With your help, we’re raising $180,000 to create the next generation of UX designers.

School Authorization Achievement Unlocked

By Jessica Ivins

School Authorization Achievement Unlocked

As of today, at 1:54 pm CST, we’re an official, diploma-granting institution. Center Centre is now a 100% authorized post-secondary school!

Authorization is a big deal. Over the past year, the State of Tennessee has examined thousands of pages of our program documentation. The State reviewed and approved every aspect of our program including the school’s financial plans, program structure, innovative learning approach, and even us. Now, we can present a diploma of User Experience Design and Technology to every graduate.

So, Authorization. DONE.

More good news

Last Thursday, we launched a Kickstarter campaign to design 30 courses for the school. And within 3 hours we were fully funded. Then, less than 20 hours into the campaign we reached two times our original funding goal!

Now, let’s bring on the faculty. And let’s do it SOON! Help us get to our $112,000 stretch goal. Back the school to change the future of UX now and be the reason the school opens sooner.

Our First Stretch Goal (and not a moment too soon)

By Jessica Ivins

Our First Stretch Goal (and not a moment too soon)

You guys have been amazing. We asked for $21,700 to design the curriculum for Center Centre and you came through big time.

We had always planned to have stretch goals if we met our initial goal. We just thought we’d have more than 3 hours to figure out what they could be. Thanks to you, we’re proud and excited to announce our first stretch goal (earlier than we could have ever hoped!).

Stretch Goal #1: Bring On The School’s Faculty

If we reach $112,000, we can bring on Center Centre’s full-time faculty several months ahead of schedule. We call our full-time faculty facilitators (though they’ve already earned the nickname of unicorn wranglers). We can also start identifying and scheduling the industry experts who will start every course with a two-day workshop diving deep into their topic.

Our original Kickstarter project goal was to design 30 courses. But designing a course and delivering it are two very different things. By bringing on the facilitators early and signing up the industry experts, we can train everyone to deliver the courses the way we’ve designed them. Change the future of UX education with a significant boost for Center Centre’s faculty hiring. Pledge today.

Read on if you want the nitty gritty of how this $112,000 stretch goal will make Center Centre even more awesome…

Facilitators and Industry Experts: A Different Approach To Skills Training

First, a little insight into our thinking. The Unicorn Institute research project taught us we need to take a different approach to course delivery. While many other schools rely on full-time faculty to master the material and be great instructors, we’ll divide the job in an unconventional, collaborative way.

At Center Centre, we’ll have full-time facilitators who are great instructors and coaches, each with solid subject matter experience. We’ll augment the facilitators with a team of industry experts who can dive deeply into the material (often because they wrote THE book on their topic) and who are also proven teachers.

Our first cohort will have 36 students and three full-time facilitators. The ratio of one facilitator to every twelve students means that the students will get a rare level of individual developmental attention. The facilitators will act as coach, mentor, and team leader to the teams under their care.

For every one of the 30 courses, we will recruit a different industry expert. The facilitators, who will know the students the best, will work closely with the industry experts to tailor their material to each student’s capabilities.

The teaming of industry experts with facilitators ensures each student gets personalized instruction and the latest state-of-the-art thinking. Leslie’s expertise in designing curriculum and teaching design, combined with Jared’s experience delivering cutting-edge UX concepts through world-class educational conferences will ensure we get the right blend of expertise and instructional finesse.

How The Stretch Goal Works

Having facilitators and industry experts was always in the plan. Yet, we hadn’t planned on using the Kickstarter money for it. Like any ongoing school, the money from tuition pays the facilitators’ salaries, benefits, and relocation costs and the industry experts’ fees and expenses.

But because of your generosity and the the pledges that are still coming in, we can now bring the facilitators on earlier. We’ll use the additional money to cover their relocation costs and the extra few months of salary and benefits, until the tuition funds start coming in.

