This is a review of the online UX Accelerator Program provided by PeakXD.
- Course Name: UX Accelerator
- Creator: PeakXD
- Length: The course runs for 13 weeks (previously 12), with three break weeks, and an estimated study load of 8-15 hours per week (flexible). Realistically, it takes a minimum of 60 hours to complete the whole course.
- Intended Audience: Beginners sidestepping into UX from related fields, or intermediate-level UX designers wanting certification with a solid grounding in good UX design and research habits.
- What You’ll Learn: UX industry tools, design processes, and methods, and get practical experience on a real project with Surf Life Saving Australia or Returned Services League Art Union.
- Assumed Knowledge: Some basic awareness or experience in digital projects or the IT world would be helpful, but the course is intuitive and well-paced enough for complete beginners to grow.
- Price: US$3497 USD, with 12 months access to course & materials (see ‘bonuses’ for lifetime access)
Update 31 Jan 2020: Since we conducted our review, PeakXD has made the course ‘evergreen’, which means students can enrol at any time without having to wait for the next intake. You will still work on a project, but the project will occasionally change —probably every 6 months (with some overlap on projects for people who are finishing). This doesn’t really change the substance of the program. People taking the course progress faster than others anyway.
Update 28 Feb 2020: PeakXD have just announced that course pricing will be increased from US$2497 to US$3497 from March 9, in order to cover costs. If you’re considering joining, you might like to do it before the increase.
This is a brand new course and it sets a pretty high bar for UX educators everywhere. I’ve been looking forward to reviewing it since I first heard it was in the works last year. It challenges participants by providing genuine, real-world project experience, as well as realistic career expectations upon completing the course. Lots of UX courses, including popular ones, miss the mark on both of those.
PeakXD has just had their first cohort of participants finish this course. Because it’s such an in-depth course (60 hours), I collaborated with participant Tamsen Magon for this review to get a true, unfiltered student perspective. This review is therefore a combination of my take as a course reviewer and UX professional, along with her experience as an actual student of PeakXD’s course.
Disclaimer – Tamsen was a beta student and got early access without needing to pay the course fees. However, I like to think her critical approach means she’s got plenty of good insights to share with us about the outcomes and fundamental philosophies of the course. I also want to mention that PeakXD is a well-known agency here in Australia and we know the team personally from conferences and mutual contacts. They’ve been a financial supporter of UX Mastery in the past. Despite that we’ve tried to keep things neutral and honest!
Jump ahead to a review section:
- First impressions
- Selective intake
- Structured but self-paced
- Assumed knowledge
- Syllabus & how the course is structured
- What it’s like to do this course
- Portfolio building
- A real-life project
- Collaborations & interactions
- Things to watch for
- Price & financing
- About PeakXD and the trainers
- Exam & certification from BCS
- Overall pros and cons
- Our rating summary
Our first experience with PeakXD said a lot about how they deliver this program. Unlike almost every other provider, they offer a ‘Career Discovery Session’ upfront.
This is essentially a pre-admission interview where one of the trainers got to know us, talked with us about our background and goals, and looked for the right aptitude and a good alignment between us (the prospective ‘team members’) and the course.
In addition to the listening, Tania responded to us with some free guidance, adjusting our expectations about the industry and giving us confidence about our options. However, there is a maximum of 20 places available for each intake (it’s kept intentionally low to maintain a high quality of interactions). So, there is an element of selectiveness for prospective students. “If our course is not the right fit for you, I’ll tell you,” Tania said.
Structured but self-paced
A big reason for doing this course online, of course, is the flexibility. it allows for balancing the two constraints of structured learning and self-paced access. The course modules were released weekly to help align us with trainers and the other students. The weekly conference calls were recorded too, plus it was possible to get extensions on due dates. This helped things work around our other life commitments.
“PeakXD’s flexibility and understanding of the fact that life gets in the way of study sometimes has been incredible.”Tamsen Magon, course participant
The course has been tailored so that anybody, regardless of their experience, can pick it up. It gave us an introduction into UX that eased us into the course, and then built terminology and understanding while giving us practical experience using a real-world project.
An important reason we see this course as so successful is the amount of feedback, support and opportunities for improvement that are provided throughout the program.
How the Course is Structured
The course was made up of 10 modules, with an exam taken at the end. It’s intended to take 13 weeks to complete (recently upgraded from 12, to include an extra break week). Each of the modules is broken down into weekly increments, plus a couple of catch-up weeks to allow for flexibility around any lifestyle. PeakXD estimated it should take an average of 5 hours a week, which was true for us; some people finished quicker, and some people took a bit longer.
