CMSC434-0101: Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction-Spring 2019 vibha

CMSC 434: Introduction to Human Computer Interaction (HCI)

Spring 2019, Section 0101

Instructor Vibha Sazawal, PhD
Time Tuesday/Thursday, 12:30 - 1:45 PM
Location NEW ROOM: IRB 1116
Book Cyberpsychology, 2nd edition (Links to an external site.), by Kent Norman. Don't use the first edition. It's too old.
Prereqs Willingness to read, write, and draw a lot. Proficiency in English.
Office Hours Wednesday 10 AM- 12 noon, IRB 1252. Also by appointment.

Head TA: Snehesh Shreshta, snehesh at umd. Office hours: Wed 5-7PM, IRB 4412.

Other TAs:

  • Chethan Parameshwara, cmparam9 at terpmail.umd.


The objective of this course is to explore how humans and computational systems interact.

In the past, the interface between humans and computers was primarily a screen, with possibly additional options for input (keyboard, stylus, mouse, etc). Given these tools, we try to design optimal user experiences (UX), in which people can accomplish their goals using software and hardware products over a period of time.

In the future, the interface between person and computational system will be much broader. Even the line demarcating humans from computational systems itself will blur. Software engineers love to build things, but what exactly are we building and why?

Technology changes extremely rapidly. The details of creating user experiences are subject to fads and trends like other personal accessories. Buttons have rounded edges one day, rectangular edges the next, the appearance of depth the third day, are totally flat on the fourth day, and disappear altogether on the fifth day -- come on, everyone knows you just swipe!

Are there underlying principles that stand the test of time? We will find out.

Topics (Tentative)

1. Introduction to HCI and psychology

2. Brain neural networks and Gestalt principles

3. Activity theory and other theoretical models

4. Usability principles and heuristics, Don Norman, Jakob Nielsen

5. User research and storyboarding

6. Paper prototypes and user testing

7. Virtual reality and the human sensory system

8. Speech based interfaces

9. AI, automation, and robotics

10. Accessibility

11. Security

12. Other topics TBD

Assignments: Homework, Projects, and In-Class Assignments

1. There are occasional homeworks. They are typically due in a week's time.

2. There is one project with three deliverables throughout the semester.

3.  In class, there will be short assignments which you will turn in by the end of the class session. These assignments can occur on any day, so be sure to attend class regularly.

4. Homeworks are completed individually. Projects are completed in groups of three. Your will form your own groups.

5. The lowest homework score will be dropped. Project deliverables and all in-class assignments are mandatory.

6. Late assignments may not be accepted without documentation of an excused absence.

7. Essay questions will be graded according to this rubric. Citations need to be in this format.

8. To request a regrade of your homework, please submit a request in writing to the head TA. It will be evaluated at the end of the semester. When an assignment is regraded, its score may go up, stay the same, or go down.

In-class Activities

1. Please bring a notebook and a writing utensil to class. I recommend that you take notes by hand during class. Typing your notes is not as effective (Links to an external site.). The process of taking notes by hand requires you to digest the material and identify important concepts (which you then write down). It is this cognitive processing step that is so useful -- even if you never review your actual notes again!

2. We will write things in class, draw design sketches, and more.

3. Do not use your devices for non-class work during lecture. It actually ruins the experience for your peers, who paid good money to be here.


The grading breakdown is:

10% Homeworks

30% Project

10% In-class activities

25% Midterm (open notes). March 7th, 2018, during class.

25% Final Exam (open notes). May 18th, 2018, 4PM. IRB 0318 (Gannon Auditorium).

Final grades are in letter format with potentially +/-. There is no curve; it is possible for everyone to get A's. In practice, the cumulative grades posted in ELMS are often slightly different than what I have in my official gradebook, due to dropped homeworks, adjustments for absences, etc. If you have questions about how you are doing in this course, please contact the instructor.

Course Policies

UMD's undergraduate course policies are specified in detail here. You should read this carefully, especially the portions about how to document an excused absence. 

Course Summary:

Date Details Due