These extra few months will be critical to the school’s development. With this additional time, the facilitators will work with Leslie to develop the curriculum (saving us the cost of our planned contract writers). This means the facilitators will deliver the courses better, because they were involved in the design and development.

With the facilitators onboard earlier, we can start the work with the industry experts sooner. That extra time will bring extra quality to each course. This will make better designers out of our students. And better designers means a world of better UX.

Bonus: Opening the School in the Fall

When we launched the Kickstarter we thought opening in the fall of 2014 would be challenging—maybe even impossible. After all, designing 30 courses is just one small (but significant) step to open our doors.

However, by meeting this $112,000 stretch goal and bringing on the facilitators months earlier than planned, we’ll have enough team resources to make the impossible become possible. In addition to the course development, the new staff can help interview prospective students, work through the admissions process, and set up our classroom and project space.

You got us to our original goal in 3 hours. That was amazing.

Now we’re asking for something even more amazing. Help us bring the faculty on earlier to create a better educational experience. Change the future of UX education by boosting our faculty hiring. Pledge today.

How can you help shape the future of UX?

By Jessica Ivins

How can you help shape the future of UX?

We’re taking what we’ve learned through the Unicorn Institute and making a school called Center Centre! We’ve already created the structure for the school. Now, it’s time to build the course content.

We’re doing a Kickstarter and calling the project The Unicorn Institute, Courses to shape the future of UX design. We’re designing thirty courses in seven months. That’s thirty courses focused on UX topics. These courses will cover a wide range of topics—everything from interaction design to facilitating. Creating learning goals, assessments, learning activities, and resources for 30 courses is a ton of work. We need your help to fund our work to create course content to shape the future of UX.

Why do a Kickstarter?

When we talked with hiring managers and leaders about industry needs, we were overwhelmed by the significant need for well-trained UX designers. The immediate question was, “How can I help make a school happen?”

Building a bricks-and-mortar school from the ground up is a rather extensive undertaking. We could have taken a less expensive route by creating a program within an existing school. But, our research showed that many traditional academic environments don’t allow the necessary structure to produce graduates ready for professional environments. This meant for us to be able to create a learning environment that prepared students for meaningful jobs, we needed to start from scratch. But we all know a school is far from just bricks and mortar. The content taught within the walls makes it a school. And now you can help “build” it.

We’ve created this Kickstarter project as a way for people to get involved with the school (before it’s even officially a school!) so—together—we all have a hand in building the future of UX.

Why only $21,700?

Yes, it’s true, starting an entire school costs much more money than our Kickstarter goal. The funds raised from this Kickstarter project will focus specifically on the course design process. Contributions will directly allow us to afford editors and writers to join our course creation team and assist us in writing curriculum. The project, as a whole, will assist in pinpointing course content to meet both industry and student needs.

How do I get involved?

Here’s your chance to help change the future of UX education and the future of UX. We’re excited about this huge undertaking. We would love your support!

Visit our Kickstarter project, make a pledge, and ask the world #AreYouIn?

Join us on the next step of the Quest!

What type of learners make good unicorns?

By Jessica Ivins

What type of learners make good unicorns?

UX design generalists, AKA unicorns, might seem like mythical, magical creatures in a faraway land, but they are among us every day. Maybe, you have a unicorn on one of your team projects. Really, you could be working with a unicorn right now. Heck, you might even be a unicorn.

We’re creating a learning environment that will be a great fit for people who are ready to move into UX design and become full-on unicorns. Once we receive state authorization and start enrollment, we’ll be searching for potential students ready for change and hungry to learn new skills—skills that will send them off into exciting new career experiences (and maybe even faraway places)!

The unicorns at our school will be a diverse group of learners with varied backgrounds and qualifications. This diversity will help create a rich learning experience. Our unicorns could be as young as 18; however, we are looking for mature students who are prepared to work hard and ready to take their careers to new heights.

