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CSC8606 : Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction and UX

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Dave Kirk
  • Owning School: Computing
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The discipline of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) has been developing, and increasing in importance for more than 40 years. HCI knowledge comes from a large academic and industrial research community and underpins an area of professional practice in the tech sector (often referred to as ‘UX’ for User eXperience in industry), which explores how interactive digital systems (across all digital platforms) can be designed to be useful, usable and provide users with an engaging user experience. HCI is a fundamentally cross- and multi-disciplinary field, and over the course of its history various academic disciplines and practices have influenced its approaches to studying people and evaluating how they interact with, understand and use of technology. Equally, it has fundamentally influenced the ways in which we design interactive digital technologies, from command line interfaces, graphical user interfaces (GUIs), through mobile interactions, apps, embedded systems, physical/tangible computing, and on to robotics and AI systems. This module is focused on providing students with a thorough grounding in the development of HCI as a field of study, and its basic principles of human-centred design. Students will learn about the user-centred development lifecycle for digital technologies, and will practice and become familiar with the basic skills of requirements elicitation and usability evaluation.

The aims of this module are:

1.       To introduce students to the field of Human-Computer Interaction, its key concepts, technologies and professional practices.
2.       To provide a survey of the history of HCI and the shifts in how the field has conceptualised and studied Human-Computer Interactions over time.
3.       To provide students with knowledge of different HCI methods for understanding users, stakeholders, contexts and requirements.
4.       To give students practical experience of basic methods for requirements elicitation, interface design and usability evaluation.

Outline Of Syllabus

1.       Intro to module and HCI
2.       UCD Basics, Framing Concepts and the Context for HCI
3.       Evolving Interactive Tech I
4.       Evolving Interactive Tech II
5.       Understanding Users I – Cognition
6.       Understanding Users II – Groups and Teams
7.       Understanding Users III – Turn to Experience
8.       Fieldwork for Design I
9.       Fieldwork for Design II
10.       Usability Evaluation I – Expert Appraisal Methods
11.       GUI/Interface Design Basics
12.       Usability Evaluation II – User Methods
13.       Style Guides
14.       Physical Design and Ergonomics
15.       Prototyping
16.       Personas, Story Boards and Scenarios
17.       Accessibility and Inclusive Design
18.       Service Design
19.       Digital Civics (connected citizens)
20.       Sustainable UX
21.       Slow Computing
22.       Educational Technology
23.       Human-Robot Interaction
24.       Human-Agent Interaction

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion148:0048:00Usability evaluation report
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion148:0048:00Essay on contemporary issues in HCI.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading124:0024:00Directed reading preparation for classes.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops124:0048:00Combination sessions of lecture material and practical activity, Present-in-Person. 2 per week.
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity132:0032:00Skills practice for formative assessment responding to mini design brief
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

As the students will originate from a diverse range of disciplinary backgrounds, the teaching of this module is intended to combine opportunities for introductory reading and learning around the history of human-computer interaction and critical analysis and reflection on how approaches and concepts of human interaction with technology have changed over time.

Students will receive a series of lectures on relevant topics covering the history and development of the field of HCI. They will also be directed to read specific text book chapters and research papers prior to weekly group teaching sessions (held present in person) and will be expected to take an active role in discussing this work. Practical sessions will introduce practical skills for both requirements elicitation and interface testing/usability evaluation. Students will try out these different methods, collecting user data.

Following the end of sessions, students will be expected to write short reflective commentaries on papers they have read and discussed in class to support deep learning, and will be expected to produce lab book notes about the practical skills they have been developing. These notes from both readings and skills practice will be shared in class viewable blogs on the module’s online learning environment.

At the end of the module, students will be assessed on a final essay that requires them to reflect on the development of HCI and contemporary concerns.

Students are expected to spend time studying independently outside of the small group teaching sessions. Independent study will be focused around the students identifying further background literature in HCI of relevance to their specific areas of interest and critical reflection on how methods of studying human behaviour relate to technological contexts and issues of import at specific times in HCI history.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M50Essay on contemporary topics in HCI (2000 words max)
Report1M50Usability evaluation report (2000 words max)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Design/Creative proj1MResponding to practical classes / skills development students will respond in groups to a design brief set in class
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessment has one formative component, and two summative components (equally weighted). The formative component includes group work responding to a design brief and demonstrating practical skills developed in class. The first summative assessment includes an essay – which critically reflects on contemporary issues in HCI. It provides an opportunity to critically reflect on the development of HCI. The second piece of assessment is a formal usability evaluation report, using standard formats for both. This written report gives practical experience of industry standard reporting formats for these kinds of activities and demonstrates competence in the skills evaluated alongside transferable communication skills.

Reading Lists