Human Aspects of Information Technology
We live in a time in which more and more automated systems are providing us with access to enormous quantities of information, through search engines, websites, digital helpdesks and speaking computers, for instance. How is it possible to ensure that people can access exactly the information that they require? How can this be organized? What technology do we have at our disposal to achieve this? How can the demands and wishes of users be catered for best? How can all this be translated into smart information systems?
These questions are central to the one-year English-taught Master's specialization Human Aspects of Information Technology (HAIT), a heavily internationally oriented specialization within the Communication and Information Sciences Master's program.
HAIT's basic point of departure is the way in which people communicate naturally.
•How do people ask questions, and for what purpose?
•What is the meaning of the words that are used and what kind of answers do people expect?
•When does miscommunication occur, and how can it be resolved in a natural way?
With this focus on the human element, HAIT clearly distinguishes itself from comparable programs on offer elsewhere in the Netherlands and abroad.
In the HAIT Master's specialization, you will learn how to organize information systems in such a way that they can communicate with the user in a natural way. In the future, a search engine will need to 'understand' which results an inquirer is looking for, and an automatic telephone helpdesk will need to be able to converse with a caller through speech recognition and artificial speech. By making use of the unique combination of information and language technology, you are actively contributing to the accessibility and the categorization of information.
The program trains the students to be professionals with an excellent understanding and knowledge of the field. A well-balanced combination of theory and skills guarantees the optimal conditions for the acquisition of expertise in the many potential building blocks that advanced information systems are made up of.
We teach you to use these blocks like an architect, with the wishes of clients and/or users in mind. Each problem connected to a specific need for information requires its own approach. You know which specific building blocks need to be combined to arrive at the optimum solution. You know how to use them.
In each instance, a firm theoretical basis is the starting point for more in-depth practical applications. For instance, once you know how a search engine is constructed and how it works, you will start focusing on the question of what the system lacks in terms of human interaction. Sometimes the answer will be literally right in front of you. Testing dialog systems (as in talking computers) is not done from behind a desk, but by using experiments that you could get anyone to take part in - fellow students, friends, but also 'members of the general public'.
Career Prospects Human Aspects of Information Technology
On graduating, you will have extensive knowledge of the most modern, state-of-the-art applications in the field of information and language technology. Developments in this discipline are unstoppable, creating a growing need for specialists. At the same time, the number of graduates with a unique HAIT training background is relatively small. As a consequence, it will be easy to find an interesting job, either in the Netherlands or abroad.
In companies and institutions, your position will often be that of team leader. You will be managing programmers, and talking to clients to get a clear view of their problems in making their information available. You will find people who can test a new system, and supervise the whole development process from beginning to end. In some organizations, your job will have some consultancy characteristics, while in others you will be more likely to be engaged in developing long-term solutions.
After the Master's specialization, you will be able to specialize further as an academic researcher. This means you will predominantly be engaged in new technologies that have not yet been picked up by companies. Your activities will include developing and testing computer models. You may also carry out research on handling bottlenecks, such as speech recognition within speech and language technology. That way, you will help raise the discipline to a higher level.