MPCS 51260 Human-Computer Interaction (Spring 2024)

Section 1
Instructor(s) Wozniak, Katie (fxx6927)
Location JCL 011
Meeting Times Friday 5:30pm - 7pm
Fulfills Specialization - Application Development (APP-2) Elective


Instructor: Kathryn Wozniak (she/her/hers)
Office Hours: Before/after class and by appointment (please email me to schedule)
Prerequisites: Core Programming
Course Website: Canvas


This course explores the cognitive psychology and physiology behind humans’ interactions with their environment and how this translates to “good design” of computer-based systems, interfaces, and machines. Emphasis is placed on the value of intentionally observing and analyzing the reciprocal relationship between humans and the design of systems in various contexts from a designer or engineer’s perspective. From a practical standpoint, the course addresses the role human-computer interaction (HCI) plays in enhancing the day-to-day human experience and the value of a product to society, while increasing the bottom line for stakeholders. Topics include perception, memory, attention, mental models, accessibility, user/interaction research methods, interface design principles, and design communication strategies.


Learning Objectives

At the end of this class you will be able to:


  • Understand aspects of cognitive psychology and human factors engineering that apply to human-computer interaction (HCI)
  • Identify components and principles of “good” (and bad) interaction design
  • Critically analyze and evaluate human-computer interaction through empirical research methods
  • Design mockups, prototypes, or revisions of interactive systems by applying HCI principles
  • Develop strategies for communicating design, usability, and interactivity


Course Components


Class Attendance

Weekly attendance is required. Failure to attend class on a regular basis could result in a failing grade in the course. If time of the class sessions will not work for you to attend, you should not take this class. If you miss more than two class sessions during the quarter, please reach out to to discuss options for a leave of absence or withdrawal from the course.


Participation: Discussion, Peer Review, Hot Topics

Sharing ideas, insights, and questions in response to the readings, lectures, and demos throughout the course is welcomed and highly encouraged in class and in the discussion channel. Additionally, you are required to find and read at least two articles beyond the course readings on an HCI “hot topic” and share a summary and reflection on those articles by the end of the course. You will also be expected to share your work and provide constructive feedback on others’ work throughout the course through an informal peer review process guided by the professor.


Lectures & Demos

Lectures and demos will prepare you for assignments each week. Lectures will cover relevant topics as listed in the schedule and will include interactive and conversational activities. Demos will provide hands-on demonstrations in class on how to use design tools.



Weekly quizzes, aka “knowledge checks,” will help you to check your comprehension of theories, principles, and applications covered in the readings and lectures.



Four assignments throughout the course (interaction analysis/heuristic review and report, website/system/program/app mockup and prototype, design evaluation and report, re/design and demo) build up to one culminating final report and presentation, which will demonstrate your ability to apply the course principles and topics to an authentic human-computer interaction scenario of your choice. You will identify and work with a team of 2-4 classmates for the project (all group members must collaborate on all assignments); one team member should notify the professor via email of your team’s members and team name by Week 2. Everyone will receive feedback from the professor and fellow students on each assignment along the way so that they may improve their deliverables for the final report and presentation.






25% Class Participation & Peer Review (Exit Tickets)

10% Quizzes

65% Project Assignments (10% analysis, 10% mockup/prototype, 10% evaluation, 10% redesign, 25% final report and presentation)

Late Assignments


You can submit up to 2 late quizzes and 1 late assignment within 3 days (72 hours) of the original deadline without penalty. Otherwise, the penalty is 5 points per day late. Requests for longer extensions should be submitted to the professor within 24 hrs of the original deadline with an explanation and proposed deadline for the late work. Failure to submit assignments and quizzes on time could result in a failing grade in the course. If you miss more than three deadlines during the quarter, please reach out to to discuss options for a leave of absence or withdrawal from the course.


Academic Honesty





We will discuss a variety of tools for creating mockups and prototypes and analyzing user interactions. Some are free for educational use and some have a free trial. You are not required to purchase any of these nor will we go into great depth on the features of each. However, you will be required to use at least one of these tools for the course project, so exploration and self-directed learning is encouraged. Additional resources and links to online tutorials will be provided on Canvas.

