WPI Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Computer Science Department

CS 3041 - Human Computer Interaction - D10

Basic Stuff | Projects | Exams |
Grading | Late Work | Dates | Standards | Honesty | Work Habits | Course Grades | Disabilities | Reading

* * * Under Construction * * *

"User Interface design is hard work.
You will never get it right the first time
and often it is never gotten right at all"

Lecture: MT-RF 2:00 - 2:50, SL 105
Prof: David C. Brown, FL 131, x5618, dcb at wpi dot edu
    Office Hour: Thu 6:30pm, or by appointment, in FL 131.
    Role: Help with HCI content; Projects requirements; Help with project 3; Questions about grading.
TA: Elijah Forbes-Summers, flveggie at wpi dot edu
    Office Hours: Wed 2pm, Fri noon, in ADP Lab, FL B16
    TA Role: Help with projects; Initial Qs about grading; Help with Java; Keeper of uncollected handouts/exams/projects.
TA: Avani Shastri, avanishastri at wpi dot edu
    Office Hours: Mon 11am, Thu 3pm, in room FL A22/A21.
    TA Role: Help with projects; Initial Qs about grading; Help with Visual Basic.
Email: Mail sent to cs3041-staff using at cs dot wpi dot edu will go to the professor and the TAs.
Please contact us this way as much as possible, and do not just send email to the professor.
Add or delete yourself to the mailing list called CS3041 by using the "Majordomo list server".
Course Web Page: www.cs.wpi.edu/~dcb/courses/CS3041/
Course Text: User Interface Design and Evaluation,
Debbie Stone, Caroline Jarrett, Mark Woodroffe & Shailey Minocha.
The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive Technologies,
ISBN: 978-0-12-088436-4, March 2005.
{It should be on reserve in the library}
Supplementary Text: Mastering Microsoft Visual Basic 2008
Evangelos Petroutsos
Wiley/Sybex, 2008; ISBN: 978-0-470-18742-5
{It should be on reserve in the library}
(Electronic version available)
Supplementary Text: Universal Principles of Design,
Will Lidwell, Kritina Holden, Jill Butler,
Rockport Publishers, 2003.
{It should be on reserve in the library}
Videos From: Designing Interactions,
Bill Moggridge,
The MIT Press, 2006.
{It should be on reserve in the library}
(Electronic version available)
Class Schedule: Classes, dates, topics, subjects
Class Outline: What gets covered by the class


Basic Stuff:

The intent of this course is to address the problem of how to improve the quality of interaction between an individual and a computer. Some of the material will come from the text, some from other books, much from experience (yours and mine), and the rest from a variety of sources (Information sources).

I expect the course to be interactive, with lots of questions from me, and lots of answers from you; and vice versa too.

The facts in this course are mostly quite simple to grasp. The hard part is using them. This requires the right attitude, experience, and good taste. This requires learning and practice, which the course should provide.

This course differs from many other CS courses, as for HCI there are often no right answers, and no best solution. This is true for design problems in general. They require making tradeoffs. You'll need to know what questions to ask in order to get even close to a reasonable solution. The course provides many of the questions.

The topics that will be covered in the course are given in an accompanying web page, The Story So Far....

You must read the book, concentrating on the material covered in lectures. You'll need to cover several chapters a week. You may also be given other material to read. This material will reinforce the lectures and present additional topics. ALL of this material will be examinable.

A problem with the subject matter is that HCI is a rapidly changing field, with many small research results. However, there is only a limited amount of core knowledge that is applicable under all situations. It is also a field where "common sense" can play a part: much of what appears obvious, however, has been and is being carefully tested to discover under which conditions (e.g., types of users) the assumptions are actually true, and why.

Obviously, the intent of this course is to expose you to the concepts being addressed in this swiftly growing field. Concepts rather than techniques will last you a long time.

This is not primarily a programming course. Programming is merely one aspect. The one programming project, Project 4, can be done in Visual Basic or in Java. You will be asked to indicate which language you will be using when you submit the Rough Design for that project.

A very important aspect of this course is to try to make you "more sensitive" to the needs of the user -- i.e., most programs are not being used by their authors; many users of computers do not know much about computer science; naive users have different demands and expectations than experienced users. You are not a normal user.

There will be at least one HCI-related video shown during the course. Everyone is expected to attend. It is a very good, general overview of the design of interfaces (by Trower), that pulls together many of the things introduced by the course. We will also use some very short videos of material from the DVD that comes with the superb book "Designing Interactions", by B. Moggridge.



There will be two examinations, four projects and a presentation.

Projects include reading research literature, evaluating interfaces, an HCI experiment, a challenging group interface design problem, and an interface design and implementation. Other web pages will explain the projects.

Note that Projects 2, 3 & 4 overlap in time. Time management will be important: it's a useful skill, so practicing it now is good. None of the projects can be done adequately in a couple of days: start them early!

The presentations at the end of term will be made by the Project 3 groups and will show the results from that Project, plus some of the rationale for the decisions made.


There will be two in-class, closed-book exams. Possible questions for the exams will also be shared prior to the exams. Exam 1 will cover all the material up to that date (book, web, handouts & lectures), while Exam 2 will concentrate on the material since the first exam. Note that the exams are based on material from the book as well as material from the lectures -- much of which is not in the book -- so class attendance is very important. Good preparation for the final exam is the video by Tandy Trower. The format for each exam will be announced in class prior to the exam. They normally consist of about 10-15 questions with short answers.

If you are unable to be at an exam, you will receive an `incomplete' grade for the course, and you will be able to take a make up exam during the break or at the start of the next term.


