Human-Computer Interaction (Spring 2021 – HCI 4317)


Hello class!

Hope you are all doing great. As you know, classes officially begin on Tuesday January 17th.  We will have two live classes per week, Tuesdays from 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm and Thursdays from 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm.

You are not required to use a webcam (but if you can and are willing to please do so as much as possible), and using a microphone is optional (just please ask in the chat or use the “raise hand” feature before using it), chat is encouraged. I read, answer, and explain as I go, and participation through any of this forms and through the discussion forums is graded.

All live classes, including public chat messages will be recorded as well and be accessible to everyone via Blackboard Collaborate a few hours after the session.

There will be a lot of video lectures as the class has a lot of material to cover, but rest assured, they will be engaging, entertaining, interactive, and divided into short, accessible subtopics.

All assignments will be up and available early in the semester, you can peek ahead and submit them at any time. Some of these assignments may take between 4+ hours to complete, so plan in advance. 

To learn how to use Blackboard Collaborate check the following video, you can find it under the tools section:

Please note that for full features it is recommended to take these sessions in a laptop or desktop and not on a mobile device as some screen sharing features may not work properly. Also note that Blackboard recommends using Google Chrome as your web browser.

You will be able to find the class recordings inside Blackboard Collaborate, at the top left hamburger menu.


The goal of this course is to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to create highly usable software systems. The course covers human perception, ergonomics, cognition and psychology, task analysis, user interface design, interface programming, and system evaluation among other topics. This course is based on a similar course previously offered by my friend and mentor Dr. Nigel Ward.


Spring 2021
CRN 26336
Book: Designing the User Interface, 6th Edition.  BenShneiderman, Catherine Plaisant, et al.,


Participation and Quizzes20%

Class Schedule

Topic Notes
Course Overview Why? Historical perspective and possible futures
Observing UsersGOMS, KLM & usability studies
EvaluationCognitive walkthroughs, heuristic evals.
Task AnalysisTask decomposition, observation
User-Centered DesignUsability engineering
Interaction StyleMetaphors and direct manipulation
PrototypingLow fidelity prototyping
Perception and PresentationColor, typography, layout
VisualizationDesign and information visualization
Interface ImplementationEvents, handlers, MVC design pattern, responsiveness
Mixed RealityInput devices, ergonomics, device design, latest tech
StandardsWeb, mobile, multimodal, speech, games, etc.
Final ReviewTBA
Final ExamTBA

Important Dates

  • Midterm:
  • Final:




Links lead to the project rubric and description. They should all be submitted through Blackboard in their appropriate sections.

Class Guidelines

  1. No late assignments will be accepted. Please turn in assignments as-is before the deadlines to prevent a cascading effect where you are never able to catch up. Any grade is better than no grade.
  2. The midterm and final exams are open book, open notes, and you can use the internet to search for information, however, you cannot communicate with your classmates or anyone else in any way (online or otherwise).
  3. Projects will be graded according to the rubric. Read the rubric!
  4. Projects will only be graded if they are submitted through Blackboard on time.

Contact and Office Hours

Email: Send them to my UTEP email with the exact header CS4317-FirstName-LastName. Emails are automatically filtered, not adhering to this syntax may cause your email to be lost in my inbox or a delayed response.

Office hours: Mondays and Wednesday 3pm – 4pm via Blackboard Collaborate, or by appointment. Please schedule your office hours on Blackboard to prevent conflicts with other students. I will not have a session open until someone requests it via email.

Target Learning Outcomes

Level 3 (Outcomes in which the student can apply the material in new situations. This is the highest level of mastery.) Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to …


3a1. Evaluate user interfaces and detect usability problems by doing usability studies (observations) with human subjects

3a2. Visualize/simulate how a user would understand and attempt to use an interface using an analytical method such as the cognitive walkthrough

3a3. Find likely usability issues quickly using heuristic evaluation

3a4. Communicate usability findings and concerns both in writing and orally


3b1. Break down a complex activity sequence into its component actions using hierarchical task decomposition

3b2. Assign functions appropriately to the human and to the machine

3b3. Break down a graphical user interface (GUI) activity sequence into the component actions, identify these actions, and use the GOMS keystroke-level model to estimate the time required

Interface Design

3c1. Choose an appropriate interaction style for a given need (GUI, command-line, natural language, etc.)

