CSE 556A – Syllabus

CSE 556A: Human Computer Interaction Methods

June 13 – August 5; Tuesdays, Thursdays; 17:30 to 20:00
Last Updated: 06/03/2016

This course is based on material developed by Dr. Caitlin Kelleher.


Kyle J. Harms (AbD). Please address me as just Kyle.
preferred contact: kyle.harms@wustl.edu
Office: Jolley Hall 413
Office Hours: By appointment only.

Course Description

An introduction to user centered design processes. The course covers a variety of HCI techniques for use at different stages in the software development cycle, including techniques that can be used with and without users. Students will gain experience using these techniques through in-class exercises and then apply them in greater depth through a semester long interface development project. Students who enroll in this course are expected to be comfortable with building user interfaces in at least one framework and be willing to learn whatever framework is most appropriate for their project. Over the course of the semester, students will be expected to present their interface evaluation results through written reports and in class presentations.


CSE 132 and at least one additional systems course. However, you should have some experience building user interfaces and the willingness to learn whatever tool is most appropriate for your group project.

Course Goals

This course is designed to introduce tools and methods from Human-Computer Interaction that will enable you to create effective user interfaces. We will cover techniques that can be used at different stages in the software development cycle and techniques that can be used both with and without involving users. We will study how to maximize interface usability and efficiency as well as how to design for, and measure, things like fun and persuasiveness. You will gain experience applying HCI techniques through a group design, development, and evaluation project.

Texts & Reading Material

There are no required textbooks for this course. However, there are required readings. All readings are available for free when accessed from on-campus.

Course Calendar

The course calendar can be found from the course website. It contains links to lecture slides, readings, assignments, and other important details. Please visit it frequently.


Your grade for the course is based on in-class participation, submitting reading summaries, completing a group project, and one exam.

In-Class Participation

We will practice with some HCI techniques in class before you apply them on your own for your project. You are expected to participate and take these in-class exercises seriously. I may ask you to turn in the results of the in class activity for a grade. I will grade these using a check (100%), check-minus (70%), and no credit grading system.

Reading Summaries

On the course calendar you will find readings for most lectures. The readings will cover additional material that I will not cover in lecture. You are required to read the readings before class. This is especially important because you will practice the techniques presented in the readings and in lecture during the in-class exercises.

Before each class you are required to read the readings for that class and submit a 1-2 paragraph summary and a question about the reading. The summaries are due at noon the day of class. You may submit your summary and question from the link on the course calendar. I will grade these using a check (100%), check-minus (70%), and no credit grading system.

Group Project

Everyone will participate in a semester-long HCI design project which will provide an opportunity to use the techniques we cover in class in much greater depth. The design project consists of several parts:

  1. Project Pitch (5%): The project pitches will be done individually. Every class member will pitch an idea for a project and then we will assemble groups based on interest.
  2. Milestone 1 (15%): This milestone focuses on gathering and organizing requirements information from users.
  3. Milestone 2 (15%): This milestone focuses on designing and developing low fidelity prototypes.
  4. Milestone 3 (15%): During this milestone, groups will create a high fidelity prototype
  5. Milestone 4 (15%): In the final milestone, groups will refine their prototypes with additional testing and analysis.

At each of the milestones, groups will be expected to turn in a write-up and/or a prototype as well as make a short presentation to the class. Additionally, each member of the group is required to submit team member ratings for all group members. The group will receive a grade for each milestone. Individual grades will be 60% group grade + 40% individual contribution grade * group grade.

The point of the project milestones is to help you learn the HCI techniques discussed in class to enable you to leverage these skills later. As your instructor, I want you to learn these techniques to the greatest extend possible. If you performed poorly on a milestone, then you may need additional practice using these techniques. You may redo the milestone and request one additional regrade for each of the project milestones. Because accepting critical feedback is one of these techniques, I strongly encourage you to speak with the instructor before redoing a milestone and requesting a regrade. Please note that it is possible, although unlikely, that a regrade may lower your score.

To help ensure a positive group experience, please read these tips. By and large, the design groups tend to do well. To ensure fairness in groups who have a member who really is not contributing fairly, groups can “fire” a group member. Hopefully, we will not need to invoke this. There will be a formal process; contact me for details. Any group member who is fired will be asked to complete an individual design project in place of the group project.


This course will have one comprehensive exam.


Your grade will be based on the following approximate weighted average:

  • In-Class Participation: 5%
  • Reading Summaries: 15%
  • Group Project: 65%
    • Project Pitch: 5%
    • Milestone 1: 15%
    • Milestone 2: 15%
    • Milestone 3: 15%
    • Milestone 4: 15%
  • Exam: 15%

If necessary, this grading system may change.

Late Policy

As a general rule, late work will not be accepted. Special arrangements, either due to emergencies or made well in advance, will be considered on an individual basis.

Disability Resources

If you have a disability that requires an accommodation, please speak with instructor and consult the Disability Resource Center at Cornerstone: http://cornerstone.wustl.edu. Cornerstone staff will determine appropriate accommodations and will work with your instructor to make sure these are available to you.

Academic Integrity

Ethical behavior is an essential component of learning and scholarship. Students are expected to understand, and adhere to, the University’s academic integrity policy: http://wustl.edu/policies/undergraduate-academic-integrity.html. Students who violate this policy will be referred to the Academic Integrity Policy Committee. Penalties for violating the policy will be determined by the Academic Integrity Policy committee, and can include failure of the assignment, failure of the course, suspension or expulsion from the University. If you have any doubts about what constitutes a violation of the Academic Integrity policy, or any other issue related to academic integrity, please ask your instructor.

You are expected to turn in your own work for this class. You may not reuse material from other classes or elsewhere without prior permission from the instructor.


The instructor reserves the right to make modifications to this information throughout the semester.