Previously offered as the Human-Computer Interaction specialization at Stanford) This specialisation offers an engaging and immersive 8 course module consisting of
· an introduction to Human-Centred Design
· introduction to design principles
· social computing
· input and interaction
· user experience: research & prototyping
· information design
· designing, running and analysing experiments
· design capstone project (details).
This program currently has a 4.3/5 rating on Class Central and is heavily cited on various UX community spaces such as UX Mastery Forum and the user experience sub Reddit as one of the best introductory courses to UX on the web. Having had the pleasure of taking this program when I was finishing my undergraduate HCI studies, I can’t recommend it enough. Professor Scott Klemmer of UCSD eloquently and passionately weaves the theory and application of interaction design, cognitive psychology, user interface design and human-computer interaction seamlessly throughout all 8 courses, setting a foundation of knowledge for any aspiring UX’r.
Participants will learn about needfinding and observation techniques, how to carry out rapid prototyping, principles for effective interface design, and strategies for evaluating interfaces. A mixture of quizzes and peer reviewed assignments help reinforce learning as well as introduces learners to hands on practice.
In Autumn 2016 University of Michigan School of Information launched the UX Research & Design Micromasters in partnership with EdX. While this program is cited as costing $1041 USD for culmination of the credential certificate, all video content and quiz resources are completely free to access. This program consists of 9 courses
· Introduction to User Experience
· Principles for Designing for Humans
· Evaluating Designs for Humans
· UX Design from Concept to wireframe
· UX Design: From Wireframe to Prototype
· Understanding User Needs
· UX Research Surveys
· UX Research at scale: analytics and online experiments
· UX (user experience) Capstone project
The production quality and depth of the material offered in this program is very impressive to say the least. The frequent quizzes and assignments go a long way in helping learners reinforce material discussed. Although this is a newer program with some courses still to be launched (as of this writing in March 2017) I have no doubt this Micromasters program will continue to gain popularity thanks to its incredibly polished content and brand name institution credibility.
This free Udacity course, lead by Chelsey Glasson (User Researcher at Google), Kristian Simsarian (IDEO Fellow and Founder of Interaction Design Programs at California College of the Arts), and Don Norman (Co-Founder of Nielsen Norman Group and all around badass/UX rockstar) gives beginners a gentle introduction to design thinking. Summarized from the course’s page: “This course provides a summary of key concepts from the first two chapters of The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman. It’s intended to be enjoyable and informative for anyone curious about design: everyday people, technical people, designers, and non-designers alike.”
This course consists of 4 lessons:
· Affordances and Signifiers
· Conceptual Models and the System Image
· Gulfs of Evaluation and Execution
· Design the User Interface for a Timebank
With interactive quizzes, passionate and professional instructors, high quality video content and a student support community, this course makes for a great introduction to the field of user experience for folks with little to no background.
This course taught by Dr. Rosa Arriaga, Senior Research Scientist at Georgia Tech School of Interactive Computing is geared towards the novice. It is for learners that have heard about “user experience” or “user interface” design but don’t really know much about these disciplines. The course mantra is that “design is a systematic and data driven process.” Design is systematic because it is based on a set of techniques and also on a cycle of discovery. In this course the learner is introduced to a four step user interface design cycle. Along the way learners are exposed to a set of techniques to gather information about a) what the user needs b) how to design and model interfaces based on these and then how to evaluate the design to ascertain that the user’s goals are met.
In this course Chris Saden (software Engineer at Udacity) and Amir Shevat(Director of Developer Relations at Slack and former Startup Ecosystem Development Lead at Google Play) introduce leaners to product design, blending theory and practice to teach product validation, UX & UI practices, Google’s Design Sprint methodology and the process for setting and tracking actionable metrics. This course consists of 4 lessons:
– Ideation & validation
– Design Sprint
– Key Metrics
I highly recommend the book Sprint: How to Solve Big problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days as a companion piece to this course as well as the Google Rapid Prototyping course.
A hidden gem of resources, Facebook gives us a centralized location for scholarly publications and information. Anyone interested in the ‘under-the-hood’ works of the social media giant would benefit from the material published here. Some interesting published content includes ‘Attitudes and behaviours around receiving Likes on Facebook as well as Changes in Engagement Before and After Posting to Facebook.
Although I’m a firmly in the UX ≠ UI camp, having an understanding regarding industry-standard theory and methods and developing successful user interfaces (UIs) goes a long way.” As quoted from the course page:
“upon completing this Specialization, you will have fluency with the user research, prototyping and evaluation techniques necessary for creating intuitive interfaces that facilitate good user experiences.” You will also have demonstrated this fluency through an in-depth Capstone Project that can be shown to prospective employers in the fast-growing field of UI design.
This specialization is broken down into 5 courses:
– Introduction to UI Design
– User Research and Design
– Prototyping and Design
– Evaluating User Interfaces
– UI Design Capstone
Concepts and techniques covered include structured approaches for helping you understand your user base and their needs (e.g. contextual inquiry and design psychology), widely-employed prototyping and design methods (e.g. low-fidelity and paper prototyping), and robust techniques for helping you evaluate your design choices (e.g. heuristic evaluation and user studies). By the end of the Specialization, you will be comfortable applying these concepts and techniques to designing interfaces for a wide variety of users from around the world.”
Although this course is aimed at giving mobile developers an introduction to user experience design, learners new to UX will get a lot of value out of this well-structured high quality Google course.
In this course Professor Pei-Luen Patrick Rau of Tsinghau University gives an in-depth look at concepts of user-centered design from a cultural perspective and how to apply knowledge, culture and technology to shape the future of design. For people interested in digital user experience from a cross cultural lens, and how human factors, culture and design are influenced and experienced by different nations, this course will be of interest.
Strong collaboration and communication skills are critical to any project. Computing experts from University of Alberta teach the processes and practices of working in an agile work environment in this specialization. This course teaches how to understand and refine software requirements of a client and how to communicate those requirements to a team of developers. Although this course is heavily focused on monitoring of projects, product planning, quality insurance and time tracking, the skills and methodologies covered will help any aspiring user experience professional with communication and planning in future work environments.
If you feel I missed any helpful online UX material be sure to leave a comment and ❤ this article if you found it helpful.