3c2. Choose appropriate widgets for a GUI

3c3. Come up with a suitable layout of widgets and display elements for a GUI window

3c4. Convey a proposed design with a low-fidelity prototype

3c5. Develop high-fidelity prototypes using at least one development tool


3d1. Be able to implement simple widget-based GUIs both for desktop applications and for the Web

3d2. Be able to write handlers for user input events in at least one language

3d3. Be able to use simple 2D graphics in at least one language

Level 2 (Outcomes in which the student can apply the material in familiar situations, e.g., can work a problem of familiar structure with minor changes in the details.) Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to …

2a. Decompose a complex interactive system into simpler components, using appropriate design patterns including client-server and model-view-controller

2b. Convey a software design with diagrams and words

2c. Select and combine appropriate colors, fonts, and layouts for a specific information-presentation need

2d. Develop a suitable organization and navigation scheme for a moderate-sized Website

2e. Select an appropriate hardware input device, for a given task and user population, from among various text entry, pointing and drawing devices

2f. Select an appropriate hardware output device for a given task and user population

2g. Perform a comprehensive task analysis, including ethnographic observation and use case development, for a single-user task of moderate complexity

Level 1 (Outcomes in which the student has been exposed to the terms and concepts at a basic level

and can supply basic definitions. The material has been presented only at a superficial level.) Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to …

1a. Explain how interface design is ultimately dependent on human perception and cognition

1b. Explain the role of well-designed, usable interfaces in market success, reliability, and accessibility

1c. Explain the roles of HCI professionals and practitioners of related disciplines in the workplace

1d. Explain the role of systems software, distributed systems design, and GUI program efficiency in achieving acceptable system response times

1e. Explain how much trust can be placed in the various types of knowledge that HCI practitioners commonly deal with, for example facts established by controlled experiments, theoretical models such as Fitts’ Law, guidelines, analysis methods, heuristics, and hunches

1f. Specify the desired behavior of an interface or interface component with a state-transition diagram


If you feel you may require special accommodations for any reason, please contact the Center for Accommodations and Support Services (CASS) at 747-5148, go to Union Bldg., East, Room 106, or e-mail

Blackboard  Course content is delivered via the Internet through the Blackboard learning management system. Ensure your UTEP e-mail account is working and that you have access to the Web and a stable web browser. Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are the best browsers for Blackboard; other browsers may cause complications. When having technical difficulties, update your browser, clear your cache, or try switching to another browser. The UTEP Helpdesk can help if you have problems.

Equipment  For online sessions, besides your computer/laptop you can optionally use a webcam and/or microphone. You will need a scanner or camera (even phone cameras) in order to upload images of hand-drawn designs and solutions. Images must be uploaded in Windows readable formats (.jpg / .png)

Copyright  Course materials, recordings, and Blackboard postings are private, and should not be reposted to any publicly accessible website etc.

Covid-19  Although the class is fully online, UTEP’s COVID guidelines are provided for reference. You must STAY AT HOME and REPORT if you (1) have been diagnosed with COVID-19, (2) are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or (3) have had recent contact with a person who has received a positive coronavirus test.  Reports should be made at  If you know of anyone who should report any of these three criteria, you should encourage them to report.  If the individual cannot report, you can report on their behalf by sending an email to

For each day that you attend campus—for any reason—you must complete the questions on the UTEP screening website ( prior to arriving on campus.  The website will verify if you are permitted to come to campus.  Under no circumstances should anyone come to class when feeling ill or exhibiting any of the known COVID-19 symptoms. 

Wear face coverings when in common areas of campus or when others are present.  You must wear a face covering over your nose and mouth at all times in this class.  If you choose not to wear a face covering, you may not enter the classroom.  If you remove your face covering, you will be asked to put it on or leave the classroom.  Students who refuse to wear a face covering and follow preventive COVID-19 guidelines will be dismissed from the class and will be subject to disciplinary action according to Section 1.2.3 Health and Safety and Section Disruptions in the UTEP Handbook of Operating Procedures.  If unable to wear a face covering (e.g., medical reasons), the best course of action is to take the online option.  

You are encouraged to complete Covid training at .  · Contact instructor if temporary accommodations due to COVID-19 are needed (i.e., due to positive COVID-19 test, symptoms, or exposure). · Maintain 6 feet of separation at all times, including when talking with other students. · Follow signage indicating specific entry and exit doors and pathways. · Do not cluster in groups and keep hallways open. · Wash hands and/or apply hand sanitizer prior to entering classroom and after leaving a classroom. Do not touch face until after hands are washed/sanitized. · Use an alcohol wipe, provided outside of classrooms, to sanitize the desk, chair, or table. · Follow faculty protocols for leaving and re-entering the classroom.


Find links to additional relevant course materials here.