WPI Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Computer Science Department

CS 3041 - Human Computer Interaction - D17

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

* * * Under Construction * * *
Thu Mar 9 14:09:59 EST 2017

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

Web: http://web.cs.wpi.edu/~dcb/courses/CS3041/
Lecture: MT-RF 12:00-12:50 AK233
Prof: David C. Brown, FL 131, x5618, dcb at wpi dot edu
    Office Hour: Mon 3 ; or by appointment, in FL 131.
    Role: Help with HCI content; Projects requirements; Help with project 3; Detailed questions about Project 3 grading; General questions about grading.
TA: Hamid Mansoor
    Office Hours: Tue 2; Fri 1 ; in room FL A22 (also check the Zoo Lab nearby).
    TA Role: Help with projects; Detailed questions about Project 4 (and exam) grading; Help with Visual Basic/Java.
TA: Nichole Etienne
    Office Hours: Mon 10; Thu 11 ; in room FL A22 (also check the Zoo Lab nearby).
    TA Role: Help with projects; Detailed questions about Projects 1 & 2 (and exam) grading; Help with Visual Basic/Java.
Email: Mail sent to cs3041-staff using at cs dot wpi dot edu will go to the professor and the student staff.
Please contact us this way as much as possible, and do not just send email to the professor.
All emailed announcements will be sent to the CS mailing list called "cs3041".
It should be preset to those who initially registered, and updated regularly.
Add or delete yourself to/from the cs3041 mailing list by using the "Majordomo list server".
Course Web Page: web.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.
Supplementary Text: Mastering Microsoft Visual Basic 2008
Evangelos Petroutsos
Wiley/Sybex, 2008; ISBN: 978-0-470-18742-5
(Electronic version available)
Supplementary Text: Universal Principles of Design,
Will Lidwell, Kritina Holden, Jill Butler,
Rockport Publishers, 2010; ISBN: 9781592535873
Videos From: Designing Interactions,
Bill Moggridge,
The MIT Press, 2006.
(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. That 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.

There will be weekly tests, four projects and a presentation. Given the need to cover all the course outcomes we expect every student to demonstrate attempted mastery of all of those outcomes.

    Hence you can only pass this course by taking the exams and submitting satisfactory versions of all four projects.
If in doubt about what would be "satisfactory", please talk to me during my office hour.

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.

The intent of this course is to expose you to the core 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. Programming support is provided by the TAs/SAs, not the instructor.

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 (by Trower). Everyone is expected to attend. Although dated, it is still a very good, general overview of the design of interfaces, 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.



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. They are intended to give you as wide an experience with HCI basics as possible.

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! Remember, you must attempt all of them to pass the course.

Given the number of projects and their intermediate submissions there are a lot of due dates. Please record them on your calendars.

Some of the projects extend the knowledge covered by the lectures and text, and allow you to develop new skills that are appropriate for an HCI professional.

Some projects require you to add requirements and make reasonable assumptions in order to complete the work. You must be able to defend your actions. The projects should be seen as "open" and not "ambiguous". This is appropriate for a Junior level CS course, and provides a more realistic experience. If in doubt, seek help!

Hand written project work is never appropriate. It needs to be typed and printed. Well-drawn, neat diagrams done by hand are acceptable in some circumstances.

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 multiple in-class, closed-book exams. Examples of topics covered by the exam questions can be found here: 1st half of term questions; 2nd half of term questions. Exams will cover all the material from the previous week: including book, web, handouts & lectures. 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.

Each exam will take 15 minutes at the start of the scheduled class, and normally consist of a few questions, with short answers. See the schedule for details of when the exams are.

If you are unable to be at an exam, you will receive a zero grade for that exam. We will automatically drop the exam with the lowest score when calculating your course total.


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}

	Exams           30%	{Closed book - weekly - individual}

Late Work:

  • Project work must be submitted using the medium/media requested (i.e., paper and/or electronic)
    before the end of class on the due date.
  • Submissions in the wrong medium will not be accepted.
  • 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 M 20 Mar
Project 2 is due M 3 Apr
Project 3 is due M 1 May
  • Project 3 User & Task Analysis is due M 10 Apr
  • Project 3 Rough Design is due T 18 Apr

  • Completion of these intermediate deadlines is required.
  • Project 3 is the group project.
  • That work will be evaluated and returned to you asap.
  • The User & Task Analysis is worth 10% of the project 3 grade.
  • The Rough Design is worth 15% of the project 3 grade.
  • The Final Report is worth 75% of the project 3 grade.
Project 4 is due T 25 Apr
  • Project 4 Rough Design is due M 27 Mar
  • Project 4 XML file input demonstration is due R 13 Apr

  • Note that Proj 4 is due before Proj 3 (sorry!).
  • Completion of these intermediate deadlines is required.
  • Intermediate work will be evaluated and returned to you asap.
  • Each intermediate item is worth 10% of the project 4 grade.
Exams are weekly, and as much as possible, at the same time each week (see the schedule).

The group presentations will be on:
  • M 1 May
  • T 2 May
Note that not attending both of these presentations may negatively affect your grade.


The highest standards of programming, writing, and presentation will be expected, and the evaluation schemes will be devised to reflect that.

We will expect you to deliver what is requested (e.g., answer all questions that are part of the project description). TAs will grade all the work according to a precise evaluation scheme provided to them by the Instructor. The outline of the evaluation scheme will be made available to you online before each 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 are "active" and take notes during class retain more information, even if they don't use those notes later. Take notes! Do this on paper or with the computer. However, there is now evidence that taking notes on paper is better!

