Special Topic: Human-Computer Interaction

CSC 295
Grinnell College
Spring 2008
TuTh 2:15 - 4:05 p.m., Science 3819
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-centered design: methods and principles for the design and evaluation of user interfaces that are useful and usable rather than frustrating. Students will learn core methods such as user and task analysis, prototyping, and usability testing through laboratory exercises and a significant team project. Other topics include key findings from cognitive and social psychology and the social implications of design.

This course is structured in roughly two parts. Before spring break, our focus will be on the fundamental principles and methods of interaction design. During this time, you'll do a number of investigations to practice using these methods. After spring break, we'll divide our attention between a survey of new (and old) topics in Human-Computer Interaction and the aforementioned project, in which you will evaluate and redesign some significant part of an existing web site.

Learning goals

At the end of this course, you should have the following skills and knowledge:

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 for people to use, manage software projects, consider human interactions with technology, or combine interests in computing with interests in psychology, anthropology, or design.

I require CSC 152 or 153 as background to ensure some experience; however, this course will involve relatively little programming. This course is an elective; it does not fulfill any requirements for the CS major


All of our textbooks are available through the Grinnell College Bookstore, as well as your favorite online booksellers. You can find more information on the resources page.


Janet Davis (davisjan@cs.grinnell.edu)

Created January 9, 2008
Last revised January 21, 2008