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CS3041- Term D, 2013
Human Computer Interaction

Lectures: AK 233, Tuesday and Friday, 1:00PM - 2:50PM

Instructor: Prof. Matthew Ward, FL-231, 831-5671,,
Office Hours (FL 231): Tuesday: 11AM, Thursday: 9AM, and Friday: 10AM, Others by appointment

Teaching Assistant: James Forkey,
Office Hours (FL A22): TBA

Student Assistant: Jeffrey Stokes,
Office Hours (FL A22): TBA

Text: The primary text for the course is User Interface Design and Evaluation, by Stone, Jarrett, Woodroffe, and Minocha. Other texts you might find useful in developing your programs are any book on Java or Visual Basic. Supplemental texts will be placed on reserve in the library which may give you other perspectives on the topics we'll be discussing.

Facilities: You may use any PC running Windows or linux using Visual Basic or Java. You may also do programming by connecting to one of the school's servers. Your programs must be able to run on a machine on campus, and it is up to you to provide the TAs with sufficient instructions for building and executing it.

Software Utilities: The programming activity must be implemented using either Visual Basic or Java. A limited version of Visual Basic is included with many books on VB, which should be sufficient for development. Students may petition to use other languages, but must convince me that suitable libraries of user interface components exist. In addition, we won't be able to provide help with coding problems if no one in the course staff is familiar with the language.

Homework: The homework for the course, which will be due weekly, is divided into three components: a programming activity, an evaluation activity, and a research activity.

The programming activity can be done individually or in pairs, and will involve the design, prototyping, and evaluation of a user interface to a tool for gathering information for a personal social media site. You can find the detailed description of this activity on myWPI or off the course web page. It will be up to you to do the requirements analysis, user interface design (considering multiple alternatives), development of a working front-end to the application (all responses to user actions can be hard-coded), and detailed evaluations through all phases of design and development. Each team will maintain a portfolio of their weekly activities (see detailed description).

The evaluation activity will involve using the topics discussed in class and in the readings to assess one or more computer applications or websites that you use on a regular basis. You should choose 3-4 applications or websites in the first week of the term, and each week you should write a 1-2 page critique of one or more of them, focusing primarily on the HCI topics we cover during that week (see weekly topics below). Thus, for example, in week 1 you would examine one or more applications in terms of the anticipated users and tasks performed. Identify both strong and weak aspects, and include some justification for your assessments. You might even include suggestions for improvement. Each student should do their own critiques, and have their own set of target applications and websites. While we won't prohibit two or more of you from evaluating the same application, we will scrutinize these carefully to ensure the work is your own. Try to choose most of your 3-4 applications from commonly available programs, applets and websites. The critiques will be part of your portfolio. I would suggest choosing a mix of applications and websites, rather than all of one type.

The research activity will involve selecting a topic from the HCI literature and writing a 5-10 (single spaced) report on it, using at least 3 published papers (not web pages or Wikipedia) or books as sources. I will give a list of example topics in class, but you are free to propose your own, as long as it is relevant to the course topic. Each week you should submit a progress report on this activity as part of your portfolio: what topic did you choose (week 1), the papers you've chosen as your sources (week 2), summaries of papers, and so on. You should target the end of week 5 for the first complete draft of your paper. We will provide feedback, and you'll have time to do a second and final draft by the end of the term. This activity should be done individually, not in teams.

Homework should be submitted via myWPI every week by Monday at noon. Late submissions will be penalized 10% per day. Grades and comments on homework can be retrieved via myWPI; we will attempt to get the grading done within 48 hours of the submission deadline (although reading research paper drafts may take longer).

Grade Policy: 50% quizzes, 50% homeworks. You must obtain a passing grade for both the quiz portion and homework portion to pass the class. Quizzes will be held every other class day starting on the second class, and your top 6 quiz grades will be used to calculate your final term quiz grade.

Supplemental Material: All handouts can be found on myWPI.

Contact Info: Questions on assignments or any topic we cover can be directed to or to the individual e-mail addresses at the top of this document. E-mail can be sent to the entire class (please use only sparingly!) at


  1. Reading is mandatory, working ahead is encouraged. At least one question on each quiz will be on material from the book that is not covered in class.

  2. The programming activity may be done in pairs. If you would like a partner and don't know anyone in the class, we'll try to match you up at the start of the term. If you believe your partner has dropped the course, please see me immediately for reassignment.

  3. Quizzes are based on both lectures and readings, so class attendance is strongly encouraged. At least one question on each quiz will come from material covered in class and at least one from the readings. Quizzes will be held at the start of class, so please try to arrive on time.

  4. Cheating, defined as taking credit for work you did not do, is strictly forbidden. First offenders will receive a zero grade for the assignment or quiz in question and the offense will be brought to the attention of the Dean of Students Office. Repeat offenders will receive an NR for the course and the case will be brought before the campus judicial board (see Student Handbook).

  5. In order to maintain a classroom environment conducive to effective learning, please refrain from the following activities during class: carrying on conversations (vocal or electronic), browsing the web, listening to music, playing games, eating (unless you brought enough to share with the whole class), or sleeping. Please set cell phones to silent mode. Your consideration for others would be greatly appreciated.


Week 1 (March 11-17)
   Topics: Introduction, Users and Tasks 
   Reading: Chapters 1-4

Week 2 (March 18-24)
   Topics:  Requirements Gathering and Conceptual Design
   Reading: Chapters 5, 6, 8, 9

Week 3 (March 25 - March 31)
   Topics: Interaction Design Process
   Reading: Chapters 10-13

Week 4 (April 1-7)
   Topics: Design Principles, Graphical User Interfaces
   Reading: Chapters 14, 16

Week 5 (April 8-17)
   Topics: Designing for the Web, Intro to Evaluation
   Reading: Chapters 17, 18, 20, 21
   Note: April 16th there is no class, as it is a Thursday schedule

Week 6 (April 18-24)
   Topics: Evaluation Design
   Reading: Chapters 22-25

Week 7 (April 25 - April 30)
   Topics: Advanced Evaluation
   Reading: Chapters 26, 27

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Matthew Ward 2013-03-08