Notes for teachers


Resources available to support teachers using the Human--Computer Interaction as a core course text comprise:

We have tried to design the book and additional material to be flexible and to support effective teaching of HCI. Obviously in any such venture there is room for improvement. We therefore welcome comments on both the book and supporting materials which will allow us to improve future editions. We are particularly keen to hear suggestions for material that you would find useful and we have not included; and, conversely, to know if we have included anything which you do not find useful. Please mail with your comments.

Course structure

Human--Computer Interaction is a subject that by definition is practical and lends itself well to novel teaching methods. We intend that the book and additional materials be able to support both traditional lecture-style courses and those based mainly on project work.

In either case we strongly recommend that students be given the opportunity to do some practical work, both in experimenting with and evaluating available existing systems and in designing their own interfaces. HCI cannot be taught exclusively through lectures and books and requires some 'hands-on' experience.

The exercises and projects offer examples of the types of work that can be used to provide such experience. As far as possible we have not assumed the availability of any particular resource so that teachers can adapt exrcise to their own situation. However, if possible, we suggest that all students be given the chance to experiment with both graphical and command-based applications, and to use a prototyping system such as Hypercard or Visual Basic. These allow students to develop their own mock-up interfaces. If such tools are unavailable, drawing packages can be used to design individual screens but have the disadvantage of being static.

For a traditional lecture-based course we suggest the use of the overhead projector slides (selectively if necessary), backed up by related reading and exercises from the book and at least one practical design project. If possible, other practicals can be included as well. The design project should encourage students to use the modelling approaches and to evaluate their design.

A project-based course can be designed primarily around the exercises, with suggested recommended related reading. Such a course demands a certain amount of commitment from students and may therefore be best suited for option courses and other advanced courses where the students are motivated towards HCI.

Obviously, the choice of exercises and projects will depend largely on the resources and time available. Some of the exercises in the book involve research, others observation or practical application, so that you can develop a balanced programme to suit your own requirements.

At least one design project should be attempted. Depending on time, this can be done instead some exercises, or as an additional end of term project. Projects 2 and 3 provide most scope for incorporating different aspects of the course.

An additional resource which we recommend to aid course design is the SIGCHI Curriculum Development Group's report [6]. This provides suggestions for curricula for different groups of students and for different purposes. Human--Computer Interaction covers most of the material outlined in the SIGCHI report and can be adapted for use with most of their suggested curricula.

Exercises and projects

The exercises provided in the book are of three main types: those that require factual answers (some of which may require additional reading or research), those that provide practice in using the techniques described, and those that encourage students to observe and evaluate existing designs. Consequently the exercise solutions also differ. For factual questions pointers are given to enable the teacher to guide the student in the right direction.

However, students may in the process of their research uncover additional information on a subject and this should be encouraged. In the case of practice questions example solutions are given. Again variations on these are sometimes possible (individual solutions indicate this) but the solution given here can be provided to the student as an example solution.

Observational exercises are usually small practical projects which require the student to interact with an application or watch someone else do so. Here the solutions suggest factors that the student should consider in the observation and hints to the teacher as to how to best encourage effective use of such exercises.

Some exercises refer to sections or diagrams in the book itself - these follow the same notation as the book; diagrams internal to the exercise solutions have their own notation. Thus Figure 8.1 refers to the first figure in Chapter 8, whereas Figure Ex8.1.1 is the first figure in the example solution to Exercise 8.1.

The three additional design projects are more extensive than any of the exercises and can be used as end of term projects or assessments. They are not included in the book itself for this reason.

They require knowledge of more than one aspect of design and are intended to demonstrate how the different stages of design fit together. Each project is described in full, together with any support material, and hints to the teacher on how to use the projects are given. These projects can be reproduced for the purposes of teaching on courses where the core text is Human--Computer Interaction.

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