After running the UX Design Career Track for over a year, Springboard is launching a longer, more in-depth UI/UX Design Career Track with the option to pay after getting a job. Instructional Designer Rebecca Lasky tells us why the team is launching a second design-focused online bootcamp, how designers and hiring managers from companies like Zappos and Upwork are contributing to the curriculum, and what sort of jobs Springboard graduates can land! Plus read Rebecca’s top tip for starting your design learning now.
Tell us about your background and what you work on at Springboard
I have been working in instructional design for over a decade. Last year, when I came to Springboard I built our UX Career Track course in collaboration with a seasoned UX Designer named Paul Amsbary. It's our most popular course!
I work on a team with two other industry experts: Jay Trainer and Juan Pablo Costanzo. They are senior UI/UX designers who have worked in almost every context from startups to large companies like PayPal, Glassdoor, and Oracle. They both have multiple years of mentoring and managing experience. Juan Pablo was a mentor for our Springboard students before working on this course! I collaborate with them to take their knowledge and expertise and structure it in a way that is accessible, engaging, and meaningful to students.
Why did your team decide to launch the new UI/UX Design Career Track program, in addition to the UX Design Career Track?
We learned from speaking to employers that there is a wide gamut of jobs that value a generalist UI and UX skillset in addition to the specialized UX jobs that the existing course prepares students for. This course addition aims to open up more job opportunities for students by expanding the skillset that's covered.
Can you explain the difference between UX and UI Design?
They're interrelated. But you can think of UI design (user interface design) as the actual interface that the user is interacting with and UX design (user experience design) as the underlying experience with which someone is navigating through a product. They're not completely unrelated because elements of an interface, from color to typeface, are also a part of the user experience. In different roles in the field, some folks will specialize in one or the other. There are also jobs like UI/UX designer and Product Designer that require you to have skills in both.
If somebody is trying to decide between the Springboard UX Career Track or the UI/UX Design Career Track, how do you help people make that decision?
We have an admissions team that's committed to taking the time to understand the students' unique backgrounds, skills, career goals, and life situations to help them find the best fit among our courses.
I would say, given the difference between the two courses, the UX Career Track is a good fit for folks who want to focus on the more purely UX side of things. The UI/UX Design Career Track is going to give students a greater breadth of opportunities in terms of roles that they might take on after the course.
How do time commitments differ for students in these design courses?
On average, students devoting 15 to 20 hours per week can expect to complete the UI/UX Design Career Track in about 9 months, or the UX Career Track in about 6 months. The difference is due to more projects and greater depth in the UI/UX course. One of the greatest things about our model is that it's self-paced. It is completely possible to move faster if the student dedicates more time.
Not everyone can stop working full time to learn new skills. We want to help folks maintain their lives as much as possible while being able to transition into a career that better suits them.
What does this new program cover that the existing program doesn't?
The existing UX design course does cover UI, but this new course goes much deeper. There are more portfolio projects and special practice exercises particularly set up to build students' visual and UI design skills because those are hard skills to craft. In terms of content we:
Dig deep into design systems and style guides
Look at the specifics of grid elements, imagery, and iconography
Place a greater emphasis on accessibility, Material Design, and iOS guidelines
Talk about the business side of UX
Discuss handoff to developers
Work on understanding typical product types and design solutions
Teach students to work within constraints
How is the curriculum structured and what sort of projects do students work on?
The curriculum involves reading and watching videos that help students learn concepts and skills, but the vast majority of the curriculum is project work. The students mostly learn by doing. Students work on four large portfolio projects that encompass UX and UI skills. We spoke to hiring managers who told us they value seeing UX and UI skills in end-to-end projects
Some projects are based on students’ personal interests, some are from briefs with real-world constraints, and they also work on a final project called the Industry Design Project. We pair students with an outside company to complete a 40-hour UI/UX project that solves a real business problem. We partner with different accelerator programs like AngelHack and Microsoft Ventures to match students with projects. We've had several students from the UX Career Track receive job offers from the partner companies.
How did your team figure out the best topics to include in the curriculum?
An advisory board of subject matter experts and hiring managers from a diverse set of companies reviews our plan for the course and tells us what they believe we should include. Our UI/UX Design Career Track advisory board includes senior hiring managers and designers from Zappos, Upwork, and a variety of other companies. This process ensures we are covering exactly what students need to be able to ace the interview and job-seeking process, as well as excel in their first role.
Are you continually evaluating the curriculum of these courses?
Absolutely. We're committed to providing up to date information to our students. We continuously collect qualitative and quantitative feedback from students, mentors, and folks in the field. Every student has a mentor and students participate in an active community. If there's an update in the field, a new cutting edge tool, or a new method, our mentors will share that with students and disseminate it in the community.
