CPSC 671: Computer-Human Interaction

Spring Semester, 2000
Time and place: TR 3:55 - 5:10, 126 HRBB
Instructor: Dr. Frank Shipman
Office hours: HRBB 402B, TR 2:30-3:30, or by appointment


This class provides an overview of the research and practices of human-computer interaction, its history and techniques. This course will cover (1) development processes, (2) interaction mechanisms, (3) psychology and human factors, and (4) emerging technologies.


Students should have a basic knowledge of programming complex systems and be able to learn new software tools on their own.


Readings in Human-Computer Interaction, Ronald Baecker et al., Second edition


Short assignments			20%
Class participation			15%
Half-term paper				20%
Team project				25%
Evaluation project			20%


Date        In-Class Activity                   Assignments Due
Jan. 18	    Overview & Introductions
Jan. 20	    Readings (pages 1-34)
Jan. 25	    Readings (pages 35-70)		Homework 1 due
Jan. 27	    Readings (pages 71-89, 122-141)
Feb. 1	    Readings (pages 142-185)
Feb. 3	    Project Status Reports		2-3 page status report due
Feb. 8	    Readings (pages 187-224)		Paper topic due
Feb. 10	    Readings (pages 233-272)		Homework 2 due
Feb. 15	    Readings (pages 273-311)
Feb. 17	    Readings (pages 313-343, 390-397)
Feb. 22	    Readings (pages 399-423, 442-456)
Feb. 24	    Readings (pages 469-499)		Homework 3 due
Feb. 29	    Readings (pages 500-523 & handout)
March 2	    Project Status Reports		3-5 page status report due
March 7	    Group Work Day
March 9	    Readings (pages 525-563)		Half-term paper due
March 21    Readings (pages 571-602, 634-639)
March 23    Readings (pages 667-697, 724-737)
March 28    Readings (pages 739-782)
March 30    Readings (pages 783-830)		Evaluation project due
April 4	    Readings (pages 833-848, 854-866)
April 6	    Readings (pages 867-896)
April 11    Project Status Reports		5-10 page status report due
April 13    Readings (pages 897-906, 913-940)
April 18    Videos and readings from handouts
April 20    Videos and readings from handouts
April 25    Project presentations
April 27    Project presentations		Final project reports due


There will be a number of assignments due in class. These assignments may require use of specific software outside of class time and will take the form of short essays, written answers to questions, and design documents.

Important: All reports are to be printed on a word processor or typed (no handwritten assignments will be accepted except in cases of drawings or diagrams). It is expected that students will use correct grammar and spelling -- these are grounds to deduct from your grade. (i.e. Use a spelling checker and reread what you write before turning it in.)
Page limits identified are for single-spaced printouts using a 12 point font.

Homework late policy is that 10% will be deducted from your grade for every school day late up to a maximum of one week after the original due date.

Programming for projects can be done in the environment, language, and operating system of your choice on machines wherever you have access.

Class Participation:

Most class periods will include a discussion of reading materials. One or two students will be selected to present a brief (10-15 minute) overview of the material for each class and one or two students will be assigned to have discussion questions ready. This discussion will last for about 45 minutes. The last 10-15 minutes of class will be used by Dr. Shipman. All students are expected to have done the readings and be able to participate in discussions. You cannot participate in class unless you are in class ...
Keep up with the readings so there will be no pop quizzes!

Half-Term Paper:

Each student will select a topic on which to write an 8-10 page single-spaced term paper. These papers are to describe the current state of practice and research with references to the current literature. This means reading research-oriented papers beyond those in the class. Topics need to be approved by the instructor.

Send email to shipman@cs.tamu.edu briefly describing your topic by February 8. If you want help selecting a topic or locating current literature, come talk to me. Term papers are to be turned in by the end of class on March 9.

Team Projects:

Students will form three or four-person teams and define a semester project. There will be three preliminary progress reports for the projects emphasizing particular phases of the interface design process:

(1) identifying a topic, determining cognitive and social issues, and determining an approach,
(2) creating an initial system design and mock-up, and
(3) instantiating the design in a prototype implementation.

Each status report will involve a 5 minute presentation to the class on the status of your project and a written status report due by the end of class that day. The written status reports get longer as the project proceeds as they are meant to accumulate into the final report.

The final project report (10-20 pages) will also require the design of an evaluation procedure for refining the resulting interface. The in-class presentations at the end of the semester will be approximately 15 minutes long and include all members of the team.

Project grades will be determined by both the instructor's review of the project and student's description of their and other member's work.

Evaluation Projects:

Each student will perform a small evaluation of a piece of software of their chosing. This project will involve developing a hypothesis about the use of the system, designing a small study to evaluate the hypothesis, perform the study, and write up the results.

An example hypothesis is that: people can correct spelling errors faster with one interface than with another interface. In this case we could have all the subjects correct the errors in a preloaded document using the two interfaces, measuring how long the tasks take. We would have to vary the order of the interfaces and the documents corrected in each interface over the set of subjects.

Each student will be randomly assigned to be a subject in four other students' evaluations. Evaluation procedure should not take more than an hour (hopefully less) of each subject's time and cannot make assumptions about their characteristics (age, prior computer experience, etc.)

The evaluation write-up should be organized into the following sections: Introduction (and hypothesis), Evaluation design, Results (evaluation data), and Discussion (interpretation of data).

CPSC 671 Assignment 1:

Due in class on January 25

1. Write no more than two pages about the best system / computer interface you have used.
Describe the interface and why you selected it as best. Is it good for a variety of users and tasks or just for you? How might you improve on its design?

2. Write no more than two pages about the worst system / computer interface you have used.
Describe the interface and why it is bad. How could it be improved? Why might the designers have developed it the way they did?

CPSC 671 Assignment 2:

Due in class on February 10

Rittel's issue-based information system is a design method where various issues, positions for these issues, and arguments for and against these positions are enumerated. You are to turn in a 4-6 page issue base for the following design task:

Many researchers are designing systems to help people deal with the overwhelming amount of information on the Internet. Your task is to consider the trade-offs in the design of such systems.

Example issues that you can use to start your thinking are:
How should the user ask for information?
How should the information be displayed?

Format your issue-base as a indented outline. Example:

Issue:  What color should it be?
    Position:  Blue
        Argument for:  Blue is a cool color.
        Argument against: Blue denotes sadness.

CPSC 671 Assignment 3:

Due in class on February 24

Assume a future where all the electronic devices in your home are connected to one another via a data network. (They may also be connected to the outside world.) Design an interface that allows you to control the activity of these devices and their interactions.

For example, the alarm clock might notify the coffee maker that it has been "snoozed" yet again allowing the coffee maker to use this information in deciding when to make the coffee. The TV might communicate with the vacuum cleaner or other noisy appliances. Come up with your own scenarios for what you would want to happen in your house.

Feel free to make assumptions about the nature of the communication between devices without explaining how it occurs (we are only concerned with the user interface for this assignment.) The devices should not be telepathic but can include significant reasoning capabilities.

This should include a description of input and output mechanisms used in the interface. Do not assume complete natural language understanding by the system. Be creative.

What to turn in: A design document with no more than five pages of text and five pages of figures.