The grading is assigned as follows:

	Project 1  	10%	{approx 1 week - individual}
	Project 2  	20%	{approx 2 weeks - individual}

	Project 3  	20%	{approx 5 weeks - group}
	Project 4  	20%	{approx 4 weeks - individual}

	Exam 1     	15%	{Closed book: mid-term}
	Exam 2     	15%	{Closed book: end-of-term}

Late Work:

  • Work must be submitted in the medium requested (i.e., paper and/or electronic)
    before the end of class on the due date.
  • Late work without a valid prior reason will automatically lose points.
  • Work that is turned in 1 day late will be penalized 20% of the possible points.
  • Work that is turned in more than 1 day late will not be graded.
    (Note that a "day" means a day of the week, not a weekday)

Important Dates:

Project 1 is due Mon 22 March
Project 2 is due Mon 5 April
Project 3 is due Mon 3 May
  • This is the group project.
  • Project 3 User & Task Analysis is due Tue 13 April
  • Project 3 Rough Design is due Tue 20 April
  • Completion of these intermediate deadlines is required.
  • That work will be evaluated and returned to you asap.
  • It will determine 25% of the project 3 grade.
Project 4 is due Mon 26 April
  • Note that Proj 4 is due before Proj 3 (sorry!)
  • Project 4 Rough Design due Mon 29 March
  • Project 4 XML file input demonstration due Fri 16 April
  • Completion of these intermediate deadlines is required.
  • That work will be evaluated and returned to you asap.
  • Each intermediate item is worth 10% of the project 4 grade.
Exam 1 is on Fri 9 April
Exam 2 is on Fri 30 April

The group presentations will be on:
  • Mon 3 May
  • Tue 4 May
Note that not attending both of these presentations will negatively affect your grade.


The highest standards of programming, writing, and presentation will be expected, and the grading schemes will be devised to reflect that. If you are uncertain what to do about program documentation see the CS Documentation Standard.

We will expect you to deliver what is requested (e.g., answer all questions asked as part of the project description). The TAs will grade all the work according to a precise grading scheme provided to them by the Instructor. The outline of the grading scheme will be made available to you before the project is due.

Computer Use:

You may use your own computer during the lectures, but not during exams. Recent research has shown that students who take notes during class retain more information, even if they don't use those notes later, and that students who multi-task during class (e.g., with laptops or cell phones) learn less. In fact, those who believed that they were expert multi-taskers, did the worst! Laptop use in class is acceptable as long as it is restricted to note taking, or a limited amount of information seeking. Any other activity that distracts you or the people around you, preventing thoughtful participation in the class, is inappropriate.

Note that any type of mental task switching is inefficient: trying counting from 1 to 10, and then recite the letters A through J. Each task takes about five seconds. Next, try switching between the tasks: "A, 1, B, 2, C, 3...". This takes longer because of the memory load and mental processing required.

Academic Honesty:

Cheating, defined as taking credit for work you did not do, is strictly forbidden. Offenders will receive a zero grade for the assignment or exam in question. In addition their case will be presented to the Computer Science Department Head (see the WPI Academic Honesty Policy).

Work Habits:

According to the WPI Undergraduate Catalog, "Unless otherwise indicated, WPI courses usually carry credit of 1/3 unit. This level of activity suggests at least 17 hours of work per week, including class and laboratory time." Hence, you are expected to spend at least 13 hours of work per week on this course outside the classroom.

Course Grades:

With respect to grading, an "A" is reserved for Excellent work, with a very rough expectation of a better than 90% score over the whole class. A grade of "B" represents high quality work, with a very rough expectation of a score at least higher than 60% and perhaps higher than 70%, depending on how hard the exams are and how hard the grading is. Above 50% but below the B boundary will probably be a "C" grade, which indicates reasonable but undistinguished work. Below 50% will probably get you an NR. Please note that these boundaries are meant merely as an indication of our expectations, and may change according to circumstances. Expect that less than 10% of the class will get an "A" grade.


If you need accommodations because of a disability, or if you have medical information to share with me, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible. Students with disabilities, who believe that they may need accommodations in this class, are encouraged to contact the Disability Services Office (DSO), as soon as possible. The DSO is located in Daniels Hall, (508) 831-5235.


Other General Reading:

  1. "Designing Interactions", B. Moggridge, The MIT Press, 2006.
  2. "Designing the User Interface" (4th Edn.), B. Shneiderman & C. Plaisant, Addison Wesley Longman, 2004.
  3. "Interaction Design: beyond human-computer interaction", J. Preece, Y. Rogers & H. Sharp, J. Wiley, 2002.
  4. "Human-Computer Interaction", A. Dix et al, Prentice-Hall, 1998.
  5. "Human-Computer Interaction", J. Preece et al, Addison-Wesley, 1994.
  6. "The Art of Computer Interface Design", (Ed) B. Laurel, Addison-Wesley, 1990.
  7. "Readings in Human-Computer Interaction", (Eds) R.Baeker & W.Buxton, Morgan Kaufmann, 1987.

  8. "GUI Bloopers: Don'ts and Do's for Software Developers and Web Designers", Jeff Johnson, Morgan Kaufmann, March 2000.
  9. "Don't Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability", S. Krug, Que, 2000.
  10. "Web Design in a Nutshell : A Desktop Quick Reference", J. Niederst, R. Koman, O'Reilly & Associates, 1998.
  11. "Designing Web Usability : The Practice of Simplicity", J. Nielsen, New Riders Publishing, 1999.


[WPI] [CS]

Thu Mar 11 15:35:03 EST 2010