This course provides an introduction to human-computer interaction and the design process. Students will learn methods and skills for designing and prototyping interactive systems. The course covers a design process from the initial formulation of a design problem to creation of digital prototypes. Importantly, this class does not involve coding and instead, fully focuses on the design process.
The class structure is a mix of lectures, hands-on activities, and design critiques by peers and course staff. The course is overwhelmingly organized around a group project, in which students:
Contact: Please do not email us separately; instead, email all instructors at firstname.lastname@example.org. Course staff will try to respond to emails within 24 hours. If you have an urgent matter, please place “URGENT” in the subject line of the email. We cannot guarantee that we will respond immediately to urgent emails, but we will do our best.
We will also be using Ed for asking/answering questions, Internet connection or Zoom issues, etc. during class and asynchronously. TAs will be monitoring Ed so your question may be answered more quickly there.
Class Time & Location: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 10:00 - 11:20 AM, Location: Zoom (links provided in Canvas)
Section Times & Locations:
Given our unusual circumstances, some changes have been made to the course to suit the remote learning environment.
We will take attendance and monitor for your active participation both in class and sections. Your attendance will count towards your participation grade and may impact your contribution to the group project (details in grading policy below). Attendance will be taken roughly 5 minutes after class starts and students who are not there by that time will be marked as absent.
Why? This is a very hands-on class in which we will alternate between lectures and group exercises in class and in sections. You will be expected to take part in interactive discussions, group presentations and critique, breakout activities, etc. In short, this is not your usual class! We require that students attend every class and section. If you are unable to attend due to sickness or a family emergency, please contact the course staff AND your group members in advance. Please be on time to all classes and sections as your fellow group members will otherwise be waiting for you to start working on your shared project. Likewise, please do not plan to leave before class ends. Thanks for working with us to make this class a great experience for all!
Will there be recordings? We will record the parts of the class that cover lecture content and will also post lecture slides online. However, we reiterate that much of this class is interactive and includes discussions, group activities, and other interactive elements which will not be captured in the recording. You can use the recordings and slides to review content covered in class, but please do not rely on being able to do so as you will miss an integral part of the class experience.
Please always have a few sheets of white paper and pencils/pens available since most classes will involve some kind of sketching on paper. You are welcome to use online tools and/or tablets for these exercises if you feel like they let you sketch as you would on a piece of paper. We also ask that you have a smartphone with a camera you can grab to take a photo of what you’ve sketched and upload it online if you do use paper. Please try to keep the phone away from you otherwise though :)
We do not teach how to use specific software packages in this class, and we usually also do not require the use of specific software, but instead leave this up to each student and team to decide.
That said, in this online offering of the class, we will heavily rely on Figma, a collaborative interface design tool, to go through the design process and support design critiques. Once we have established teams, each team will get a board on which they should upload any design artifacts they produce. Fellow classmates, the teaching team, and guests from industry and academia will be able to see your progress and provide feedback. We will also be using the tool Marvel to support user playtests of your prototypes.
In addition to Figma and Marvel, we will occasionally recommend the use of Miro, an online visual collaboration tool that supports sketching, brainstorming, and online white board etc. Teams should agree with each other on which tool to use.
Pre-pandemic, this is what our policy was:
While we're now in Zoomiverse, you will of course all be sitting in front of your laptops and be tempted to engage with other online resources (and our phones!) while in class. We are hoping to make this class sufficiently engaging that the temptation will be minimal and encourage you to fully participate in the class activities, including listening to the lecture parts. That also means:
This course welcomes all students of all backgrounds. The computer science and computer engineering industries have significant lack of diversity. This is due to a lack of sufficient past efforts by the field toward even greater diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Allen School seeks to create a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment for our community and our field. You should expect and demand to be treated by your classmates and the course staff with respect. If any incident occurs that challenges this commitment to a supportive, diverse, inclusive, and equitable environment, please let the instructor know so the issue can be addressed.
If you have any questions about disability or religious accommodations, please refer to university policies regarding disability accommodations or religious accommodations. Feel free to also contact us. For any family accommodations, please do not hesitate to contact the course staff, we're here for you.
Thank you all for working with us on making this remote learning experience as smooth as possible!
Much of the work involved in this course revolves around a group project. Groups will be formed for you near the start of the quarter, as opposed to self-assembled, though we will take into account people’s preferences, such as putting people together in similar time-zones.
