Learning is investing — My experience at the Interaction Design Foundation
I strongly believe that education is not only the best investment of your time and money; it is also a statement of the person and professional you are.
As an active UX designer, it is common to assume you know what you are doing just because you are applying today the principles you learned years ago, without really thinking too much if your knowledge base has become obsolete.
I am responsible for updating my working knowledge almost simultaneously as my computer updates its operative system. Outdated ideas do not go too far in the innovation-driven world of design.
Education as an investment
Treating my UX education as an investment really forces me to manage my portfolio of investment options actively. For a very long time, I assigned a budget for books, courses, and online training I will put my money on. Needless to say that some options out there do not offer a reasonable combination of price, quality, and availability. Like any other investment, you need to do your homework to assess the ROI of the courses and the instructors' reputation before making any decision.
The Interaction Design Foundation
When it comes to online training, in the last couple of years, there has been an increment in the educative options where you can get your latest UX Design update. And since 2012, there is an option that really stands out from the rest, the Interaction Design Foundation. The IDF is a non-profit that offers you all the courses you can take for a flat yearly fee of $100. It really shreds that old antiquated model where education affordability correlates with its quality.
I have been a member for almost a year. During that time, I have completed 9 courses (and working my way through some more). These courses may go from introductions to basic concepts to particular conceptual frameworks for advanced learners. My favourite course so far has been “UX Management: Strategy and Tactics.” I have been part of many companies working their way into increasing their UX design maturity and having an introduction to a well-organized model to make it happen, reassuring, helpful and empowering.
Regularly, I am studying three or four topics at the same time. My way of learning things is not linear at all. Sometimes I jump to different lessons between courses with different instructors just because it could bring a different perspective to the material. I am not saying that this the optimal way to learn, all I am saying is that since all the courses are self-paced, you can really feel incentivized to find your own way through your courses. My only advice is setting some time regularly to let your curiosity drive you, and you will see you will have a lot of courses done in almost no time. My learning time is my daily commute on the train to work.
I also need to mention their open-access literature. This top-notch library of resources is complementary to the lessons and is a great place to get lost in the content and references. If you are new to UX, this is also a good place to learn more about your profession's roots and scrapping the impression that UX design just came out of nowhere right around when the iPhone was invented.
The IDF is not only about teaching. It also puts a special effort into creating a global community of designers. It is refreshing to see many curiosity-driven professionals communicating their aspirations, questions, concerns, and tips. I often looked for their advice and support, which is hard to find in my design community. Some local chapters in bigger cities have recurring meetups; sincerely, I hope my local chapter will reach that point.
If you have a small amount of time and money to invest, update your education. If you are a user experience design professional, the Interaction Design Foundation can give you a lot of benefits that certainly will not only materialize into substantial professional and personal gains for you, at the end of the day, it will also benefit your users.