In India User Experience / Usability / Human Computer Interaction (HCI) related courses are conducted especially for professionals. These courses are tailored to cover the User Centered Design (UCD) process in a short-term – 10 – 15 days. They are mostly attended by professionals who cannot afford a duration of 2 years or more. They are mostly conducted in Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune where there are IT / design related companies.
The main courses that I know and which I have attended are:
- HCI – Spring / Summer Course – 10-14 day course at IIT Bombay
Conducted by Prof. Anirudha Joshi, Interaction Design, Industrial Design Center, IITB
- Certified Usability Course(CUA) – 10 day course
Conducted by HFI – Human Factors International
To start off with – HCI course conducted by Prof. Anirudha Joshi. I attended this course in March 2009. There were around 25 participants from all over India including a few from Dubai, Bangladesh and Switzerland. When I attended the cost of the fee was Rs. 28000(Early Bird fee). This fee gets higher as the course date gets nearer. There is a lot of demand for this course mostly because it’s conducted by Prof. Anirudha Joshi. He is a professor of Interaction Design at IDC. He is one of the renowned Prof in Interaction Design in India right now. His research interests mostly focus on mobile applications and its implication on rural or illiterate users.
I personally feel Prof. Anirudha is a very articulate and animated speaker. He maintains the energy level throughout the day. The workshop is a hands-on approach to understand the process of Contextual Design. Several techniques are discussed in the span of 10 days- Contextual Inquiry, Transcribing the interviews, Interpretation of interviews, Creating affinity diagrams, Card sorting, Prototyping, User testing etc. I feel the 14 day period(including weekends) is very less to understand UCD but still its the best that you can get in India.
The 10 day CUA certification track from HFI is conducted in Mumbai, Bangalore and recently they have also started in Chennai. This course is also a 10 day – excluding weekends. This course is majorly divided into 4 parts
1. User-Centered analysis and Conceptual design
2. The science and art of effective web and application design
3. Practical Usability Testing
4. Putting research into practice
When I attended the course in Bangalore, the UCA was conducted by Sarit – Sarit is an ex-NIDian, an excellent speaker, he maintains the pace throughout. I feel of all the 4 parts I found UCA much useful than others. The second part is mostly about the skeleton and surface aspects of design – the layouts, gestalt’s law, icons, color themes etc. One who is new to visual design might find it useful. The third part - PUT is also very useful for someone who is keen in User Testing techniques, I found this also very useful. The last part PRP however was just about how to keep yourself updated by reading books, research papers, journals, blogs related to interaction design. Personally I did not enjoy this part much.
Overall I would say HFI course is good. HFI is extremely industry oriented and they teach you several techniques (actually a lot of them). I don’t know whether one would actually get time / budget to perform these techniques in a live project. But in any case, the good thing is – they show you all the options. It’s now your call to select whichever techniques that suit your project’s bandwidth. BUT I strongly feel the course is very costly for a country like India. First of all we have very less design oriented companies in India and how many of them would sponsor their employees to attend the course. There would be very-very few who are self-sponsored. Rs.72,000 for a 10 day course + Rs.8000(approx) for the CUA fee. Which makes it Rs.80,000 for a 10 day course. Is it worth it?? Well, it’s a tough question. I guess since HFI the only organisation that conducts the exam and certifies you, they use this factor in their favor. HFI must seriously revise their fee structure for India at least.
About the CUA exam. It’s a computer based test, open-book(yes, you can refer to the material that they have given you or any other material during the test). As far as I can remember it has 100 questions – multiple choice. Only one out of the 4-5 options will be correct. The exam duration is 3 hours(That’s a plenty of time, you wont need so much time to answer). The passing percentage is 70. So you need to get at least 70 questions correct from 100. Well the exam software is a bit tipsy-turvy. Coming from a user experience giant like HFI, it’s actually funny. There are 4 sections in the exam – UCA, science and art, PUT and PRP. While answering a particular section, you can move forward / backward i.e. answer a question, flag a question that you want to answer later, go back and correct the answered question etc. But once you COMMIT a particular section and move to the next one, you can’t come back to the previous section. Why? – ask HFI. I find no reason why a candidate cannot move between sections. If he feels he has enough time left he can review the answers in the end. But the software doesn’t allow you to. Yeah… It’s funny. Also once you finish the exam, The last screen has the score – whether you cleared the exam or not, how much marks you got in each section etc. I remember there was this “Congratulations Syed” screen with my total marks and individual marks of section written. There was also an OK button in the bottom – which i pressed. And when I came out of the cubicle and asked for my marks sheet. The person who was conducting the exam told me that – I was not supposed to press the OK button. I was actually supposed to call them and they would take the screen-shot of the screen and print the screen shot for me. I asked them – Is there any other way I can get my marks sheet, She said no. Now that made me think – If there is no way to retrieve a candidate’s marks or answer sheet – If I want to scrutinize how much a past CUA scored – I have no way to do it? I hope HFI is listening and act on this right away.
Final Word. Prof.Anirudha Joshi’s Course is optimal in terms of cost, participant-expertise and knowledge shared. However the certificate that you get is a “Participatory Certificate” – Which certifies that you were physically present during the 10 day period in IITB. The HFI course and CUA exam is good, very industry oriented BUT very costly. If you are sponsoring yourself – think again. But they give you a Certified Usability Analyst – that is exam based. How much value it holds in the industry – Well, ask the Industry.