Ph.D. in Human Centered Design

The Ph.D. in Human Centered Design will prepare graduates to advance the field of digital technology and media design by taking a transdisciplinary and collaborative approach that blends theory with practice. The program embraces a broad diversity of scholarly traditions and creative practices that include design, learning sciences, computer science, human-computer interaction, game design and development, and psychology.


The Foundation Phase

Students entering the program will begin by completing the necessary foundation courses and participating in small-scale research projects led by their faculty advisors. The purpose of the foundation phase is to ensure that students have the appropriate breadth and depth of knowledge necessary to formulate relevant research questions as well as develop skills for conducting research.

HCD 421
HCD 450
HCD 510

Students will select 2 core studio courses from the following:

EXP 442
EXP 440
EXP 441

Students must also select 1 additional research methods course:

CMNS 582
HCI 445
PSY 420

Students can waive out of any course (except methods courses which can only be substituted) for which they can prove equivalent course experience. Waivers are defined as when students do not take the course (up to 12 hours; all other courses must be substituted); substitutions are the replacement of one course for another. To request a waiver or substitution, students should present evidence of the equivalent course taken (with a minimum of B-) to their faculty advisor, who will then request approval from the HCD Committee. In rare cases, students may request a waiver due to extensive work experience. To request a waiver, students must present evidence (e.g. work portfolio) to their faculty advisor, who will then make the request to the HCD committee. In both cases, the HCD committee will make the final decision on whether a course can be waived or substituted because of course equivalency or work experience.

Design and Production Phase

During this phase, there is one (1) required course and students will work with their advisors to select at least eight specialized courses to develop their design and production skills. Additional electives not listed below may be selected after students receive written approval from both their faculty advisor and the HCD committee.

CMNS 545

Students will select at least 32 credit hours from the following courses:

CSC 500
CMNS 570
DMA 415
DMA 425
DMA 475
DMA 480
GAM 424
HCI 430
HCI 440
HCI 450
HCI 460
HCI 470
HCI 511
HCI 515
HCI 520
HCI 530
HCI 553
HIT 421
IS 511
JOUR 504
JOUR 520
JOUR 529
MCS 530
MCS 575
PSY 404
PSY 430
PSY 567
SOC 463
SOC 464

Research Phase

During the research phase, students will focus on completing their qualifying examinations, candidacy, and dissertation.

  • Breadth Examination: By the end of the second year in the program, students will take the breadth examination to assess their knowledge of core concepts and principles.
  • Depth Examination: Under the supervision of their faculty advisor and assisted by two additional faculty members, students will lead a small research project from inception to publication of the results in one of the following areas: human-centered design, learning sciences, game design and development, or interactive media.
  • Candidacy Phase: This phase begins with successful defense of the dissertation proposal based on a focused research project. Students will enroll in HCD 699 until complete.
  • Dissertation Phase: All students must complete a dissertation that provides a significant contribution to the student's intended area of expertise. Students will enroll in HCD 701 until complete. The doctoral dissertation must demonstrate the student's ability to engage in significant research that is recognized by an academic community as exhibited by:
    • Relevant and significant research question(s) to a technology-based field
    • In-depth literature review of relevant research
    • A conceptual framework that serves as the foundation for the research
    • Significant research findings and contribution

The designated courses for the research phase are:

HCD 599
HCD 699
HCD 701

Course Requirements

Ph.D. students are expected to complete at least 60 credits of graduate-level courses. The length of time students spend in the program will vary depending on the student's background. We anticipate that students will finish on average in 4-5 years.