Iowa State University's Virtual Reality Applications Center, also called VRAC, is an interdisciplinary research institution that is focused on human/technology interaction. It aims to enhance the creativity and productivity of students and people. The center supports the research of students and faculty that represent all of ISU's colleges in addition to the interest of collaborators from numerous federal agencies and other industry partners. This research community is spread among a wide array of disciplinary experts that have specific strengths in cutting edge interaction technologies—virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. The community is also skilled in human centered design as well as user experience evaluation, and assessing effectiveness of newer interaction modalities through formal user studies.
Working with the research mission that VRAC has established, it leads ISU's graduate major in HVI. There are more than 200 students that are currently enrolled, and it now sits as the largest interdepartmental graduate major at Iowa State University, offering professional certificates, MS, and PhD to residential students as well as online students. The staff is efficient, friendly, and service oriented to make the interdisciplinary culture at ISU,s VRAC work. Support from the administration assists the preparation of research proposals and submissions, grant administration, student appointments and purchasing, and the technical staff is able to provide maintenance on hardware, system integration, technical assistance to researchers, and vendor coordination. Graduates have been known to turn their graduate research into valuable startups and much more while continually working toward improving the human and computer interactions.
The study of the unique relationship between humans and computers is quickly becoming one of the most significant and dynamic fields within technical investigation. ISU's graduate program in HCI (Human Computer Interaction) is a well-known leader in this field that is quickly evolving, making important investments to intensify research, expand the program of study, and attract many talented students and faculty. HCI is interdisciplinary by definition, and it has an impact on almost every area of anyone's lives. This HCI graduate major indicates a sweeping recognition in academia and industry with the need to train qualified researchers to meet those challenges that have been created by the rapidly evolving pace of technological progress. HCI graduate students will benefit from mingling with Iowa State University's faculty from the departments that represent each college in the University, in addition to researchers from the Virtual Reality Applications Center. This graduate major allows students to receive advanced education and training while encouraging research excellence at the college.
The HCI Graduate Certificate is made up of 4 courses, totaling 12 credit hours, and aims to give students: a true understanding of the emerging HCI technologies and an understanding of human cognition, usability techniques, and behavior methods, the ability to articulate ethical and societal issues that are related to HCI, and an overview of the latest research with an interdisciplinary outlook. The Masters in HCI program is made up of 30 graduate level courses. In order to be admitted, students must have a 3.0 GPA in an undergraduate degree and must be able to demonstrate the ability to competently write software.