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Department of Information Science and Telecommunications


INFSCI 2470 - Interactive System Design

(Spring 2004, CRN 18704)

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Syllabus and Schedule

Course Objectives

The goal of this course is to acquaint you with principles and techniques of interactive system design and to help you develop a number of critical scills that will enable you to be employed in the area of user interface design and evaluaton. In particular, we expect every student

  1. to build a connection between student knolwedge on human information processing and interactive system design practice
  2. to understand the goals, problems and structure of interactive system design process
  3. to analyse major interface paradigms
  4. to learn and apply techniques for task analysis and user analysis
  5. to learn principles and gain practical skills of user interface evaluation
  6. to develop an aquaintance with modern GUI and Internet programming techniques
  7. to gain experience in the design and evaluation of practical user interfaces

Upon satisfactory completion of this course, students will:

Course Overview: Motivation and Content

Interactive System Design (ISD) is an integral part of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) curriculum. Human Computer Interaction is an important part of Informatics (this is the world often used to cover all science fields related with computers and information processing). HCI is taught at many Computer Science, Information Science and similar departments.

ISD is one of the few core HCI courses that stand on the crossroads of cognitive science courses, computer-programming courses, and advanced system courses. Cognitive science courses such as human information processing or human factors teach you about humans and human side of information systems. System courses teach you about advanced information systems and their technical side. Programming courses give you skills to develop programming artifacts. Core HCI courses bring all that together by teaching you about human-computer interfaces - interactive side of information systems, the side that connects humans with technology.

A course on interactive system design is probably the most important of all core HCI courses. It is supposed to teach how to professionally design and evaluate usable interactive systems. This course has its roots in cognitive science courses and connects to other core HCI courses such as Introduction to HCI or interface development tools.

A graduate degree on human-computer interaction may feature two to four core HCI courses. In this context an ISD course usually concentrates solely on theories, principles, and methodologies of interface design and evaluation. In the context of a broader Information Science degree, ISD is the only core HCI course. In this context, your instructor feels it necessary to extend the traditional content of an ISD course with knowledge that are typically presented in an introductory HCI course (a review of major kinds of interfaces, an introduction to the future generation of HCI). In addition, the instructor will allocate some lecture time to build a bridge between this course, your knowledge of human information processing, and you programming skills.

As you can see from the picture below, the core part of IS2470 course is devoted to the process of design and evaluation of interactive systems, This part will combine teaching fundamental knowledge with teaching some applied skills that will help you in a variety of different careers - from software developer to usability engineer. A smaller part of the course will present a concise overview of human-computer interfaces. The goal of this part is to make you aware about a range of interfaces that can be a target of your design efforts right now and to prepare you to face the new generation of interfaces. The course also provides a brief overview of human information processing issues in the context of interactive system design and a small practical section on developing several kinds of interfaces with Java programming language.

Course Work and Grading

Components of the Final Grade

Course assessment includes a number of individual and group assignments and three group projects. Each assignment and project bears certain number of points. The instructor also reserves the right to administer unannounced quizzes for up to 5 points each if he feels that the students are not pursuing a resonable amount of assigned reading. Your final grade depends on the percentage of points you have earned. Score < 50% corresponds to F, 50-62.5 is D range, 65.5-75 is C range, 75-87.5 is B range, and 87.5-100 is A range.

Assignments and Projects

This is the list of assignments and projecrs you are expected to perform. Group activitues 3-5 are performed in pairs. Group projects 7-9 are performed in groups of of 3-4 students. Every group will have an assigned leader. At the end of the project the leader is expected to evaluate the contribution of each group members. Project grade will be scaled according to individual contributions.
  1. Individual Homework 1: CourseWeb (5pt)
  2. Individual Homework 2: Java Graphics (10pt)
  3. Group Homework 3: Servlets and forms (10pt)
  4. Group Homework 4: GUI programming (15pt)
  5. Group Lecture Summary Project(10 pt)
  6. Two Individual Reading Projects (10 pt each)
  7. Group Interface Evaluation Project (20pt)
  8. Group User Studies, Task Analysis, and Design (USTAD) Project (25pt)
  9. Group Final Project (50pt)

Extra Credit Points

You can earn extra credit points for several things such as asking a good question in class or in a discussion forum, providing a helpful answer in a discussion forum, helping during the lecture, finding errors in slides and examples.

Submitting and Naming

All assignments and projects has to be submitted in paper form on the due date before or after the lecture. In addition, the electronic version of the assigment has to be submitted electronically using Blackboard system at any time by or on the due date (your submissions are time stamped). Naming conditions for electronic submissions are strict. The link should be named exactly as the assigment itself (see the list above). You will lose 1/2 point for every misnamed link. Group works should be submitted by the group leader. All submitted work should bear the number of the assignment/quiz and the authors' name in printed form. By submitting work under your name, you are indicating that you have completed the assignment.

Course Policies

Academic Integrity

You are expected to be fully aware of your responsibility to maintain a high quality of integrity in all of your work. All work must be your own, unless collaboration is specifically and explicitly permitted as in the course group project. Any unauthorized collaboration or copying will at minimum result in no credit for the affected assignment and may be subject to further action under the University Guidelines for Academic Integrity. You are expected to have read and understood these Guidelines. A document discussing these guidelines was included in your orientation materials.


Class attendance, while not mandatory, is required if you want to succeed in this course. While about 3/4 of the material covered by the lectures could be found in the Course Books, some material is not sufficiently covered by the books. Finally, many lectures include demonstrations and videos. If you have missed the lecture, make sure you have a copy of the slides. Spare copies can be picked up from a folder near the instructor's office or printed from the Web.

Late Submissions

Homework or projects submitted after due date will be accepted, but your objective grade will be scaled so that you lose 2% of the grade for every late day. I.e., if you will submit your work one week late, you will lose 14% of the grade. Note also that part of the grade for Evaluation and Final projects have a portion for presentation of the project. If you will fail to present your project on due date, you will lose these points.

Special Considerations

If you have a disability that requires special testing accommodations or other classroom modifications, please, notify both the instructor and Disability Resources and Services by the second week of the term. You may be asked to provide documentation of your disability to determine the appropriateness of accommodations. To notify Disability Resources and Services, call 64807890 (voice or TDD) to schedule and appointment. The office is located in the William Pitt Union, Room 216,

Course Schedule

Tuesday January 6

Lecture 1
Homework 1 issued
Summarization project issued

Tuesday January 13

Lecture 2
Homework 2 issued
USTAD project issued

Homework 1 due
Tuesday January 20

Lecture 3
Homework 3 issued
Reading project issued

Homework 2 due
Tuesday January 27

Lecture 4
USTAD Brainstorming session

USTAD 1st stage due
Tuesday February 3

Lecture 5
Homework 4 issued

Homework 3 due (2 days after L5!)
Tuesday February 10 Lecture 6
USTAD task analysis presentation
USTAD 2nd stage due
Tuesday February 17

Lecture 7
Design presentation for Homework 4
Final project issued

Tuesday February 24

Lecture 8
Evaluation project issued
USTAD design presentation

Homework 4 due

Tuesday March 2

Lecture 9

USTAD project due
Tuesday March 9 Spring Break
Tuesday March 16 Lecture 10 First paper summary due
Tuesday March 23 Evaluation project presentation Evaluation project due
Tuesday March 30 Lecture 11
Tuesday April 6 Lecture 12 Second paper summary due
Tuesday April 13 Project meetings  
Tuesday April 20 Final project presentations Final project due

Copyright © 2004 Peter Brusilovsky