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Subject: Help me choose a Master's program rss

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Carl Anderson
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I've got a BSc in Graphic Information Technology from Arizona State University. I work as a Web programmer (PHP/SQL, that sort of thing) at present, at Michigan State University's National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, and have no plans to go anywhere anytime soon.

But...I long for a Master's degree. I don't know why; I just do. MSU gives some financial assistance, and I plan on taking advantage of it. The best part is that I can go anywhere I want, so long as the institution is accredited.

I've got my choice narrowed down to human-computer interaction; I had considered instructional technology, since I've worked in academia all my life, but I think HCI is a better choice. (I'm also interested in usability, you see.) The main issue is that the program has to be completely online--otherwise, I'd head down the road to the University of Michigan, with their HCI program.

Yesterday, I found two schools offering online programs in HCI: Rochester Institute of Technology and DePaul University. Here's what I know:

- Both are completely online, and both are 52 credits long.
- DePaul is a bit cheaper tuition-wise.
- RIT would require one weekend on-campus visit for a specific class, at some point during the program.
- RIT has, as part of the program, a "Learning and Human Performance" component, which is essentially instructional technology.

As it stands, I can't afford to take more than one or two classes per term; heck, RIT's classes are around $3500 a piece, and my MSU money would only cover two per year at that rate. (I've asked for more information about scholarships.) Thus, money is a concern.

I'm posting in hopes that people have some thoughts on these two schools--or, perhaps, other online HCI programs. Anyone go to DePaul or RIT who would like to comment? Anyone do these specific programs?

I welcome any feedback anyone might have!
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AMERIGAMER!
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Doctor Who?

(Just kidding, good luck in your studies!)
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Amy Wiles
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Email or talk to current students and get a feel for how they feel about their program. Also, find out from emailing/talking to the faculty how many student successfully graduate, and where their placement is after graduation.

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Carl Anderson
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davestephens wrote:
Doctor Who?


Heh...I still wish I could get a PhD. I'd originally planned on going into astrophysics, but then thought better of it.
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Carl Anderson
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amwiles wrote:
Email or talk to current students and get a feel for how they feel about their program. Also, find out from emailing/talking to the faculty how many student successfully graduate, and where their placement is after graduation.


Good suggestions. I'm not too worried about my own post-graduation placement, of course, but it's a good metric to determine what the world at large things of a degree from the institution.

My boss also suggested a more academic approach: look at the papers written by faculty, see if they have merit, and see if they're cited by others in the field. Not a bad idea there either.
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Amy Wiles
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carl67lp wrote:
amwiles wrote:
Email or talk to current students and get a feel for how they feel about their program. Also, find out from emailing/talking to the faculty how many student successfully graduate, and where their placement is after graduation.


Good suggestions. I'm not too worried about my own post-graduation placement, of course, but it's a good metric to determine what the world at large things of a degree from the institution.

My boss also suggested a more academic approach: look at the papers written by faculty, see if they have merit, and see if they're cited by others in the field. Not a bad idea there either.


My sister made the mistake of starting a masters degree in a department that only graduated one student about every five years. The program was so bad that after the first semester, she dropped out and started somewhere else. The professors had looked good on paper. I'm not saying that you're trying to find out where you might go, but you do need to find out how well the students do who graduate from there are accepted. Is the degree worth anything? If not, you're probably not going to get much out of it and just be dealing with profs who really don't care. Not a good environment.

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Carl Anderson
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Drew1365 wrote:
Carl, where've you been?!


Eh? Same place as always...right here.
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Carl Anderson
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Drew1365 wrote:
Huh. Haven't seen you around in about a year. I was about to send out the Saint Bernards with whiskey flasks.


No kidding... Well, I moved back to Michigan in April (see the first post) and actually ran a math trade shortly thereafter. So, I've been around.

But feel free to send the whiskey flasks!
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Chony McChuukface
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I am not familiar with the program at either school, just wanted to wish a fellow Sun Devil good luck. devil
 
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Carl Anderson
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ChonChuuk wrote:
I am not familiar with the program at either school, just wanted to wish a fellow Sun Devil good luck. devil


Thanks! I have to admit, though, that I don't feel a terribly strong connection to the school. Even thought I worked for HerbergerOnline, I never went to class on the Tempe campus (my program was at Polytechnic), so perhaps that's the cause.

Nevertheless, I'm proud of ASU being my alma mater.
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Troy Winfrey
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I'm currently finishing up a (residential) program in HCI at the University of Baltimore. Well, it's more interaction design and interactive strategy, but I've had a lot of formal usability training and internship-like experience.

The real question is what you're going to do with the degree. My program, while recognized in Circles Who Know, has a lot of shortcomings. On the other hand, I'm pretty focused on what I want to do (become a consultant or practitioner) and have been able to tailor my degree and program to fit that goal. This is pretty important for any HCI-type program, because it's too new of a discipline to have a lot of established, genuine precepts. You need to make sure that you can identify a trend or upcoming need and tailor a program to prepare you for that.

Frankly, so few people have formal training in this field that you don't really have to worry about caliber of programs as much. Paper research, while a great idea for more established fields, is less useful here. Look at where grads end up. Is this the kind of work you want to do? If so, go to the program. Ask for examples of student projects. See if these have any real-world applications, or are more theoretical/academic. If you want to go theoretical, cool, just do it at the doctoral level and do it in residence, not online (if accepted, they'll give you a stipend, so no worries).

Finally, be aggressive about finding out where people were placed, what their career paths are about, and talking to them personally. Any decent school should give you this information.

It's not really about how good the program is. It's whether you should do it at all. Will it fulfill your specific career needs? I'm a huge fan of personal intellectual fulfillment, but I wouldn't recommend an HCI degree "just because" unless you had some ideas about what to do with it. If you want fulfillment, there are better things...HCI is still young and still focused on ends.

And PM me for any further questions, if you like. Good luck!
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Carl Anderson
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Thanks, Troy. That's useful stuff. If I do have questions, I'll be sure to send you a GeekMail.
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