    • Mockup and prototyping tools: Balsamiq, Sketch, Figma, InVision
    • User interaction/testing tools: Morae, UserZoom, Tobii, Gaze




Course Content & Schedule

Slight modifications to schedule and assignments may occur as the quarter progresses.


Week 1: Introduction to HCI

  • Lecture: What makes a chair good for sitting? Humans, environments, interactions
  • Class Activities: Introductions, personal audit of interactions against universal design principles
  • Due end of Week 1:
    • Week 1 Readings
    • Quiz 1
    • Form teams of 2-4 for course project


Week 2: HCI Research Methods Part 1

  • Lecture: Methods for observing HCI in the wild
  • Class Activities: Demo - interaction observation, usability heuristic review
  • Due end of Week 2:
    • Week 2 Readings
    • Quiz 2
    • Confirm project team member names and team name on Canvas
    • Begin work on Assignment 1


Week 3: Cognition Overview

  • Lecture: The magical flawed brain meets the beautiful flawed interface
  • Class Activities: Demo - usability heuristic review
  • Due end of Week 3:
    • Week 3 Readings
    • Quiz 3
    • Assignment 1: Heuristic Evaluation Report or Observation Analysis Report


Week 4: Perception and Accessibility

  • Lecture: Sense and sensibility: Engineering experiences for the 5 senses
  • Class Activities: Peer Review Assignment 1, Case studies – Siemens VR, Disney World
  • Due end of Week 4:
    • Week 4 Readings
    • Quiz 4
    • Assignment 2: Part 1 - Design mockup


Week 5: Memory and Attention

  • Lecture: “Squirrel!” - Distractions, addictions, and our mental models
  • Class Activities: Case study – Social media of your choice; Demo – mockup and prototype tools
  • Due end of Week 5:
    • Week 5 Readings
    • Quiz 5
    • Assignment 2: Part 2 - Design prototype/revision


Week 6: Errors and Recovery

  • Lecture: My recovery journey with recommender systems since 2001
  • Class Activities: Case studies – Netflix, Stitch Fix, Teamwork/lab time
  • Due end of Week 6:
    • Week 6 Readings
    • Quiz 6
    • Assignment 2: Part 3 - Design demo and presentation


Week 7: HCI Research Methods: Part 2

  • Lecture: Usability testing: From the wild to the lab
  • Class Activities: Peer Review Assignment 2; Demo of usability testing tools/process
  • Due end of Week 7:
    • Week 7 Readings
    • Quiz 7
    • Begin work on Assignment 3: Evaluation (user testing) report


Week 8: Communicating with Stakeholders about HCI, Part 1

  • Lecture: Tufte, personas, and why we like stories
  • Class Activities: Teamwork/lab time
  • Due end of Week 8:
    • Week 8 Readings
    • Quiz 8
    • Assignment 3: Evaluation (user testing) report


Week 9: Communicating with Stakeholders about HCI, Part 2

  • Lecture: TED Talks, Pecha Kucha, and Crucial Conversations
  • Class Activities: Peer Review Assignment 3
  • Due end of Week 9:
    • Week 9 Readings
    • Quiz 9
    • Assignment 4: Re-design and revision


Week 10: Bringing It Together

  • Due Friday of Week 10:
    • Final Project Report and Presentation
    • Hot Topics in HCI, ACM SIGCHI (Discussion)

Course Prerequisites

Core Programming

Other Prerequisites

This course requires competency in Unix and Linux. If you attended the MPCS Unix Bootcamp you covered the required material. If you did not, please review the UChicago CS Student Resource Guide here:

Overlapping Classes

This class is scheduled at a time that conflicts with these other classes:

  • MPCS 52553-1 -- Web Development

Eligible Programs

MS in Computational Analysis in Public Policy (Year 2) MS in Molecular Engineering MA in Computational Social Science (Year 2) Bx/MS in Computer Science (Option 2: Professionally-oriented - CS Majors) Bx/MS in Computer Science (Option 3: Profesionally-oriented - Non-CS Majors) Masters Program in Computer Science