Course modules (each broken into 8 lessons):
- Introduction to User Experience Design
- User Research: Planning & Conducting
- Documenting Your Research to Build Empathy
- Co-design Workshops, Stakeholder Engagement & Prototyping
- Information Architecture & Navigation
- Interaction Design
- Visual Design & Information Design
- Usability Evaluation
- Usability Testing: Measuring Usability
- Ready Set Go: Launch Your Site, System & Your Career
The course is full of practical activities, and opportunities to review and compare work and thinking with others in the course. A full copy of the syllabus is publically available from the PeakXD website.
Throughout, they have a strong emphasis on building your UX language, so you have helpful terminology for future use. It is less about creating your own project, and more about delivering objectives all the way through to creating prototypes for a real client.
What it’s Like To Do This Course
It’s flexible: The flexibility in this course is stand-out, and will works for all kinds of people — students, parents, part-time workers, night owls, and probably even full-time workers. The structure of the course has 3 weeks of catch-up time built into it, as well as the option of getting extensions on due dates. The weekly calls are also available after normal 9-5 work hours, plus they’re recorded, so if you can’t attend a session then it’s easy to watch afterwards and still feel included.
Support is taken seriously: With this course having a small intake of only 20 students, it means that the support can be personally tailored to each student, and there is more one-on-one time available than most other courses can manage. Tamsen emphasised that compared to other courses she had done in the past, being able to work so closely with the trainers at PeakXD was a big bonus. The relationships with the trainers and the alumni also last long after you complete the course. It sets you up with a solid group of people that continue to support each other, and creates an environment where you are confident enough to reach out to others for future projects.
The intention behind the course is genuine: This course doesn’t feel like a way of just turning people out and getting money. The team at PeakXD want to make the industry better by putting out genuinely skilled individuals, and you can see this through the level of care they put into their students, and the way they structure the course.
Access to professional resources: The resources you’re given throughout the course are super handy while completing the course, but are also high quality enough to put many working professionals to shame. You have access to the learning videos for a year after completing the course, and the templates provided are easily editable and can be used in future projects. You also have heavily discounted access to world-class tools such as OptimalSort, InVision and Custellance.
Terminology aware but agnostic: Jargon-busting is a big thing for UXers. PeakXD gives you a glossary of UX terms, which means you can actually start understanding the language and knowing how to relate it to plain English. It also means you’re building your confidence – which in turn will help you with interviews in the future.
Compared to other programs, we were pleased that PeakXD takes a grounded approach to building a portfolio that avoids token best-practices and showy bling without substance. They focus on the methodology to showcase: that you should not only create personas and journey maps, but to also show in your unique way how you work with clients, manage difficult situations, and problem solve.
A Real-Life Project
One of the biggest advantages we see in this course is the opportunity to work on a real project, rather than following a simulated one, or being forced to make your own up. You’re getting a brief from a PeakXD agency client, doing real research interviews with real people, analysing those results, coming together as a research- and design-focussed team to collaborate and share insights, and then creating artifacts that will be used by a real company. It means you get a in-depth understanding of an industry-practiced UX process, and while you don’t talk directly to the client, the trainers do, so you’re still getting real feedback to improve from.
In a usual week, learning modules are released on Tuesday, and you can then work through the video lessons at your own pace. The coaching call is on Thursday, where you go through the project activity with the rest of the team, get briefings, receive feedback on your previous work, and have time for questions. This coaching call is recorded if you can’t make it. After the coaching call you will plan and conduct your project activities, conduct interviews, create prototypes, etc, and then you generally have 2 weeks before the due date to finish them.
Collaboration & Interactions
While there’s no ‘group’ work, it is a very collaborative course. You are encouraged to ask questions and have discussions in the coaching portal, you there are the shared, live, video chats. There’s also the PeakXD LinkedIn learning group. You upload documents to a shared google drive so you can see what work others are doing. It isn’t dissimilar to a UX team where you do your own work, and then come together to discuss, analyse and build.
Things to watch for
There are aspects of this course some people should be mindful of. As is true with any online learning, staying self-motivated can be a challenge, especially when you are personally better suited to the accountability of being face to face with a teacher.
The course expects attention and dedication from participants—it’s not the kind of course you can sit through and simply pick up some skills. It is sufficiently diverse to keep your interest when you search things out, but without an open mind and some personal enthusiasm for the subject you will be confronted by hard work— as might be expected in almost any aspect of theory learning.
There a lots of videos, and while this can be considered best practice for explaining material online, we remember that reliance on video for communication may not work for you if your only internet connection has a low bandwidth or low data limit.
