Right before the year end and the start of the new year 2022, I finished both Google UX Design Certificate and California Institute of the Arts (cal ARTS) UI/UX Design Specialization. Prior to that, I enrolled with California College of the Arts for BFA, Interaction Design in the Fall of 2020 and later dropped out. You can tell and probably have a big question mark in your head. I am here to share what I learned and hopefully guide you to the right direction. The main focus of this post is the comparation between formal education and online career certificates.
Disclaimer: this post is not recommendation by any means. Read, learn and dive in more before you put any effort into it.
Google UX Design Certificate
Google UX Design Certificate is part of the Grow with Google initiative that offers specialization in digital skills. The specialization program that is available on Coursera with a price tag of $39 a month. They offer a free trial of 7 days, but you can also audit the course too. This certificate program consists of seven courses:
- Course 1: Foundations of User Experience (UX) Design
- Course 2: Start the UX Design Process: Empathize, Define, and Ideate
- Course 3: Build Wireframes and Low-Fidelity Prototypes
- Course 4: Conduct UX Research and Test Early Concepts
- Course 5: Create High-Fidelity Design and Prototypes in Figma
- Course 6: Responsive Web Design in Adobe XD
- Course 7: Design a User Experience for Social Good & Prepare for Jobs
The structure of the course breaks down into weeks, so the whole program would take roughly about six months or more to finish at your own pace. The whole course comprises of reading, videos, quizzes, self-checked activity, peer-review assignement and discussion (optional). There will be three projects to complete to receive the certificate. These projects are designed for your portfolio to apply for the job.
What I like about the program is the combination of learning materials that you get to view and learn at your pace. The best thing that set this certificate different is non-traditional learning approach. The program is designed to give you the overview of everyday UX workflow. In this case, the overview of how UX Google process looks like. There are inviews from Googlers on how they started in the field from YouTube, Google Map to Nest Hub.
There is no pressure on GPA or grade or participants. You are the one decide on how you want to complete the course. There is no strict order to take the course. It is just a recommendation for on how the program should be completed in order, if you are new. I personally would recommend that you audit the courses and have all the assement done before hand. Once you sign up for the course, you can submit everything for review, which can save you time and money. The best part is that there are perks like free Adobe XD for nine months and interview preparation with one year subscription.
California Institute of the Arts UI/UX Design Specialization
UI/UX Design Specialization by calArts is available on Coursera with same online self-pace structure. They only have four courses in the specialization, which are in the following:
- Course 1: Visual Elements of User Interface Design
- Course 2: UX Design Fundamentals
- Course 3: Web Design: Strategy and Information Architecture
- Course 4: Web Design: Wireframes to Prototypes
This specialization is structured in the old school way, which focuses more on theories with less real world examples. I think this is typical for school environment, where they try to immitate the real world as much as they can. However, the course materials can be confusing if you are new into the field. Some of the materials are crossing between with brand marketing and graphic design. These elements are important for the product to come together, but it can be distracted and confusing. The assignment is built on top of another, which you have to submit with a few updates. There is no template to follow like Google UX Design course.
Overall, it is an ok course and you can have two projects to add to your portfolio if you want to. I took the class under the Coursera Campus sponsor and the new year offer for the Coursera Plus. Please note that your submission needed to graded by your peer, which can take a week or two weeks. It depends on number of students signed up for the class. There is no perks in this specialization.
California College of the Arts, Interaction Design BFA
First of all, why did I sign up for CCA? Well, I am interested in their curriculum of the interaction design. I ended up transfer to CCA and stayed there for a semester. It was pretty intense with all course work and material, you need to complete on time as a designer can be challenging. The most challenging is the bureaucracy and platform that you need to jump back and forth from one class to another class. It can be exhausting to deal with.
In addition to that, you might need spend four years to graduate from the program because you will need 120 units to graduate. You can check out the full program here. It contains core studio, major requirements, and general education. You will be expecting a lot of sketching, brainstorming, reading, and writing. They give you the requirements to work on with the hard deadline.
Core studio will focus on drawing and sketching, which is similar to the crazy eights. The purpose is to generate ideas. The activities get your brain and hand to work. However, CCA program take you more depth into the dimension. It is relative to what you are building, so you might or might not need it.
Major requirements prepare you for both UX and UI design with the addition in interaction design. Interaction design is really about how the users will interact with product both physical or software. One example, their prototyping is not just with Figma or Adobe XD, but also with physical prototype like form, cardboard, etc
Then the general education requirement that is the typical system in the US education. You are required to complete the GE in order to graduate.
The main different from the traditional classroom to the online learning is the live feedback from your instructor. Unfornately, the feedbacks are tend to stick to the project requirements or course requirements. You have to deal with biases too, which you can check out the review on Yelp or Google map review.
Google Certificate vs CCA BFA
Which one is best for you? Well, it depends on where you are today and where you want to go. You are the only person who knows it. If you are started out the college, you might want to take the old approach. If you already hold BA or Master or ever Ph.D, you might go the online certificate.
UX design is relative new, but the demand is pretty high in the coming years. The good news is that you don’t need the formal education to get into the field. In fact, most Google employees in UX/UI has a formal education in different field and work their way to become one. The important thing is that you keep on working on things that you love and care about. I hope this helps.