CSE 510, Spring 2014 - Syllabus

The course is intented to provide an introduction to several major areas of HCI research. The course includes a series of labs at the beginning of the term, readings from the HCI research literature and discussions, and a term project. In the latter part of the course we will often have guest speakers.


Reseachers and practitioners have evolved a set of methods that are by now widely used in HCI practice in industry, and which often underlie HCI research projects. These include contextual inquiry, paper prototyping and iterative design, heuristic evaluation, scenario construction (sometimes including personas), video prototypes, and interactive prototypes. There are also a set of statistical techniques often used by researchers in their experiments and analyses. There are other less commonly used but still valuable design methods, including Participatory Design and Value Sensitive Design.

The standard methods for HCI practice are taught in this department in the undergraduate HCI course, CSE 440; many other colleges and universities have undergraduate HCI courses. However, CSE 440 or equivalent is not a prerequisite for CSE 510: some students will have taken such a course, and others not. In the past 510 has explicitly not taught the methods of HCI practice, which arguably presents a problem for those students who don't know this material already. So at the beginning of the course, I'm going to teach a very accelerated version of HCI practice, including lectures and labs -- but they can be waived for students who already know this material. If you want to have a given lab waived, rather than turning in the normal assignment submit a short statement saying when and where you learned and used the given technique, and what you would like to substitute in its place. For example, if you are already familiar with paper prototyping, one candidate for replacing this lab would be if you will be using paper prototyping and iterative design in your course project. Other options are certainly possible as well, such as additional work on the term project, or replicating an existing HCI study. Please talk with the instructor with any questions about this, both in general and about any specific lab!

You also don't need to go to lectures on material that you already know. I'll keep the course calendar up to date so that you can see what's on for that session. In cases where there will be multiple topics in one class session (for example project discussions and also paper prototyping), I'll generally have the portion in which everyone is expected to participate in the initial part of the class.

Reading Component

The reading component of this course will require reading and discussing a combination of historical and recent papers. This will help you examine what the HCI community considers a meaningful contribution across a variety of problems, thus preparing you to make contributions in these and other areas of HCI.

You are expected to have read and thought carefully about each reading. To help everyone prepare for an interesting and engaging class discussion, we require participation in a reading report forum.

Readings that require a discussion contribution will be noted on the course calendar. For these readings you should post something related to each of the readings for that day of class, in the appropriate part of the class forum. You can start a new discussion, participate in an existing discussion, or both. For a given paper, you can discuss the paper as a whole, or focus on a portion of the reading that you found most interesting. The important part is that we can see an intellectual effort in your forum participation, not just a simple summary of a paper (that could be written by reading just the abstract, for example).

Your participation in the forum discussion for each reading will be graded on a scale from 0 to 2.

0:If you do not participate.
1:If your participation seems weak and does not convince us you read, understood, and thought about the readings.
2:If your participation shows that you clearly read and understood the papers and had something interesting to say.

In discussing readings, it is generally easy to find something to criticize in any piece of research. But focusing exclusively on the potential flaws of research is generally not productive. You will generally find it more intellectually worthwhile to focus on what aspects of a piece of work are particularly well done, what new ideas are prompted by a piece of work, or what you might have done differently if you conducted the research. This will also lead to much more valuable discussions.

Potential topics for discussion are:

Participation will only "count" if posted by 2am midnight before each class meeting. This ensures that the day's discussion coordinator has time to review the discussion the next morning before class. Feel free to continue a discussion thread after this time (and even after class). But know that you need to post before then in order to get discussion credit.


Grading will be approximately 55% project, 15% labs (or equivalent), 20% reading reports, and 10% class participation. Individual project grades may vary depending on the contribution -- also, I'm not necessarily expecting the same contribution from a student doing the project as an integral part of his/her PhD research and another student working on it just for CSE 510.