The PeakXD UX Accelerator course is very flexible with how you choose to time things, but it isn’t completely self-paced. We needed to wait for the modules to be released each week, and we couldn’t just fly through all of the lessons in the first few days. This is intentional on the part of PeakXD; to help participants manage their focus, keep pace with other participants, and to assist with feedback and collaboration.
To develop our own skills in core research activities, we were also encouraged to source our own research participants, though PeakXD do give you guidance and options to make this easier.
These are not drawbacks, but are considerations to keep in mind. You need to be self-motivated, self-sufficient, and hard-working to study in this way. If you can achieve those aptitudes for online learning, you’ll benefit greatly from doing this course.
Price & financing
At almost US $3500, this is not the cheapest UX course available. It does, however, compare favourably in terms of what you pay for the quality of what you get. Other comprehensive experience design short courses, such as those run by Springboard (US$7,195), General Assembly (US$3,950), the UX Design Institute diploma (US$2,511.45), or AcademyXi (US$1,000) arguably have some adjustments and catching up to do now that PeakXD’s offering is in the market.
PeakXD claims there is over US$8,500 in value across the materials, access to senior consultants, professional templates, discounted software, and exam fees. Going through and doing the sums ourselves, this is a reasonable claim. The value is mainly driven by the weekly coaching calls and access to senior consultants (think: UX pros with 10-30 years experience at a leading UX agency).
If you need some help with the lump sum, there is a flexible payment option that lets you spread it over 4 payments. The first payment is paid as a deposit when you register. The three subsequent payments are automatically charged every 21 days until complete.
Australians also have an advantage in that a full-tuition loan and flexible repayment terms are available via Study Loans for Australian citizens or permanent residents over 18 years of age. Interest rates on loans are between 9.75% to 14.5% p.a. (which works out to roughly $200-500) so still keep a careful eye on those repayments.
Update Feb 4, 2020: PeakXD say they are also looking into finance options for international students, so watch this space.
About PeakXD and the Trainers
PeakXD has been around since 2003. They’re now amongst the most established experience design and usability agencies in Australia.
Exam and Certification from BCS
At about the week 10 mark you will be provided a practice exam and answer sheet as preparation. The exam itself is conducted in-person at one of 5000 approved independent testing centres run by Pearson Vue in 175 countries. Upon successful completion of the exam – you get an internationally recognised certification.
The UX Accelerator course is based on the British Computer Society’s (BCS) User Experience syllabus, which was developed to create a standardised UX certification.
To maintain the integrity of the certification, it is only awarded to those who have achieved a pass in the exam.
As part of your course, PeakXD usually offers 12-months of access to all of their course modules. This is helpful for students because Peak continually updates the modules as new UX trends and foundations come out.
Update 13 May 2020: PeakXD is no longer offering 12-months of access to their course modules. Instead, they are offering a discount to UX Mastery readers as reflected below.
I think this course is valuable enough for working UX practitioners that I asked if PeakXD could extend that for us. Now, all UX Mastery readers can now get $200 off the price of this course and pay $3,297 USD or 4 installments of $937 USD.
Use the code UXMASTERY when registering to get the $200 USD discount.
Overall, we’d say…
- Personal guidance and feedback in a collaborative, weekly, live coaching call
- Trainers are UX industry veterans, not just mentors or teaching assistants. They know their stuff inside out.
- Focussed squarely on practical methods, important principles, and best-practice software and processes.
- Gain experience working on a real project for a real industry client
- Highly detailed course modules, templates, resources, and recorded sessions are all available online
- Continue to access material and resources after finishing
- Gain independent certification from British Computing Society (BCS) after passing an exam
- Smaller class sizes mean better contact with trainers
- Money-back guarantee (if discontinued in first 21 days)
- There are only 20 spots per intake and admission is somewhat selective, so competition to participate may be high.
- If you’re expecting a course that does all the work for you, this won’t suit. You need to be self-motivated and work hard.
- Despite the great value and good outcomes, the US$3495 cost of this course will likely be out of reach for some students.
- While coaching call times are flexible (and recorded for catchup viewing), the course schedule may be problematic for people in the UK and Western Europe due to .
- Much of the material is video-based, so slow (under 3MB/s) internet connections may struggle.
UX Mastery considers this an excellent UX course that provides highly effective outcomes for a reasonable price, offered by a reputable training company.
- Content (how useful, up to date, practical, and comprehensive): 10/10
- Delivery (presentation style, pace, clarity, authority): 9/10
- Production (video quality, audio quality, editing): 10/10
- Online learning platform (reliable infrastructure, usable interface, convenient): 10/10
- Overall rating: 9.75/10
The next intake is open now and modules will begin on 17 February, 2020.