Intro to HCI

Fall 2020

COMPSCI 325, 3 Credits, Fall 2020

Time: TueThu 10:00am – 11:15am

Location: Fully remote course

InstructorNarges Mahyar
Office HoursTue 10:00am – 11:15am

Important Information

This semester, the course will be conducted remotely using Blackboard Learn ( and can largely be completed asynchronously. In place of in-person lectures, 2 pre-recorded video lectures will be posted each week along with quizzes which test comprehension of the topics covered in the lectures. Students are expected to watch each lecture and complete each quiz.This course utilizes both individual and group-based assignments. For the first 4 weeks of the course, students will complete individual assignments which build basic skills in HCI. The assignments for the remaining 8 weeks will be group assignments related to an ongoing, team-based project. This course will additionally have 1 midterm exam.Course staff will be available to meet with individuals and groups weekly during the semester, at minimum during the assigned course meeting times (Tuesday/Thursday 10-11:15AM EST).This course requires excellent teamwork and time-management skills. Additionally, because this course has a focus on design, students will be asked to solve complex design problems using different kinds of problem-solving skills than those which are often used in implementation-focused classes.

Course Overview

Human-Computer Interaction design is “design for human use”. Computers are a ubiquitous part of many interactions in our lives, from the mundane everydayness of light switches and “smart” vending machines to entertainment and education to sophisticated instruments and complex energy and defense systems. In this course, we will challenge you to broaden your grasp of what a user interface can and should be, and try your hand at doing better yourself. It is a fast-paced, hands-on, project-based experience that will challenge many of your ideas of what computer science is and can be. It is designed around active lecture sessions supported by readings, working classes, and team projects, where students practice and explore the concepts introduced in lecture, and go well beyond them to learn and apply HCI techniques that build into group projects. More specifically, the course adopts a human-centered design (HCD) approach and teaches a highly iterative process called design thinking. The design thinking process draws heavily on the fundamentals of human-computer interaction (HCI) methods. I also cover design methodologies, evaluation methodologies (both quantitative and qualitative), human information processing, cognition, and perception.

There are several pop quizzes, one midterm exam, deliverables for one semester-long project, and a final demo session to showcase working demos of the projects. We will provide plenty of in-class time and working classes for the students to work on their team projects. No prerequisite is required.

Course Origins
This course was originally developed and taught by Prof. Joanna McGerener and Dr. Leila Aflattony at University of British Columbia  (UBC) as a new course in HCI on the Fundamentals of Designing Interactive Computational Technology for People (DFP).

Survey and research articles will be the primary text for the course, chosen from a collection of readings. There is no textbook required.

University policies and information


Accommodation Statement
The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to providing an equal educational opportunity for all students. If you have a documented physical, psychological, or learning disability on file with Disability Services (DS), you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations to help you succeed in this course. If you have a documented disability that requires an accommodation, please notify me within the first two weeks of the semester so that we may make appropriate arrangements.

Academic Honesty Statement
Since the integrity of the academic enterprise of any institution of higher education requires honesty in scholarship and research, academic honesty is required of all students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Academic dishonesty is prohibited in all programs of the University. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and facilitating dishonesty. Appropriate sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Instructors should take reasonable steps to address academic misconduct. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the appropriate course instructor as soon as possible. Instances of academic dishonesty not related to a specific course should be brought to the attention of the appropriate department Head or Chair. Since students are expected to be familiar with this policy and the commonly accepted standards of academic integrity, ignorance of such standards is not normally sufficient evidence of lack of intent (

Inclusivity Statement
In this course, each voice in the classroom has something of value to contribute. Please take care to respect the different experiences, beliefs, and values expressed by the students, faculty, and staff involved in this course. My colleagues and I support UMass’s commitment to diversity, and welcome individuals regardless of age, background, citizenship, disability, sex, education, ethnicity, family status, gender, gender identity, geographical origin, language, military experience, political views, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and work experience (