Remember that students who multi-task during class (e.g., with laptops or cell phones) learn less. Those who believed that they were expert multi-taskers, did the worst! In fact productivity can be "reduced by as much as 40 percent" when switching tasks. The state has been labelled "continuous partial attention".

From an HCI point of view, note that any type of mental task switching is very inefficient: try 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.

A recent study found readers using computer screens or smartphones tended to grasp minor details but failed to process abstract ideas, suggesting on-screen distractions induce people to resort to more basic mental tasks: i.e., books and paper are better for serious study.

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. People who failed the class recently include those who spent most of their time in class using Facebook: why did they even bother attending?

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 statement about Academic DisHonesty).

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.

    How to Study Well:
    Use a dedicated study area with no distractions (i.e., not a bedroom or living room; no music; no tv).

    Study for 25 minutes at a time with full attention then take a nice 5 minute break, then repeat.
    When you're done with all your study, reward yourself.

    For textbook study of a chapter:
       S: Survey it by looking through it noting figures, titles, keywords, etc.
       Q: The survey should raise a set of questions about the content
       R: Reading should answer those questions
       R: Reciting means working to understand what you read (i.e., don't just highlight the text)
       R: Review afterwards
    More details at www.studygs.net/texred2.htm

    Do 'active' learning, in and after class:
       - make notes/doodles/diagrams/mind-maps
       - summarize contents in your own words
       - explain things to others in study groups
       - think about how you'd use each concept
       - ask questions if you don't understand
       - review and expand notes asap after a lecture

    Sleep well to learn well!

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.


If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, or if you have medical information to share with me that may impact your performance or participation in this course, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible.

If you have approved accommodations, please go to the Exam Proctoring Center (EPC) in Morgan Hall (Wedge 103) to pick up Letters of Accommodation. If you have not already done so, students with disabilities who need to utilize accommodations in this class are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) as soon as possible to ensure that such accommodations are implemented in a timely fashion. This office can be contacted via email: DisabilityServices@wpi.edu, via phone: (508) 831-4908, or in person: 124 Daniels Hall.

Writing Center:

Located on the first floor of Daniels Hall (room 116), the Writing Center is a valuable resource for helping you improve as a writer. Writing Center tutors are your peers (other undergraduate and graduate students at WPI) who are experienced writers themselves and who enjoy helping others tackle thinking and writing problems. Although a single tutoring session should never be seen as a quick fix for any writing difficulty, these sessions can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and teach you strategies for organizing, revising, and editing your course papers, projects, and presentations. Writing Center services are free and open to all WPI students in all classes, and tutors will happily work with you at any stage of the writing process (early brainstorming, revising a draft, polishing sentences in a final draft). Visit the Writing Center website to make an appointment.


Other Recommended General Reading:

  1. "Don't Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability", S. Krug, Que, 2000. ($23 paper) ***
  2. "Measuring the User Experience: collecting, analyzing, and presenting usability metrics", T. Tullis & B. Albert, Morgan Kaufmann, 2013. ($44 paper) ***
  3. "The Elements of User experience", J.J. Garrett, New Riders Publishing, 2011. ($29 paper) ***
  4. "Designing with the Mind in Mind", J. Johnson, Morgan Kaufmann, 2014. ($33 paper) ***

  5. "The UX Book: Process and guidelines for ensuring a quality user experience", R. Hartson & P. S. Pyla, Morgan Kaufmann, 2012. {Reference}
  6. "Designing the User Interface" (6th Edn.), B. Shneiderman, et al., Addison Wesley Longman, 2004. {Reference}
  7. "Designing Interactions", B. Moggridge, The MIT Press, 2006. {Reference}
  8. "Foundations for Designing User-Centered Systems", F. E. Ritter, G. D. Baxter & E. F. Churchill, Springer, 2014. {Reference}

  9. "Designing for Interaction: Creating Innovative Applications and Devices (2nd Edition)", Dan Saffer, New Riders, 2009.
  10. "Designing Gestural Interfaces: Touchscreens and Interactive Devices", Dan Saffer, O'Reilly Media, 2008. ($40 paper)
  11. "Microinteractions: Designing with Details". Dan Saffer, O'Reilly Media, 2013. ($14 paper)
  12. "Interaction Design: beyond human-computer interaction", J. Preece, Y. Rogers & H. Sharp, J. Wiley, 2002.
  13. "GUI Bloopers: Don'ts and Do's for Software Developers and Web Designers", J. Johnson, Morgan Kaufmann, March 2000. ($32 paper)
  14. "Designing Web Usability : The Practice of Simplicity", J. Nielsen, New Riders Publishing, 1999. ($35 paper)
  15. "Web Design in a Nutshell : A Desktop Quick Reference", J. Niederst, R. Koman, O'Reilly & Associates, 1998.
  16. "Human-Computer Interaction", A. Dix et al, Prentice-Hall, 1998.
  17. "Human-Computer Interaction", J. Preece et al, Addison-Wesley, 1994.
  18. "The Art of Computer Interface Design", (Ed) B. Laurel, Addison-Wesley, 1990.
  19. "Readings in Human-Computer Interaction", (Eds) R.Baeker & W.Buxton, Morgan Kaufmann, 1987.


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