Degree Requirements

Degree Requirements

PhD computer science and learning sciences

Joint PhD Program in Computer Science and Learning Sciences

Students are expected to take courses during the first two years of their graduate career. Every student is required to take courses that fulfill specific requirements for breadth and depth in computer science and learning sciences. Students are also expected to take coursework and continue reading beyond these specific requirements. In particular, students should take coursework that is relevant to their research.


Learning Sciences Foundational Courses (4 courses)

  • LS 401 or EECS 371: Knowledge Representations
  • LS 402: Social Dimensions of Teaching and Learning
  • LS 403: Foundations of the Learning Sciences
  • LS 426: Design of Technological Tools for Thinking and Learning or LS 451 / EECS 495: Tangible Interaction Design and Learning

Learning Sciences Approved Methods Courses (choose 3 courses)

  • LS 410: Quantitative Methods I
  • LS 451: Quantitative Methods II (regression analysis)
  • LS 451: Discourse Analysis
  • LS 415: Field Methods
  • LS 416: Advanced Qualitative Methods
  • LS 451: Computational Methods
  • EECS 472 / LS 451: Designing and Constructing Models with Multi-Agent Languages

Computer Science Foundational Courses (at least 5 courses)

Students will declare a Computer Science concentration (e.g., Graphics and Interactive Media or Cognitive Systems). Students should take at least 5 courses in CS that are approved for graduate credit (all 300 and 400-level courses, unless specifically listed as ineligible for graduate credit). Students should consult the qualifying procedures for their program to ensure they have the necessary background for their concentration. The requirements for GIM and CogSys are listed below for reference:

Graphics and Interactive Media (GIM)

All GIM students are required to demonstrate proficiency in computer science and other core fields of GIM

  • Programming (comparable to CS 111+211+311)
  • Theory
    • Fundamental algorithms
    • Computing and complexity theory
  • Systems (2 of the following)
    • Operating systems
    • Computer architecture
    • Networking
    • Programming languages
  • Graphics or media
  • Cognitive and social systems (any course in AI, cognitive science, social science)

Cognitive Systems (CogSys)

By the Qualifying Exam, you should be conversant with the material in the following courses:

  • EECS 325: Artificial Intelligence Programming
  • EECS 337: Semantic Information Processing
  • EECS 338: Practicum in Intelligent Information Systems
  • EECS 344: Design of Computer Problem Solvers
  • EECS 348: Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
  • EECS 349: Machine Learning
  • EECS 371: Knowledge Representation

Breadth Courses (3 courses)

Three additional courses are required within years 2 and 3. Any non-required, graduate-level course in any school or department can be used to fulfill the breadth requirement.


The program's primary goal is to prepare students to be independent researchers in Computer Science and Learning Sciences. Students learn to conduct research in a variety of ways, including formal coursework in research methods. However, mentored participation is the most important way students learn to conduct research.

Students are encouraged to begin research activities as early as possible in their graduate career. In the fall and winter quarters of their first year, students may simply attend different research group meetings.  As they decide on a permanent advisor, they may take responsibility for research activities under close supervision, gradually receiving more autonomy, until they are prepared to conduct independent research. Since students enter with very different levels of experience, there is no single path. Students should develop an individual plan for engaging in research in consultation with their adviser(s).

Students are required to begin research in the winter quarter of their first year. To fulfill this requirement, students must minimally attend meetings of one or more research groups or meet with a faculty member (typically the temporary or permanent adviser) on a regular basis to discuss research. It is expected that the number of research activities and the level of responsibility will increase steadily over time.

Contact Us

Learning Sciences Program School of Education and Social Policy

2120 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
Northwestern University

Phone: 847/491-7494