Curriculum – Master of Science in Human-Computer Interaction (HCIM)

The HCIM program requires 30 credit hours of academic work to be completed with a minimum 3.0 GPA within five calendar years from the first semester of registration. Our program is typically completed in two years by full-time students, while offering flexibility to accommodate part-time and professional students. At least 24 of the 30 required credits must be designated INST, INFM, or LBSC courses taken in the iSchool. (International students may need to take additional credits to meet the requirements for being a full-time student in the United States).

Enrolled Students: be sure to consult the HCIM handbooks, policies, and forms.

Program Structure

HCIM - Year 1 Core Curriculum

Our core curriculum provides students with a grounding in the fundamental concepts and approaches of human-computer interaction, introducing key tools and methodologies in the field.

This sequence of courses is intended to familiarize students with HCI theory and provide hands-on opportunities to put that theory into practice. The HCIM curriculum includes four required courses: three core courses–INST 630, INST 631, INST 711–as well as a research methods course. All HCIM students are required to take the core courses described below. Please see a sample of courses sequence for full-time students; part-time students will have the same required courses but take fewer courses at a time.

Fall of Year 1 (three required 3-credit courses)

  • INST 630: Intro to Programming for Information Professionals
  • INST 631: Introduction to HCI Fundamentals
  • A research methods course: either INST 710: User Experience Research Methods (highly recommended for students who are interested in doing the capstone and pursuing an industry career) or INST 798: Seminar in Research Methods and Data Analysis (appropriate for students primarily interested in doing a master’s thesis and eventually pursuing a doctorate)

Spring of Year 1 (one required 3-credit course + two electives)

  • INST 711: Interaction Design Studio
  • Elective
  • Elective


Most HCIM students seek a summer internship beginning in the Fall of their first year in the program. In this case, students are pursuing an internship relevant to their extant and new skills. Alternative summer plans include:

  • Working in a research lab on campus.
  • Doing personal projects.
  • Prepping for your capstone/thesis year.

While internships are highly prized and a tremendous professional accomplishment, they are not required for graduation from our program, and you will not receive college or course credit for one.

HCIM - Year 2 Capstone or Thesis

All students must complete either a thesis or a capstone project.

Fall of Year 2: (one required 3-credit course + one elective)

  • INST 775: Capstone OR INST 799* Thesis
  • Elective

Spring of Year 2: (one required 3-credit course + one elective)

  • INST 776: Capstone OR INST 799* Thesis
  • Elective


The two-semester Capstone option (INST 775 in Fall Year 2 and INST 776 in Spring Year 2) involves working in assigned groups to interact with clients, conduct user research, and prototype designs for real-world contexts. It is especially suited for students who anticipate working in the industry and want to gain practical experience in the roles of project management, user research, UX design, and front-end development.


The two-semester thesis option (INST 799 in both Fall and Spring of Year 2) consists of a more self-directed, research-focused experience and culminates in the defense of a 70- to 100-page thesis. This option is ideal for students who plan to pursue a PhD or research-intensive career. If you are interested in this option, it’s a great idea to get to know HCI faculty and their research specialties in Year 1, since you’ll want to identify and ask a faculty member to supervise your thesis research at the end of the second semester for the following year. Information about the Graduate School’s requirements regarding master’s theses is available here.

More information about thesis and capstone options is available in the HCIM student handbook.

* Note for international students: The HCIM master’s program requires all students to complete 30 credits. International students must also satisfy their student visa requirements to maintain full-time status (48 units/semester), except during their final semester when they may drop to part-time. This generally means that international students end up taking one additional elective in the spring of their first year and another additional elective in the fall of their second year.

HCIM - Electives

In addition to the core courses above, you will take a minimum of 12 credits of electives.

International students generally end up taking up to 18 credits of electives due to visa requirements for full-time students. Electives include advanced usability testing, data analytics, visual analytics, health informatics, or social computing. We will also be offering repeatable 1-credit electives focused on Professional Preparation (INST 638) and Practical Skills (INST 639). Electives offer students the opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge in more specialized areas of human-computer interaction.

See below for some of the electives that our students have taken:

  • INST620 – Diverse Populations, Inclusion, and Information
  • INST622 – Information and Universal Usability  
  • INST639C – Practical Skills in HCI; Makerspace
  • INST639G – Practical Skills in HCI; UX Strategy
  • INST639J – Practical Skills in HCI; Seeing the Internet
  • INST639L – Practical Skills in HCI; Accessibility Evaluation Workshop
  • INST639L – Practical Skills in HCI; Information Architecture
  • INST639M – Practical Skills in HCI; Mastering Master’s Thesis
  • INST650 Facilitating Youth Learning in Formal and Informal Environments
  • INST651 – Promoting Rich Learning with Technology
  • INST652 – Design Thinking and Youth
  • INST682 – Personal Health Informatics & Visualization
  • INST702 – Advanced Usability Testing (Strongly Recommended Elective for HCIM Students)
  • INST703 – Visual Design Studio (Strongly Recommended Elective for HCIM Students)
  • INST704 – Inclusive Design in HCI
  • INST705 – Game Design Studio
  • INST713 – Special Topics: Futures of Work
  • INST725 – Legal Research for Information Professionals
  • INST728C – Special Topics in Information Studies; Advanced Visual Design for Interfaces
  • INST728J – Special Topics in Information Studies; CSS/HTML Basics
  • INST728M – Special Topics in Information Studies; UX Business Basics
  • INST728W – Special Topics in Information Studies; Managing with Data and Simulations
  • INST728X – Special Topics in Information Studies; Designing Technology with Older People
  • INST728Y – Special Topics in Information Studies; Futures of Work
  • INST760 – Data Visualization
  • INST762 – Visual Analytics

Electives Outside of the iSchool

Students are required to take a minimum of 24 credits within the iSchool, and may also request to take up to 6 credits of HCIM-relevant courses outside the iSchool. On occasion, our HCIM students have searched Testudo and found relevant offerings that are open to them within other departments and colleges, including Art, Computer Science, Education, and Journalism. Please pay special attention to any listed prerequisites or restrictions.

If you are considering a course relevant to your degree but outside of the iSchool, please fill out an approval form for taking courses outside of the iSchool. If approval is granted, you are responsible for getting approval from the instructor and host department and following any other registration requirements. The HCIM program has a list of approved outside-of-iSchool elective courses (please check the current HCIM Handbook) that you can take. Please submit an approval form for taking courses outside of the iSchool for any course outside of the iSchool, including courses approved by the HCIM program.

There are also circumstances under which students may seek out courses unavailable at UMD, but available at other institutions. See the UMD Graduate Catalog for details about how students may initiate this and what the steps are to secure approvals. Search for Inter-Institutional Registration, University System of Maryland or The Washington Consortium Arrangement.

HCIM - Course Sequencing Requirements

The HCIM program is designed to allow students to tailor their course of study to their own needs as much as possible. However, there are some constraints in terms of course sequencing of which students should be mindful:

  • INST 631 is currently offered once during each academic year in the Fall semester.
  • The core curriculum (INST 630, 631, 710, 711) must be completed before students begin their capstone or thesis work.
  • Students who waive a course must replace that course with an equivalent 3-credit course.
  • The typical course load for our students is 2-3 courses per semester. More information about what is considered full-time status is available here.
  • Students are required to take 24 credits within the iSchool, but may request to take additional courses outside the iSchool.

For current course listings, please consult Testudo. If you have questions about your courses or degree plan, please schedule an academic advising appointment with your advisor, Dustin Smith.

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