Bentley University User Experience Center

What can other educators and institutions learn from the successes and failures of your experience-oriented academic program?: 

There are three key features that have contributed to our success. First, our department is housed within the Graduate School of Business. UX has very strong ties to business, and this is reinforced in the program. Being part of a business school means the students who complete the program are able to make an immediate impact in their organization, well beyond a traditional UX role. Second, our program has been successful with a focus on the practical side of UX, while still maintaining a foundation in the theoretical. All students learn the theoretical foundations in human factors, as well as research methods. There are a host of more practical oriented courses such as prototyping, information architecture, measuring UX, managing a UX team, ethnography, and testing/assessment. Third, the relationship between the graduate program (HFID) and the User Experience Center (UXC) brings the content alive for the students. Students put their learning into practice by working with clients from around the world, on many types of products, utilizing a wide range of UX research and design techniques. These three aspects have led to a truly successful program. The outcome of this is an incredibly vibrant community of Bentley HFID grads around the world.

What is the structure and content of your program?: 

We have over 140 students who are graduate students in the HFD program pursuing their MS degrees. Many of these students are part-time, and therefore are holding a permanent position. Many are based in Boston, but also we have some students from other parts of the US as well as other countries. These students take their courses online. Part-time students typically take 3-4 years to complete the program. All courses are in the evenings to allow for those that are employed full-time. We also have full-time students. These students are eligible to work in the UXC. They typically complete the program in 1.5 years. All students are required to complete 10 courses. Course descriptions can be found at: Course structure information can be found at:

When students complete your program, what credentials, experience, and portfolio materials have they accumulated, and how do they support their career success?: 

We have nearly a 100% placement rate for our graduates. The UX field is rapidly growing, and our graduates commonly have multiple job offers. They often point to their course work being highly practical, their work in the UXC, or outside activities in the UX community. The UXC hosts conferences (Face of Finance: Designing Usable Financial Systems), sponsors events, and brings in invited speakers. Our graduates do develop portfolios of their work including prototypes, wireframe designs, reports, and research studies. We also support our students with internships.

Who are your program’s key instructors and what qualifications and experience do they bring?: 

The faculty in HFID are all PhD’s, and have many years in academics as well as industry. They are all well published, and have strong ties to industry. The HIFID program also has adjunct professors who are currently working in in a senior role in the UX field. The UXC staff is also very accomplished, with everyone holding an advanced degree in the field, publishing several books, and holding key positions in the UX field including co-Editor in Chief of the Journal of Usability Studies and Founder/Director of World Usability Day. 

How do you ensure your program’s content is and remains in synch with modern practices and the needs of employers?: 

Our program is synched up with modern practices in several ways. Many of our courses have corporate partners. These partners give the class a design or research challenge to the students. Students then spend the semester working on those challenges, often in teams, and then give presentations to the companies at the end of the semester. In addition, many of our adjunct faculty are currently working in industry. Also, all the work the students are doing in the UXC is the same as any UX design agency. Not only is the program in synch with modern practices, it is defining the practices many organizations use.

Please share any objective and anecdotal evidence that demonstrates the your program’s ability to equip students for “real-world” value and successfulness.: 

In the last 15 years the HFID program has grown into the largest UX program in the US, and possibly the world. Currently we have 140 students, with a nearly 100% placement rate. Many of our students have multiple job offers coming out of the program. In addition, we have well over 1,000 students take courses in our Executive Education program. We have also had over 100 students work in the UXC since it started 15 years ago. The UXC has worked with more than 200 companies around the world since it started at the same time as the graduate program. Many of our students tell us that they would not be where they are without the Bentley program, and specifically the practical focus of the program. We are very proud of our graduates, many of whom have gone on to make a tremendous impact on the field, and even beyond UX.