Over the last eight months, I have been trying to learn what I need to know to transition from being a software engineer to doing UI/Product/Visual design. I am still not sure what the difference is between those three titles. Anyway, as part of my education, I decided to attend BrainStation's full-time UX program in Toronto.
Overall, I really enjoyed the program and I learned a lot as well. Was it worth the cost? I think so, but I have yet to get a job as a UI designer.
The course did have an interesting challenge. The program teaches a set of building blocks that one might use while working in UX. It does not teach a linear set of steps that one will, or should, use. This can make it very difficult for some students that want to know the rules and have a process to follow.
Another challenge was the first two weeks. You do the first two weeks at home in a group of 4. The program throws you into a design sprint to solve a very large, ambiguous problem without first teaching you all the building blocks. This is done on purpose and its purpose is to create a safe place to experiment and fail. It isn't until week 3 that you finally step foot in the classroom and things start to make sense.
The first half of the program concentrates on UX and the second half on UI fundamentals. This provides a good amount of time to learn both disciplines and how they work together. You are also given lots of assignments that allow you to practice what you are learning before you apply it to your big project.
The big project, called the Capstone project, is the other big part of the program. You start this in week 3 and turn in small parts of it every few weeks over the remaining ten weeks. Working on the project is where I learnt the most. You have to apply what you are learning in order to create a prototype that solves a real problem.
Through working on the project, the biggest thing I learnt was just how wrong my initial assumptions were and how much I needed to rely on my users to create something that solved the problem I had picked.
I did have one complaint about the program, but it is a small one. The background of both instructors was from working in agencies. Neither of them had ever worked as an employee of a tech startup. I think it is mandatory to have both. The way it was, some of the deliverables were skewed towards working for a design agency. As an example, we did a lot of formal presentations presented to clients and no informal ones presented to fellow team members.