What I like about IDF: a student’s perspective

Gist: The courses alone make the membership worth it.
Recommendations: Get the membership and learn to the max.

IDF stands for Interaction Design Foundation. It is an independent non-profit initiative (stress on non-profit) based in Denmark. It has 469 groups in 84 countries around the world: it is a huge network of people. It has a high quality in everything that it does, just like everything European is reputed to do. And the fonder herself writes real emails to you! And answers every time. Well, I really like that!

The crème de la crème: the courses.

IDF offers a wealth of courses in UX, UI and interaction design, on a revolving basis. The course turn0ver keeps you excited and challenged at all times. It feels like looking at a menu where you want to consume every single dish, at the same dinner, but you know that it is humanly impossible. So, you get this rush of adrenaline. Yes, exactly like that.

For students.

I am a graduate student in HCI and UX design. During this frantic and frenetic “season” of my life, all I can think about is how much I can learn now, in order to feel confident at work, after I graduate. This is where IDF has been most helpful. If you don’t have time for using the foundation’s website for networking, for reading randomly the research articles, then you can really focus on your weak points through their courses. IDF’s courses filled a lot of the gaps in my graduate education, and there are specialized by topics that are narrow enough for you to feel like a specialist, once you complete them.

The courses range from Affordances, to UI Patterns, to Design Thinking, to Ajax— anywhere up to about 30 courses running at any given time, and they range from beginner to advanced. What is special about the courses at IDF is that they are comprehensive, well-founded in research, and very thorough. They make you think. And it is hard to go through more than a paragraph without having to take a thinking break, just to digest the material and incorporate it deep into the personal knowledge storage. Then, all this knowledge is immediately applicable in my courses, providing a competitive edge, and making it an all-around satisfying experience.

These courses are essentially MOOC’s that have a limited number of “seats” for personal attention. They fill up pretty quickly because they are popular, — but slowly enough for you to catch them if you really want them. The course availability can be easily tracked, as you can see in the screenshot below.

Once you sign up, you will see that each lesson of your course is released on a specified date that is clearly stated, as seen on the screenshot below. You can follow the courses and engage in the discussions, take the short quizzes at the end of each section, and then get a personal evaluation with recommendations. Or… you can do what I have, for the lack of time: log in and read at your own pace, without waiting for an evaluation, or even doing any quizzes. That just takes off the burden of performing or spending time talking to anybody. I just go in, learn what I need and get out. Simple and effective — at least, for me.

The quality of the courses varies from course to course, but it tends to be very high for most of the courses. What is great is that you can sign up for a course and easily drop it, if you did not like it, then take another one. The trick is the timing: watching when the course fills up, when it starts, and when each lesson is released.

You might ask, why all these complicating factors? It is most likely in order to give a chance to everyone to think about what courses they want, while keeping the limit on a class size. I am not sure why the future lessons are timed and unavailable until certain dates — it might be because they are being created just as you are reading the current one. In the end, it all works out, because each lesson is dense and often suggests links for further reading, so that by the time you are comfortably done with one lesson, the next one is released. A trick to avoid dealing with lesson release dates is to wait until the whole course is available, and then reading all of it at your own pace.

The technicalities.

The student membership is $96 per year, in 2016. As a student member, you are allowed to be registered for a maximum of 3 courses at a time. But — you can switch them in and out as much as you would like. At this pace, during a calendar year, you could potentially take somewhere around 40 courses. That makes it only $2 or so per course!

My main advice is getting the student membership while you are still in school and learning as much as possible while you are a student member. That is because the regular membership fee is considerably higher.

Finally, if you are not a student any longer, there is still good news for you: your full membership will allow you an unlimited number of courses at the same time, only limited by the number of courses available.

IDF is really a treasure trove of information. Currently, in 2016, I do not know of any other comprehensive source available to the public with the depth, breadth, and quality of information on design — anywhere else.

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