Human-Computer Interaction

CSC 232
Grinnell College
Spring 2011
MW 2:15 - 4:05 p.m., Science 3818
Instructor: Janet Davis (office hours as posted; contact me)


About this course

The field of Human-Computer Interaction addresses two basic questions: How do people interact with computers? How can computer systems enhance rather than detract from the human experience? This course's primary focus is user experience design: methods and principles for the design and evaluation of user interfaces that are useful and usable, reflecting specific goals for how users will experience the system. Students will learn core methods such as user and task analysis, prototyping, and usability testing through exercises and a significant team project. Other topics include key findings from cognitive and social psychology and the social implications of design.

Learning goals

At the end of this course, you should have the following skills and knowledge:
Skills will be practiced both through small investigations with an in-class component and through a semester-long team project.

Non-goals include gaining programming experience and learning specific technologies. (For this reason, you may find this class very different from other computer science classes.)

This course is not a comprehensive introduction to the field. If you are interested in pursuing a career related to HCI, you will find there is still much left to learn.

Is this course for me?


Seriously, this course should be of interest to students who wish to build software or web sites for people to use, manage software projects, study human interactions with technology, or combine interests in computing with interests in psychology, anthropology, or design.

This course will involve relatively little programming. I require CSC 151 as background to ensure some experience with computers' capabilities, along with either more experience programming or experience in a human- or design-centered field. This course is an elective; it does not fulfill any requirements for the CS major.


We will be testing a brand new book in this class: Rex Hartson and Pardha Pyla's UX Book. It will be available as a photocopy from the Grinnell College Bookstore. You will need to buy (or reuse) a three-ring binder to keep it in. More on the first day of class.

Janet Davis (

Created January 17, 2011
Last revised January 20, 2011