Earlier this month, representatives from tech firms in and around Silicon Beach convened for the second time to weigh in on the classes that will shape Santa Monica College’s four-year program in interaction design.

The advisory board’s input is one facet of a process that will yield a landmark opportunity at the local community college, which views the bachelor’s degree as a way to prepare students for in-demand jobs in the growing field of digital user experience.

Officials are making tweaks to the drafted curriculum and developing application materials for the IxD program, which they hope to have up and running by next fall. The new upper-division classes will complement the existing coursework that comprises the school’s associate’s degree in graphic design.

“I’m really excited by how well the team is working and by the excitement we have from other departments outside of the graphic design program,” said Jennifer Merlic, SMC dean of instruction. “It’s an exciting project, and it’s coming along really well.”

SMC’s ongoing development of a bachelor’s degree in interaction design follows approval from the California Community Colleges Board of Governors as part of a pilot program that Governor Jerry Brown authorized last year.

The local college was chosen because of its perceived ability to build an effective, career-oriented pathway that will meet workforce needs and avoid overlap with UC and California State University offerings.

SMC’s proposal was spearheaded by Jamie Cavanaugh, who has taught full-time in the graphic design department since 2010. The new pathway figures to include instruction and projects in interaction design, product design and coding, as well as cognitive psychology. An industry-sponsored senior studio is also planned.

All instructors who teach upper-division IxD classes will also teach lower-division courses, Merlic said.

SMC estimates the total cost of the bachelor’s program to be about $10,000. That figure includes $46 per unit of lower-division coursework and $130 per unit of upper-division classes, but it does not include textbooks and other expenses.

The new program will be housed in the college’s forthcoming Center for Media and Design on Stewart Street, which is scheduled to open next summer. If El Nino storms delay the construction process, Merlic said, the courses will be offered in the fall at the Airport Avenue campus.

The email database that SMC created to inform prospective students about the program now has about 600 recipients, Merlic said. Three workshops about the IxD degree will be held starting next month.

Applications for the upper-division pathway are slated to be available by November, Merlic said, and the first cohort of students will be accepted this spring for the inaugural fall 2016 program. Ideal candidates will have completed lower-division coursework by this summer.

Officials anticipate that 50-60 students will be enrolled in the IxD program each fall.

Students who are interested in the bachelor’s degree are being encouraged to enroll in the prerequisite graphic design courses.


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