We expect unicorns to primarily be:

  • Current design professionals trapped by the UX glass wall
  • Career shifters
  • Designers/geeks right out of high school or college

Current design professionals trapped by the UX glass wall

This group of potential unicorns may serve in design roles such as graphic design, information architecture, or user research. But interesting assignments and new opportunities are limited and have prevented these folks from gaining necessary experience to find a new job with complex and exciting challenges. To help meet the needs of people trapped by the UX glass wall, we’re creating a program that will allow students to expand their skill sets and gain practical experience from a wider breadth of projects.

Career shifters

The field of UX design is frequently cited by the mainstream press as one of the top growing fields in which to land a job. We expect many individuals who are in lower-paying jobs with little growth potential—career shifters—to look to this career path as a desirable change.

Other career shifters have been out of the workforce for some time, maybe taking a lengthy personal or family leave. Because of the rapid and dramatic change in technology, reentering the workforce can be tough. Our school will provide the opportunity to learn the latest methods and tackle today’s toughest design problems.

Designers/geeks right out of high school or college

This group of mature 18- to 24-year-olds has been passionate about design since their teenage years. Mostly self-taught, these folks have an intense passion for design and know UX is the right career choice. They are interested in a well-rounded education and securing the necessary soft skills to succeed on a high-producing design team.

Baking project experience into a design education

By Leslie Jensen-Inman

Baking project experience into a design education

Experience. Real-world experience. Project experience. Research experience. Problem-solving experience. Working-in-a-team experience. UX-design experience.

That’s the kind of experience that hiring managers think is gold. When we talked with managers while doing research for the Unicorn Institute, we found that they were uniformly disappointed with the amount of experience that recent graduates had.

We asked managers which they’d choose: a design-school graduate who had a decent grasp of theory and some solid experience, or a design-school graduate who had an excellent, deep knowledge of theory without any experience. In every case, they said they’d choose the student with the solid experience, even if their theoretical knowledge wasn’t as complete as the other.

Granted, they understood these folks had spent the last two or four years in classes. And many of the graduates were well versed in the theory of great design.

Experience prevents mistakes. It moves things forward. There’s an old saying:

Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgments.

Hiring managers are looking for the glimmer of good judgments from these graduates. The managers don’t need amazing experience. They realize that starting from zero experience is a lot more difficult than starting with some experience.

Experience can’t be layered on top of a design education

Schools are trying to give students experience. They put projects into the classes. They encourage internships.

Unfortunately, the class projects are usually too short and narrowly focused. The students don’t get the breadth of experience needed to complete a real-world UX-design project.

Apprenticeships could also be a great solution (especially thanks to folks working hard on them, like Fred Beecher ). However, today there aren’t enough businesses offering them. It’s hard for a graduate to find one that also pays well enough to help with student loans and post-school expenses.

Internships and apprenticeships layer experience on top of the student’s design education. It’s not baked in. They are not bad (in fact, they are quite valuable), but they won’t work by themselves.

Experience baked into the education

We think the best solution is to build experience into the education, integrating it directly with the studies. To accomplish this, we’ve made long-term projects a core component of the student’s curriculum.

As each Unicorn Institute student learns a new UX-design topic in their classes, they’ll return to an ongoing 3- to 5-month project. Under the guidance of our full-time faculty facilitators, they’ll look at integrating what they just learned into the project work.

These long-term projects will be 60% of the students’ time in school. They’ll see how design projects start. They’ll see them go through the research stage and see first-hand how solutions are chosen. They’ll take the project through the development stage, working with professional developers to implement their ideas and deal with real-world constraints.

In the two years each student will be studying at the Unicorn Institute, they’ll have as many as six of these long-term projects under their belt. That’ll give them a diverse set of experiences they can bring to their first job.

We also give our students experience working with one of our Partner Companies through an internship. But we don’t just lob our students off into space. It’s all connected to the program. We know that these internships will actually give our students quality, real-world experience.

That’s exactly what will make the hiring managers and students excited!