MacEwan to Fill a Gap in UXD Education in the Prairies

User experience design or UXD, has become a crucial and fast growing sector of digital media however there is a gap in UXD education in Canada’s prairie provinces. While  several programs throughout the country focus on digital design and offer a degree, as of right now, none of them are based in Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba. For instance, Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver has an interaction design major, the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto has a digital futures major, and Sheridan and York in Ontario have digital interaction majors. 

MacEwan University in Edmonton aims to change this with their proposed UXD program. This major will become part of their proposed four year degree program. With an estimated Fall 2019 launch, the major will consist of nine courses dedicated to UXD, three more than their current 3 year diploma program. We spoke with Robert Andruchow, the Program Coordinator for Design Studies at MacEwan University, to learn more.

Current Design Studies Diploma.

Many of the courses in the current diploma will remain requirements for the degree program. In the diploma and proposed degree program, students take an introductory user experience course that provides a broad overview of the kind of digital products students will be creating in the workforce. This course also teaches students how to successfully prototype and wireframe and why these are necessary skills is digital media.

Following this introductory course, students are able to choose between two streams. One stream if focused on information architecture and include two courses in web design, development and information architecture. This stream is suggested for students who would like to work on websites where the main user goal is information retrieval.

Alternatively, students can decide to go the route of interactive design and take two courses that focus on user experience problems that go beyond information retrieval. This stream is suggested for students who would rather work on products that require the user to complete a sequence of steps to achieve an objective, like making a restaurant reservation or tracking your jogging time and distance.

An additional course in the diploma that will remain a requirement for the degree focuses on UX theory and methods. This course has a strong emphasis on getting students to conduct user testing on existing products, create a prototype to revise the existing product, test again, do another revision, and to then create a final product. This course teaches students valuable theory but also teaches UX testing methods that are critical for any UX designer.

New UXD Courses.

The new UXD degree program will focus on the importance of design and design research while giving students hands on experience creating and solving UXD problems. A high priority for the new program is to teach students the breadth of social science research methods that design has appropriated. Students will learn to utilize research methods such as interviews, surveys, focus groups, ethnography, and more. Through both qualitative and quantitative methods, students learn how to create a research plan, and how to determine which method is appropriate for the particular research problem they’re dealing with.

One of the new courses is interdisciplinary and will allow students from business, computer science, and other fields to enroll in the class alongside design students. Students from different disciplines will collaborate on a project where they build something from scratch while learning to work with a team.

Additionally, students will enroll in a UX Capstone where they will work on a final project for the semester. This is a self directed course that incorporates everything they have learned in previous UX courses. Student’s final projects could be anything from a website, to a mobile or desktop app, to something involving VR, augmented reality, or anything else they wish to explore.

Along with all these courses students will learn programs such as Invision and Sketch. MacEwan’s program incorporates the latest methods and tools to create digital products: if other programs and tools become more popular, the tools used within the program will change as the industry changes.

For students who are interested in this degree program but would like to start as soon as possible, it is recommended that the current diploma program is considered. The three year diploma is an open concept so students are able to tailor the diploma to what they would like to learn. Students can get started now by taking all six of the current user experience courses to cater the diploma to UXD.  Then if they are keen on receiving the degree, these credits will transfer over to the degree program. Students can complete the additional 30-39 credits required in about a year to a year and a half.

Keep your eyes peeled for more news about the UXD degree at MacEwan University. To learn more about the current diploma program, visit MacEwan’s design studies page here.

Robyn Welsh
Robyn Welsh
Robyn is studying Communications/Journalism at Mount Royal University in Calgary. She is a co-founder and editor for Vamp Media (www.vamp.media), and has written for the Calgary Journal, The Reflector, Beatroute Magazine, as well as several others.