Bentley University launched its Masters of Science in Human Factors in Information Design (MSHFID) program – one of the most renowned in the country – on the west coast and serves as an educational hub for California and surrounding states. Debuting in January 2013, the program fulfills a strong market demand for graduate programming that prepares students and professionals for user experience research and design careers, fields that are currently rich with job opportunities, particularly in the Silicon Valley and the Bay area.
“As part of a Business University, our Human Factors program is uniquely positioned to prepare students to deliver value to both the business and the user community,” says MSHFID Program Director Bill Gribbons. “Students experience the best of a research university balanced carefully with the preparation necessary to become an immediate contributor in leading tech organizations.”
Bentley offers two courses per semester at a San Francisco facility, with additional courses online. Courses will be offered in an innovative full-day format, allowing students to participate in the program from a wider geographic region. The program will also include a one-week residency at the User Experience Center on Bentley’s campus in Waltham, Mass. The courses that are taught in California will be available online to the Waltham students. The goal is to create one unified learning community.
“Innovative, product-focused companies on the west coast are in desperate need for a program like Bentley’s MSHFID, not only because there are not enough user experience candidates for hire in the area, but also to enhance the user experience workforce that already exists,” says Nancy Dickenson, consultant and former head of user experience design and research for eBay. Nancy will serve as Bentley’s Executive in Residence in the Bay area, responsible for student recruiting and corporate outreach. Over the past four years, the program has established strong partnerships with leading tech organizations in the Bay area. This network has supported the placement of graduates in these same organizations and corporate sponsorship of leading-edge design problems in Bentley classes.
According to Gribbons, Bentley’s MHFID program has an innovative approach to analyzing human needs associated with product interaction. “I often describe user experience as both an art and a science. The science involves a deep understanding of human behavior and how people interact with technology. The art is gaining insights from that behavioral knowledge and using it to design the best and most innovative product.”
MSHFID students use research methods such as ethnographic study, field studies, interviews, focus groups, and survey design. They then move from research evidence to design implementation in product, interface and interaction design.
In addition to Bentley faculty members, local academics and thought leaders from the Bay area teach courses in the San Francisco classroom.