In the last year, various crises at the local, national, and global levels have laid bare the many inequities that different groups in our society currently face. Thus, this offering’s project theme will be “reducing disparities”, where this can be broadly construed to relate to helping groups of people gain access to information, resources, support, connections, communities, opportunities, etc. that other groups may more easily access for various reasons.
Your team’s goal is to choose and then design for a group of people that currently face a disparity in access of some kind. Your team must pick a user group that you all do not consider yourself a member of; this is so that you will not rely too much on your own experiences during user research. Over the course of the quarter, your team will work on designing a system to help this group of people gain the kind of access that other groups may already have.
You should identify and consider goals and activities that are important to people. The domain could involve disparities regarding healthcare, education, money, food, fitness, technology and digital services, government and local services, social activities, mental health, safety, clothing, shelter, jobs, mentorship, and the list goes on! Activities within these domains could include reducing barriers that people currently face, directly providing access to information or resources, connecting people to other people who have those resources, forming a community among people to help each other or engage in collective action, or highlighting the disparity to people who have the ability to change it.
Here are examples of prior projects from similar courses with target groups and ideas that would be relevant under this theme:
As part of your project, you will need to define what a specific group’s needs are that your project can help support, and what activity you would like to design to help address this need. While your design may not be able to address this head on, it may be useful to consider the conditions that allowed this disparity in question to arise while conducting user research and learning from your target group. Think about how the activity you chose is currently supported via technology (or not), what doesn’t work about current ways of supporting it, and how your solution will do this better. Finally, be specific in the group you select! The specificity of addressing a particular group of people allows you to deeply think about what makes the group unique and how you would best want to support them. So, dive in and see what you can come up with!
Projects are organized around four assignments, each consisting of several milestones:
Here are links to projects from prior offerings that can give you a feel for the type and scope of projects students have embarked on:
Note that we have significantly revised this class and details of assignments have changed since prior offerings. The websites and reports linked above do not reflect the assignments of the current class. For example, prior offerings of this class required a website for the final project, while this year the assignments do not include a website. Also note that these samples are intended to illustrate a variety of approaches, none of which is intended to be ideal or exemplary. Be sure to understand and carefully consider project requirements and feedback from the course staff in the context of your own work.
Strive to do good work because you care about your own opportunities to learn, including the opportunities this course provides in working with a group on an intensive project.
The overall course grade will be computed as follows (summing up to 100 points):
Each assignment will also provide a point breakdown intended to convey how it will be graded. Design is an inherently subjective practice, and so grading in this course is necessarily subjective. The stated project requirements are the minimum, leaving room for groups to wow us with your work.
Because the course is designed around feedback on project milestones, grades given to those milestones indicate that you have invested sufficient effort and insight at the time of the milestone. You will get feedback and are expected to continue acting upon that feedback in your design process. The bulk of project grades is therefore attached to the final deliverables, which are evaluated on their quality.
We expect groups to take collective responsibility and to resolve any coordination issues. The course staff is always happy to make suggestions with regard to your effort and coordination. If an issue needs to be raised with the course staff, we expect it to be raised early enough to be addressed. If necessary, we reserve the ability to adjust an individual’s participation and assignment grades based on their demonstrated contribution.
Submissions should be in PDF format (i.e., not plain text, not Word). The PDF should be printable, containing everything we need to review and grade the assignment (e.g., your names). We will use Gradescope for groups to submit their assignments and receive feedback.
We expect that all assignments will be turned in on time according to their deadline on Gradescope. This is a fast-paced course, with many elements of the project depending on prior elements. Similarly, the course staff's ability to give feedback relies on timely submissions (e.g., course staff will often review your submission quickly after they are submitted to be ready for activities in section or lecture). Submitting the assignment late is therefore generally unacceptable. Course staff will attempt to be flexible where appropriate, but any late submission risks receiving zero credit. Please contact the staff immediately if ever there is an emergency impacting your ability to turn in assignments.
Please include a contribution statement along with each group submission. There will be a separate entry within each Gradescope submission for you to upload a contribution statement. Please note that we will not grade submissions where this statement is missing.
An example contribution statement for Assignment 1b is:
Please know that we do not expect everyone to contribute equally to each assignment, but you should try to work as a team and support each other. You should also discuss and agree among each other what each of you contributed and how much this contributed to the overall assignments. We know these percentages are subjective and messy, so don’t overthink them (we won't either). During the quarter, we may solicit private feedback regarding group dynamics from members.
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