CPSC 672: Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW)

Fall Semester, 2008
Time and place: T/Th 3:55 pm - 5:10 pm, HRBB 126
Instructor: Dr. Frank Shipman
Office hours: HRBB 404, to be determined, or by appointment


There may be students from technical and non-technical disciplines in this course. Projects and assignments are designed such that each student can show off their own skills. Programming and software development is part of the group projects so it is recommended that students from outside of computer science join project teams with students from computer science.

List of students

Course description

Collaborative systems are all around us. They help us keep up with friends and family, they help us write papers, and they help us slay the evil beast in the woods.

Why does Facebook work? What does it do? What about MS Word's track changes features? And what about the interface to MMORPGs? How are they similar and how are they different? These are the types of questions we will examine.

This class investigates the design of systems to support collaborative activity. As such, the class will read papers and develop class projects related to topics such as: (1) How do people use existing tools (word processors, email) to collaborate? (2) What issues play a role in the success of tools supporting collaborative activity (critical mass, benefit/effort distribution, etc.)? (3) What characteristics of tools play important roles in these contexts (awareness, reciprocity, synchronous activity)?

These topics will be discussed at both a conceptual and tool level. By the end of the course, you will be able to look at an existing system or design a new system with an understanding of the impact it may have on collaborative activity.


Students should have a basic knowledge of computing and the social sciences, and either the ability to program complex systems or able to learn new software tools on their own. Ask instructor if you have any questions.

Reading materials

Reading schedule

This course will focus around discussions of the readings. We will read assorted papers taken from a variety of conferences and journals concerning computer-support cooperative work, groupware, human-computer interaction, etc.

Selected papers:

The following links require access to the ACM Digital Library. Access to ACM Digital Library is available from on-campus computers.


  Short assignments	25%
  Class participation	20% (and pop quizes, if necessary)
  Team project		30%
  Term paper            25%

Short assignments

List of assignments

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. All material turned in should be printed using a computer printer or typed except when noted otherwise.

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

Class participation

Most class periods will include a discussion of reading materials. One student will be selected to present a brief overview of each paper and another student will be assigned to have discussion questions ready and lead discussion. All students are expected to have done the readings and be able to participate in discussions. Keep up with the readings so there will be no pop quizzes!


Students will form two-person teams and define a semester project or select one from a list of existing ideas. 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.

The final project report (8-12 pages in ACM Format) will also require the design of an evaluation procedure for refining the resulting interface. The in-class presentations of project progress will be about 10 minutes long and the final presentation on the project will be approximately 20 minutes long and include a demo of your working system.

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.

Programming for projects:
done in language and operating system of your choice on machines to which you have access.

Term paper

Each student will select a topic on which to write a 10-15 page term paper. These papers are to describe the current state of practice and research with references to the current literature. Topics need to be approved by the instructor. Students should be careful to properly use quotation and citation for information from all sources.

General Note on Assignments

Important: All reports are to be printed on a word processor or typed (no handwritten assignments will be accepted). All writing should be the work of the student -- any text taken from other sources needs to be quoted and referenced. It is expected that students will 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.)