I have to totally disagree with your defense of GA not suggesting that you’re ready to start shopping around a portfolio as soon as you’re done with the shorter courses. They say in black and white (which we linked to) that you can have a portfolio piece by the end of the 1-week course. If don’t think that’s suggesting students will be able to put that in front of a potential employer, then you’re missing how they’re spinning the marketing spin for that class. But let’s move on from the shorter class, because the longer immersive class is where we still have issue.

I’ve met a variety of people who have take these classes and some have been thrown into the fire without mentorship, without true UX training without the real thinking skills it takes to do this and with a false sense of ability. I don’t want to attack GA in a bubble — that’s not fair to them or to UX education in general, but belittling what we do by suggesting anyone can be ready to hop into the world after 12-weeks of intense training? I call BS on that. Looking at what schools like SVA are doing and others that are developing more full-blown programs (even those I would argue still remove the wonderful storytelling experience great UX people gain before ever getting into the industry) are leagues more legit.

Let’s be honest, these are companies that are latching onto a trend in order to make a buck. And from a business standpoint, there is nothing wrong with that. That blog post by Kolko boasts about these program that:

  1. They focus on skill acquisition.
    -> Learning the “skills” or tools of the craft does not mean learning the craft. I can use a table saw and a nail gun, but I’m not a carpenter.
  2. They produce a portfolio as evidence of mastery.
    -> this point might be the one that sickens me most: “evidence of master.” Who of us is a master? We all get better as we do this, but if someone gave me or any self-respecting UX Portfolio as “evidence of mastery,” the conversation would be over before it started. These portfolios are, unfortunately, created in bubbles outside how the real world works. Unfortunate, because there probably are amazing ways these folks could learn and produce truly wonderful work. Even if it’s in progress.
  3. They are taught by practitioners.
    -> I can’t speak to this either way. Some may be amazing, may not be. I don’t know any full-time UX people who can teach a 10 week course for 8 hours a day, but that’s not to demean those who do because I am not into personally attacking them or how they’ve chosen to move into education.
  4. They promote employment and career repositioning.
    -> They do promote employment. The question is whether people get thrown into the fire as the SOLE UX person at a startup because they’re affordable, recently certified students (I’ve seen this happen again and again) and therefore have no mentorship or place to learn. Or they are placed into a corporation without a focus on true UX. Obviously, there are exceptions to these rules as there are in others, but promising jobs and delivering on quality and career tracks are two very different things.
  5. They typically focus on the “Richard Florida” type jobs and careers.
    -> Of course they do. These are the industries everyone wants to get into and if there’s a shortcut why take it? And I don’t blame the students for this. Who wouldn’t want an easy way into what sounds like a lucrative, fun, educational career? It’s a valid desire. But it’s also the easiest to swindle people to pay for.

Look, man, I’m not trying to poo poo the world of UX education but I think we need to really examine how we think UXers should be learning and as a burgeoning industry that’s goal is to solve problems, we can do better. To me, 10 weeks, 12 weeks for $10k or $11k cheapens what it takes to learn the right teaching while asking people who may truly want a career change to shell out some serious dough. That’s really scary.

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