Studies in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) prepare future experts and leaders who use advanced methodologies to design and develop information technology for the benefit of people.
Advances in hardware, machine learning, robotics, software engineering, and networks have opened remarkable new possibilities in information technology. Studies in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) prepare future experts and leaders who use advanced methodologies to design and develop information technology for the benefit of people.
The programme approaches human-computer interaction from the viewpoints of engineering, computer science, and applied sciences. Students will learn a variety of powerful engineering and computer science methods to approach challenges in interactive technologies systematically, such as in concept creation, user interface design, machine intelligence, mechanical and electrical design, and data analysis. They learn essential human and social factors and how to integrate them in problem-solving and models. Students will also familiarize with practical interdisciplinary development and design processes and obtain technical skills to experiment and prototype innovative interactions. The programme also develops meta-cognitive skills to drive visions of interactive technology, critically evaluate different approaches to interaction, and to develop competences further by following advanced research literature.
HCI professionals are well-employed and pursue careers related to user experience, usability, interaction design, human factors, user interface design, human-computer interaction and beyond. Our curriculum includes several contact possibilities with the industry in Finland and abroad, in particular in the capstone project. Half of our students write their Master's thesis for a company. The programme is particularly well suited for students who will be engaged in start-up companies on interactive products and services as it includes essential knowledge to make products and services successful. The graduates will have strong engineering and design skills, as well as other technical and professional skills that enable them to take key roles in an industrial research and development environment. They are well prepared for industrial R&D jobs, user interface engineering and consulting, various expert roles related to interactive technology and user research, and doctoral studies at Aalto University and abroad. Typical job titles include User Interface Engineer, User Experience Designer, Behavioral Analyst, Interaction Designer, User Interface Developer, User Researcher, Information Visualisation Specialist. Our students have also pursued academic careers. The studies put emphasis on basic theories and methodologies, offering a solid basis for PhD studies in HCI in Helsinki or internationally.
Graduates of the programme will graduate with a Master of Science (Technology) degree (diplomi-insinööri in Finnish).
The programme qualifies for doctoral studies (Doctor of Science in an applicable field).
Content of the studies
Human-Computer Interaction is a cross-disciplinary major that builds on the success of our previous educational efforts: Interactive Technologies track, Information Networks programme and Usability School by Aalto University, and Interactive Systems by the University of Helsinki. The major has strong links with other majors in the Master's Programme in Computer, Communication and Information Sciences (CCIS).
The major combines rigorous courses in computational and engineering disciplines with spearheads in user interface technology and interaction design, yet builds also supporting competencies in design, empirical research, and entrepreneurship.
Human-Computer Interaction provides a focused plan for two-year Master’s studies. Students are welcome to personalize their studies and include other topics in computer science and engineering to their degree.
The curriculum offers opportunities to create connections to local and international industry (e.g., IxDA Helsinki) already during the studies. Students in this major will become members of the HelsinCHI researcher collective.
Structure of the studies
The studies (120 ECTS credits) consist of major subject studies (40-45 ECTS + minor or 55-65 ECTS), Master’s thesis (30 ECTS) and elective studies (25-35 ECTS).
Students can select their minor either from the other majors in the Master's Programme in Computer, Communication and Information Sciences or from the other Master’s programmes offered by Aalto University. The elective studies can consist of additional major courses, additional minor, multidisciplinary courses, or studies abroad.
The overall structure of the major studies includes:
Basics: Design thinking and methods for design engineering; Models and theories of human-computer interaction, user interface technology, human factors engineering, user-centered design, and user research.
Computational and engineering specialisation : Analysis, modeling, and computational solution of design and engineering problems; Robotics and mechanical design; Data-driven design using computational methods (e.g,. machine learning, optimization); Novel forms of interactive technologies and media; Interactive applications and systems, especially development and design; Interactive visual computing, such as augmented and virtual reality.
Capstone project and (optional) research immersion including interaction with world-class faculty and companies.
The studies are closely linked with the research done by the teachers, for example, on interactive media, interface technology, behavioral modeling, computational design, and information visualization.
Additional information on the curriculum of the programme is available on the student portal Into.
Students are required to complete a Master's thesis, which is a research assignment with a workload corresponding to 30 ECTS credits. The topic of the thesis is agreed upon by the student and the supervising professor. Master's theses are typically written for a company or for one of the research projects of the department(s) in question.
