How and Why I Chose this HCI Graduate Program

e-learning, educational multimedia, HCI, Human-Computer Interaction, Interaction Design, learning objectives

The third day of graduate orientation at the IU School of Informatics and Computing is winding down. The  day’s events peaked around 5pm with…course registration!

It’s official. I’m enrolled.

As the question has come up numerous times over the last few days, I thought I’d take a stab at articulating my reasons for pursuing an HCI degree and, in particular, my reasons for choosing Indiana University’s HCI/d program.

My path has been a winding one. The short of it is: I studied film production as an undergrad and Humanities/Cinema & Media Studies as a first-time Masters student. I worked for a post-production company in Chicago, taught at a charter high school in Milwaukee, and lead an instructional design team in the design and creation of online graduate courses for the University of Southern California.

During my time as an instructional designer, I stumbled across the phrase ‘Human-computer Interaction’ while reading for personal/professional development, and my interest was piqued.

In many ways, my reaction to the phrase was like a reaction to well-crafted advertising: I bought in before I even went to the store. But, ever the savvy consumer, I read more about the product.

First I skimmed the Wikipedia entry and plumbed interaction-design.org (note: interaction-design.org is a great resource for free content on HCI). And then I found hcibib.org, which provided me with the list of universities currently offering advanced degrees in Human Computer Interaction (or an adjacent field, e.g., software ergonomics, human factors, information management, etc.).

I saw the educational multimedia I’d been designing as an instructional designer firmly situated within the field. But I saw more than that: I saw the potential to rethink the design and implementation of multimedia in 100% online courses, and I saw the potential to rethink the design of the learning management systems that housed the courses themselves…the potential to rethink the whole system, I suppose.

I saw potential far beyond the limited scope of my job, and I wanted to go after it.

So, now we get to the pith. Why Indiana University?

The answer is a two-parter: (1) The faculty (their areas of expertise and their research interests); (2) The program’s emphasis on design, designerly thinking, and a design community.

I’ll keep the elaboration brief for the purpose of the blog.

Marty Siegel is the Director of Graduate Studies in Informatics. His background and interests align with my some of my own interests in computer-based learning.

But I’m also here (perhaps more so) to nurture my interest in design as such…or maybe the philosophy of design is the best way to put it. This emphasis permeates the entire HCI/d program and it is an area of particular interest for Erik Stolterman, Professor and Chair of the Informatics Dept. at IU Bloomington.

The right professors and the right community…I can’t think of two better reasons to accept an offer of admission.

HCI and the Future of Education

e-learning, education, educational multimedia, HCI, Human-Computer Interaction, Instructional Technology, knowledge tools

In Being Human: Human-computer Interaction in the Year 2020, Harper, Rodden, Rogers, and Sellen remind us that, “With the uptake of calculators, educationalists became concerned that students’ ability to perform mental arithmetic were disappearing.”

Then, they ask, “In 2020, what other kinds of basic skills might go?” Could reading be next? Critical thinking? Concentration in general?

Let’s take it one step further: What’s at stake if those other basic skills go?

In The End of Education, Neil Postman, arguing against “provid[ing students] with more practical, vocational skills” describes one goal of a public education as “the making of adaptable, curious, open, questioning people…”

Postman’s description of part of public education’s purpose is spot on, and I think it illustrates what’s at stake when those other basic skills go.

How can a person (let alone a society) cultivate adaptability, curiosity, openness and open-mindedness, and critical inquiry skills if we outsource so much of the bedrock for these abilities to technology?