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HCI Graduate Program

1620 Howe Hall

Ames, IA 50011


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The Human Computer Interaction Certificate

Applying   Admission Standards   Academic Procedures   Current Students

Graduate Certificate in HCI

The Human Computer Interaction Graduate Program at Iowa State University offers an online Graduate Certificate in Human Computer Interaction (HCI). Through distance learning, students who are working in business and industry are able to take courses to learn more about HCI without having to travel to the ISU campus to study or committing to a full graduate program.  The certificate can be earned in one year if two courses per semester are taken, or in two years if a student chooses to take one course each semester.

The need for the Human Computer Interaction Certificate:

Computers are becoming an increasingly integral part of our everyday lives. The dominance of the desktop computer is fading and quickly being replaced by personal and ubiquitous computing devices including laptop computers, personal digital assistants, digital music players, and intelligent cell phones. The successful integration of these new technologies into our lifestyle in a way that maximizes usefulness, usability, and ease of use while minimizing intrusiveness poses a difficult but important problem. This problem will demand novel solutions founded on an in-depth understanding of the complex interactions between humans and computers. This expanding frontier of investigation is the focus of the Human Computer Interaction Graduate Program at Iowa State University.

The accelerating integration of technology into every aspect of society will demand professionals trained with information technology skills that are augmented by an understanding of the human user. These skills will be necessary for any individual to remain competitive in the future information technology work force. Only those individuals with a unique interdisciplinary perspective will be able to successfully understand, utilize, and apply new technological solutions to solve human-centered problems.

The Certificate Program in Human Computer Interaction is an interdisciplinary educational experience that will provide students with advanced training in information technology tailored to support professional development in a distance-education medium.  There has been a growing demand from industry to provide a professional certificate centered on HCI that does not require a thesis component.

The Objective of the HCI Certificate:

Students earning the certificate will help to fill the current and future needs for professionals trained with information technology skills in industry, academia and the government. The objectives of the program are to provide the student with:

(1) An understanding of emerging human computer interface technologies

(2) An understanding of human cognition, behavioral methods, and usability techniques

(3) The ability to articulate societal and ethical issue related to human computer interaction

(4) An overview of the latest human computer interaction research in multiple disciplines

Admission Standards

The HCI certificate program is most appropriate for individuals with a bachelor's degree in a scientific, engineering, business, or artistic discipline, who are pursuing a professional career, and who already have a strong base of information technology skills.

The program requires that admitted students have degrees from an accredited university and have graduated with a GPA that places them in the upper half of their graduating class. Demonstrable programming skills will be required. A minimum TOFEL score of 95(iBT) be required of all non-native English speaking students. Candidates may be considered for admission by the HCI supervisory committee if they do not meet all these requirements but otherwise show outstanding potential. However, all students must meet the university's minimum requirements for admission.

Admission into the certificate program does not guarantee admission into the masters or doctoral programs. If a student who receives a certificate wishes to obtain admission into the masters or doctoral programs, the student will need to apply for admission and gain acceptance into the programs by meeting the admission requirements of these programs. Credits earned towards the certificate may be counted towards the masters and doctoral degree requirements if approved by the student's program of study committee.


Courses are online through Engineering-LAS Online Learning using streaming media over the web. The program consists of a sequence of four three-credit graduate courses in Human Computer Interaction, which includes three core courses and one elective, for a total of 12 credits. The courses consist of recorded lectures delivered using streaming media technology as well as teacher-student interaction via chat-room, email, and phone conversations. More information about the streaming media technology used to deliver the courses is available on the Engineering-LAS Online Learning Support webpage.

The certificate consists of four courses (12 credit hours), including:

  • HCI 521 Cognitive Psychology of Human Computer Interaction

or JLMC 574 Communication Technologies and Social Change

    • or CprE/ME 557 Computer Graphics and Geometric Modeling
    • or HCI 574 Computational Implementation and Prototyping
    • or HCI 573X User Interface Implementation for Web Application


One Elective Course.   Suggested electives include, but are not limited to:

    • HCI 522 - Scientific Methods in HCI - Evaluation
    • HCI 558 - Introduction to the 3D Visualization of Scientific Data - Implementation
    • HCI 580X - Virtual Worlds and Applications - Implementation
    • HCI 585X - Developmental Robotics Implementation
    • HCI 587X Models and Theories in Human Computer Interaction
    • HCI 594 - Organizational Applications of Collaborative Technologies and Social Media
    • HCI 595 - Visual Design for HCI - Design
    • HCI 596 - Emerging Practices in Human Computer Interaction - Evaluation
    • HCI 603 - Advanced Learning Environments Design - Implementation
    • HCI/IE 681X - Cognitive Engineering
    • IE 572 Design and Evaluation of Human Computer Interaction
    • IE 577 - Human Factors
    • ME/FLNG 584 - Technology, Globalization and Culture - Phenomena

Course descriptions can also be found on the Engineering-LAS Online Learning website.

The HCI Supervisory Committee has the option of adding or removing courses from the Core and Elective areas as relevant courses are offered via distance education, or courses are no longer taught. The committee will also consider exceptions on a case by case basis.

Course Registration

Students can register for courses using AccessPlus.

Applying to the Certificate Program

  • Applicants to the graduate certificate program should complete the Application for Graduate Admissions found at:
    Please do not fill out the non-degree application when you are applying to a graduate certificate program.
  • Send the application, application fee, official transcripts, and official examination results to:

The Office of Graduate Admissions
Iowa State University
100 Enrollment Services
Ames, IA 50011

  • Send a copy of your application, resume, statement of professional goals, statement of software development proficiency, and three letters of reference electronically to or by mail to:

Human Computer Interaction Graduate Program
Iowa State University
1620 Howe Hall
Ames, IA 50011

A suggested template for letters of recommendation can be found at Applicant Recommendation Form . (For best results, please edit this form using Adobe Reader.)

Letters of recommendation may also be submitted through the online Graduate Admissions system.


Academic Procedures:
A POS form shall be filed for each Certificate student no later than the first week of the final term. The POS form can be found at Please sign the form and send it to HCI Grad Program, 1620 Howe Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011 or email it to . She will get the required faculty signatures on the form for you and send it to the Graduate College for approval.

Certificate students do not have a POS committee, but do have a supervising professor. The supervising professor for the HCI Certificate program is James Oliver.

The POS form will list the courses required to receive the certificate and be signed by the student, supervising professor and the Director of Certificate Studies (DOCS). The POS form notifies the Graduate College of the supervising professor.

The regular Graduate College course rules apply to certificates: a student must have a graduate GPA of 3.0 or better, no course with less than a C may be applied to the POS, all courses on the POS must be graduate courses or approved for non-major graduate credit taken as a graduate student.

Please email when you have completed all requirements, and she will submit a Certificate Completed form signed by the DOCS to the Graduate College. The Graduate College will then certify that all requirements have been completed satisfactorily and inform the Registrar and the Graduation Office.

The Registrar will add a notation to the permanent record (transcript) indicating that a Graduate Certificate in HCI was granted on a specified dated and issue a printed ISU graduate certificate.

Contact Information

For questions about the HCI Certificate, please send e-mail to or call the HCI Graduate Program by phone at 515-294-2089.