We're an agile startup. We don't wait. We're looking at behavioral data from users on our platform as well as qualitative data that students share in their reviews, data from mentors who are interacting with students, and data from the field. We want our students to be up to date in a field that is always evolving.
What is the mentor's role in these courses?
Students have a weekly call with their mentor to check in on their progress, ask questions and get feedback on their projects. We also offer unlimited mentor calls. If a student is stuck on a project, they can schedule an extra call with a mentor so that they don’t have to wait for their weekly call.
We expect mentors to meet students where they are and cater to each student. We accept one in 10 mentor applicants and train them on the four pillars of mentoring – goal setting and accountability, communication, feedback, and engagement. All our mentors are professionals working in the field. It's essential for our students to get real-world advice from mentors doing the jobs that our students are seeking. The mentors can relate their day to day experience to what students are working on in their projects.
We believe in personalized education. We have a system for matching students with the best mentor for them. When students enroll, they let us know their interests, and we match them with a mentor who has expertise in that area and experience in the field.
Is there an opportunity for students to interact with other students online?
Yes, via a dedicated Slack community that we set up for students in the course. Students are naturally active in the Slack community. They're curious about each others' work, they ask for and give feedback, and post resources and reflections. We have a community manager (who is an experienced designer) who also fields questions and supports students in this community.
What does the admissions process involve for the UI/UX Design Career Track?
Unlike the UX Career Track, for this new course we don't require students to come from an adjacent design background. The two sets of skills we screen for in the admissions process are important for student success in the program: We look for foundational visual skills and basic analytical skills. We expect students to be able to empathize, synthesize, and justify decisions. We don't expect students to come in as masterful designers, but we want to make sure that they will succeed in the course. In terms of foundational visual skills, anyone who has had experience with fine arts or other visual practices may have built those skills earlier in life or outside of the profession that they're in now. The technical skills screen in the admissions process allows them to demonstrate that, regardless of whether they come from an adjacent background.
The technical skills screen is a multiple choice and short answer process.
Who is the ideal student for this new career track?
We're looking for folks who can empathize and synthesize. Understanding users and stakeholders is important for design work and a lot of employers require this in other domains as well. On the visual side of things, we look for the ability to connect an idea with a visual expression of that idea. We're also looking for people who have an enthusiasm and passion for design, who are creative and have a strong work ethic.
How do you track students' progress throughout the course?
All of our courses have a student advisor who helps students plan and set goals. Students can reach out to their advisor at any time. Our student operations team monitors whether students have been consistently taking mentor calls and making progress. Student advisors will reach out to students if they see missed calls or flagged progress reports. If a student is falling significantly behind, we intervene.
How will Career Services work for this new program?
Our Career Services team helps students understand the landscape of jobs; the difference between UI, UX, and blended roles; and what hiring managers are looking for. Career Services provides support beyond the curriculum as well. Students set up calls with career coaches who support them with everything from networking and establishing an online presence, to finding the right companies to apply to. We run students through several mock interviews including whiteboarding challenges and portfolio walkthrough exercises, and provide actionable feedback.
When the course ends, students receive six months of continued support and can connect with their career coaches as often as they need while they apply for jobs. This program comes with a full money-back guarantee. If a student doesn't get a job within six months of graduating, we refund their entire tuition. We also have a deferred tuition option where students only pay tuition after they find a job earning $50,000 or more.
What sort of jobs do you expect students graduating from this UI/UX program to get?
Students will be able to pursue UI/UX roles, Product Design roles, or UI or UX specific roles. Students might also pursue roles such as Web Designer, Experience Designer, or Interaction Designer. The titles in this field vary a lot.
What is the biggest lesson you and the team have learned from working on previous curricula, that you’re bringing to the UI/UX Design Career Track?
We’ve found the value of speaking to people in the field is huge. We have an understanding of what's important to emphasize in the course because of our advisory board. Five seasoned professionals from a diverse set of companies are creating and reviewing the contents of this course. We've learned a lot about what is truly important to know as a designer entering this field and what's not. That's been important in terms of specific content.
We've also learned how to demystify complex processes and break them down step by step so that someone new to the field can learn them and go from beginner to proficient. Since we've already built one successful course, we've been able to learn through our users what we should break down further and what can be explained in more accessible ways.
What is your advice for students thinking about applying for this UI/UX program?
One, get excited about what's offered here! Changing careers is not a small matter. This course is built to be engaging, meaningful, and accessible to students but it also takes an investment from the student. And, two, begin now! Begin studying design all around you. We all use applications on our phones and our computers. All of those things are designed. Being someone who looks at those things that we take for granted every day with a critical eye is going to set you on a path to being a skilled designer.
Find out more and read Springboard reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Springboard. Learn how you can pay after getting a job and get $750 off tuition fees to all Course Report readers when you apply now using the special code: COURSEIXC.