HCI & Design

I was recently asked to teach an online Intro to Human Computer Interaction course at Harrisburg University for Summer 2015.  HU currently offers a course in User Experience Design and is looking to expand their offerings. 

***This course description and outline are currently in development.***   If you have any questions or feedback you would like to share, you may contact me at kara dot rennert at gmail dot com.


 Human computer interaction (HCI) is an interdisciplinary field in which computer scientists, engineers, psychologists, social scientists, and design professionals are concerned with the DESIGN / EVALUATION and IMPLEMENTATION of interactive systems for human use, and with the study of major phenomena surrounding them. The goal of HCI is to solve real problems in the design and use of technology, making computer-based systems easier to use and more effective for people and organizations.

Many researchers who identify their focus as HCI actually reside in other fields. Jonathan Grudin shows how we can examine the history of HCI through "the origins and evolution of three HCI research threads: computer operation, information systems management, and discretionary use.” Although they share some research questions and methods, their efforts did not converge. They worked within different parent disciplines, at different times, with different generations of researchers thus approaches, attitudes, and terminology also differed. More importantly each thread emphasized a different aspect of computer use: mandatory hands-on use, hands-off managerial use, and discretionary hands-on use.  

As a result, we can also view the history of HCI through the lens of three design paradigms:  engineering (human factors), information processing (HIP) and design thinking.

These three major design paradigms within the three major intellectual waves of HCI research are: 

    Engineering/Ergonomics/Human factors: THE ENGINEERING PARADIGM

 Goal: deconstruct work with the objective of designing for optimum human performance; man-machine fit 


 Goal: Treat human minds as information processors; the primary human-computer interaction task is enabling communication between the machine and the person

    Phenomenological Matrix: THE DESIGN THINKING PARADIGM

Goal: Focus is on making meaning in interaction. User Experience Design as we know it begins in this phase.

Designing usable products and an effective user experience requires a deep understanding of the human abilities and behaviors underlying the user's interaction with the product or service. This course will introduce you to the principles that have developed from HCI related research and how they have been applied to the design of information products, technology systems, user interfaces and the larger user experience

This course is constructed to give students a concrete understanding of the history of HCI/CHI research, and its influence on the evolution of design practice. Students will learn about the research approaches used in each paradigm, the important research discoveries made and principles created. Students will learn how these methods and approaches have evolved to create the multidisciplinary approaches seen in HCI and UXD today. At the end of the course, students will review examples of real applications of design paradigms in order to see that real world applications of design methodology often involves combining and overlapping approaches.

This course is not a complete history of HCI topics. Topics have been chosen with a focus on relevance for managers, technology leaders, entrepreneurs and other practicing HCI professionals. This course will enhance students’ ability to create applications compatible with the user's goals and the strengths and weaknesses of the user's cognitive and perceptual systems. This course will help students anticipate user requirements before product development, to explain the user's performance during field research and usability testing, and to foster a smooth transition for users facing new technologies or information. Most importantly this course will help students think and break down HCI problems in order to apply the appropriate research methods and design principles with a full understanding of the discipline and history behind them.





WEEK 1 & 2

Intro to HCI

Overview of the History of Computing

Background of HCI and related research disciplines

The 3 Waves of Design




History of Human Factors

The Engineering Design Paradig

What does Human Factors? What does it look like today? 


WEEK 4-7


What is Cognitive Psychology?

History of Cognitive Psychology


Visual and Auditory Systems

Perceptual Motor Interaction: A Behavioral Emphasis

  • Attention and Performance

Human Information Processing

  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Problem Solving and Decision Making

Mental Models in HCI

  • What are mental models
  • How to teach mental models

Task Loading and Stress in HCI

  • Traditional Approaches to Stress Research
  • Relationship between Stress and Cognitive Workload
  • Implications for Stress and Workload on Researchers and Practitioners

Choices and Decisions of Computer Users

  • Interaction Design Guidelines and Principles, Help and Training
  • Recommender Systems
  • Persuasive Technology
  • Focusing on Goals and Values
  • Anticipation of Consequences
  • Inter-temporal Choice
  • Reuse of Previous Choices
  • Social Influence



Week 8

Visual Design Principles for Usable Interfaces


Page Design

Consistent and Appropriate Visual Language



Week 9-11

Wave 3 HCI Research - Design Thinking Paradigm (User Experience Design)

Changes in Design:

  • New critiques and approaches: participatory design, value-sensitive design, user experience design, ethnomethodology, embodied interaction, interaction analysis, and critical design.  -  research methods become more open and collaborative
  • Emotional Design, Psychology of Choice, Study of Happiness - More facets of human behavior are incorporated into design (BJ Fogg, Don Norman, )


Topics in HCI:

  • Pervasive, Embedded, and Ubiquitous Computing
  • Games, Play, and “funology"
  • Information Design - Tufte, Few
  • Human Centered Design of Decision Support Systems


Week 12

Section VII -  Wave 4 HCI Research - ?? Design Paradigm

Persuasive Design


Week 13

Section VIII - Testing, Evaluation, and Technology Transfer

Survey Design and Implementation

Model Based Evaluation


Week 14

Section IX - Teaching Examples  - What Paradigms do these cover? What type of research and design processes are involved?

Motor Vehicle Driver Interfaces - HF + Cognitive Science + Emotional Design

Virtual Reality - HF + Psychology

eCommerce - Usability + Persuasiveness + Visual Design

HCI in Healthcare – Older Adults