The study environment in the programme is strongly international, and studies are conducted in multicultural groups. The School of Science offers diverse possibilities for student exchange all over the world. Exchange studies can be included in the degree e.g. as an international minor. Other possibilities for developing one’s global competence are e.g. conducting practical training abroad, taking a summer course abroad or acting as a tutor for first-year students.
Co-operation with other parties
The research groups involved in the programme co-operate closely with international companies and research groups of the field of HCI. They have demonstrated academic co-operation with high-quality international universities and organisations.
Research in Human-Computer Interaction at Aalto University is internationally recognized for contributions to computational design and interaction. CSRankings.com ranks Aalto University as #4 in Europe in the field of HCI. The groups are also part of FCAI, the Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence.
The topics of the major are linked to ongoing research focus areas in the Department of Computer Science and Department of Communications and Networking at Aalto University.
Programme-specific admission criteria
Applicants to the programme must meet the general eligibility and language requirements that are common to all Master's programmes in the field of science and technology.
The admission criteria to the programme is a high quality Bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, communications engineering, or electrical engineering. Excellent candidates with degrees in other fields such as information systems, engineering, natural sciences, mathematics or physics will be considered if they have sufficient studies and proven skills and knowledge in the required areas.
Required background for the Human-Computer Interaction major includes a track record in:
- computer science: good or strong programming skills and coverage of relevant core topics in computer science, such as algorithms, software engineering, machine learning, web technology, and networking
- mathematics, and especially linear algebra, calculus, and probability theory
Knowledge of one or more the following areas is considered an advantage:
- interaction design or human-computer interaction
- human factors
- electrical engineering, signal processing
- artificial intelligence, machine learning, or data mining science
- web and mobile development
The student selection process is competitive and the best applicants are selected according to the following evaluation criteria:
- Content of the previous degree(s)
- Study success: grades achieved and pace of studies
- Recognition and quality of the applicant’s home university
- Motivation and commitment to studies in the programme
- Other relevant achievements (work experience, publications, Junction Hackathon competition or other programming competition wins, etc.)
- Language proficiency
During the evaluation of eligible applications, the applicants’ previous study success and contents of the previous degree(s) are checked first. Only the applications who pass this preliminary evaluation will be evaluated against the full set of criteria listed above.
The applicant’s study success will be evaluated based on the grade point average (GPA) and results in key courses. Very good previous study success is expected. The recognition of the applicant’s home university affects the final interpretation of the academic performance.
The minimum GPA for applicants from Finnish universities of applied science is 4.0. Applicants with GPA below the limit cannot be admitted unless they have other exceptional qualifications. Programme’s courses or equivalent courses completed in open university or as non-degree studies with excellent grades may support the application.
The contents of the applicant’s previous degree(s) are evaluated based on the courses available on the official transcript of records and the course descriptions submitted. The applicant is expected to have completed sufficiently studies in the major-specific subject areas (see above). Relevant work experience, professional certificates and/or online courses are judged case-by-case, but they do not, in general, compensate for the university level studies that include also the theoretical foundations of the required subjects.
In the final phase of the academic evaluation, the applicants who passed the preliminary evaluation, are ranked and the best applicants are selected. The programme does not have a minimum quota to be fulfilled, and not all eligible applicants will necessarily be admitted.
Studies in the Master’s programme should provide genuinely new knowledge for the applicant. If the applicant already has a Master’s degree, the motivation letter should clearly indicate why another Master’s degree is necessary. In most cases, non-degree or e.g. open university studies are recommended instead of degree studies to complement the earlier degree or to improve one’s professional skills.
Required application documents
In addition to the mandatory application documents, applicants to the programme are requested to provide the following additional documents:
- at least one original recommendation letter (preferably academic)
- course descriptions of courses taken in relevant subject areas (see the subject lists above)
- work certificates and certificates of other relevant achievements
- copies of any publications
- official transcript of records for other university studies which are not included in the mandatory part of the application
- GRE or GMAT test results, if available
The application should explain the full educational history of the applicant.
Applicant’s motivation letter (compulsory part of the online application form) should be written in English. Also additional application documents described above (recommendations letter(s), course descriptions, work or other certificates, and publications) should preferably be submitted in English. If some other language than English, Finnish or Swedish is used in them, the applicant must provide precise, word-for-word translations of them.
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