C SCI 4600 - First Day Handout
Welcome to C SCI 4600
The Human-Computer Interface

Spring Semester, 2002

Class Meets:	Tue Fri  12:00-1:50 pm  (LOW 3051)

Instructor: Ephraim P. Glinert Office / Phone: Amos Eaton 127 / x-2657
I have 2 e-mail accounts! For simple text use: glinert@cs.rpi.edu For attachments use: ephraim_at_home@hotmail.com
Office hours: Tuesdays, 2:00-4:00 pm Thursdays, 11:00 am-2:00 pm
My general policy is that you are welcome to phone my office or to drop in ANY TIME. On rare occasions, I may ask you to call back or return later if I'm busy.
Course TA: Arvind Venkatesan

Course overview. The objective of this course is to get you thinking seriously about how people communicate with computers, both for input and output, whether in general or for specific applications. In today's world, human-computer interaction (HCI) is heavily influenced by the products and de facto standards developed by Microsoft Corp. But things were not always that way, and even in the Microsoft era there are other key factors at work as well. The World Wide Web has become a dominant force. Small, hand-held devices are playing an increasingly important role for many tasks and applications. New algorithms and hardware are making it possible to exploit multiple human sensory modalities in exciting ways. We will review the rich history of HCI, see what today's state of the art is, and imagine what tomorrow may hold. We will learn basic concepts, explore design issues, and acquire practical experience in evaluating interfaces of various kinds. Throughout the semester, the emphasis will be on learning through watching and doing, rather than on formal lectures.

Course text. The following excellent recent book is REQUIRED:

     $\bullet$   "Web Site Usability: A Designer's Guide" by Jared M. Spool et al.
               Morgan Kaufman Publishers, 1999 (ISBN 1-55860-569-X)

The following brand new book is RECOMMENDED as an outstanding reference and modern overview of the field--worthy of inclusion in your personal library--but it will not be required:

     $\bullet$   "Human-Computer Interaction in the New Millennium" edited by John M. Carroll
               ACM Press/Addison Wesley, 2002 (ISBN 0-201-70447-1)

In addition, we will make use of sources from the scientific literature (especially conference proceedings), and numerous videos, as explained below.

What we will do in class. You will participate in several different types of activities as part of this course. Lectures in the traditional format just don't seem to me to make much sense for this type of material, so we won't have any.



The homework projects. Your grade for the course will be determined, in part, by the classroom activities outlined above. The remainder of the grade will derive from 3-4 homework projects, as time allows, all of which will relate to design, implementation and/or evaluation of web and/or interface resources. The first of these assignments may be found at the end of this handout.

Tests. None will be given.

The course letter grade. Your grade will be computed according to the following simple algorithm:

You get ONE POINT for doing each of the following: So you can get up to FOUR POINTS IN TOTAL.

Your letter grade will then be calculated as follows:
4 POINTS $\longrightarrow$ A     3 POINTS $\longrightarrow$ B     2 POINTS $\longrightarrow$ C     1 POINT $\longrightarrow$ D
Note that PARTICIPATION IN CLASS ACTIVITIES THROUGHOUT THE SEMESTER is key to success! I will be delighted if you all earn 4 points, and thereby get a grade of "A" in the course. But should circumstances arise which you feel warrant special consideration in determining your final grade, please do not hesitate to come discuss them with me. In particular, if you know you will need to miss a class, please let me know in advance!

Approximate course syllabus. The following is intended to give you a good idea of what we will do, especially during the first part of the semester; I will try my best to adhere to the schedule shown, but some deviation may be unavoidable.

$\longrightarrow$ Tue, Jan 15:  Introduction and Course Overview.

$\longrightarrow$ Fri, Jan 19:  Video Lab. "The Machine that Changed the World--Part I" (PBS/ACM). This remarkable documentary chronicles the development of the computer, and affords you a rare opportunity to see and hear some of the people involved talk about the marvelous devices they invented. Pay particular attention to the human-computer interface!

$\longrightarrow$ Tue, Jan 22:  In-class Exercise I.

$\longrightarrow$ Fri, Jan 25:  Video Lab. "The Machine that Changed the World--Part II" (PBS/ACM). The continuation of this documentary chronicles the developments in the computer industry through the end of the 1960's and explains the tie-ins to the space program.

$\longrightarrow$ Tue, Jan 29:
$\longrightarrow$ Tue, Feb 05:
$\longrightarrow$ Tue, Feb 12:
$\longrightarrow$ Tue, Feb 26:
$\longrightarrow$ Tue, Mar 05:  In-class Exercises II-VI   NOTE: No class on Tue, Feb 19, as this has been declared a Monday for scheduling purposes.

$\longrightarrow$ Tue, Mar 12 and Fri, Mar 15:   SPRING BREAK!

$\longrightarrow$ Tue, Mar 19:
$\longrightarrow$ Tue, Mar 26:
$\longrightarrow$ Tue, Apr 02:
$\longrightarrow$ Tue, Apr 09:
$\longrightarrow$ Tue, Apr 16:
$\longrightarrow$ Fri, Apr 19:  Student Presentations from the Scientific Literature.   Talks which should have been on Tue, Apr 23 will instead be given on the preceding Fri, Apr 19, to avoid a scheduling conflict.

$\longrightarrow$ Fri, Feb 01:
$\longrightarrow$ Fri, Feb 08:
$\longrightarrow$ Fri, Feb 15:
$\longrightarrow$ Fri, Feb 22:
$\longrightarrow$ Fri, Mar 01:
$\longrightarrow$ Fri, Mar 08:
$\longrightarrow$ Fri, Mar 22:
$\longrightarrow$ Fri, Apr 05:
$\longrightarrow$ Fri, Apr 12:
$\longrightarrow$ Tue, Apr 23:
$\longrightarrow$ Fri, Apr 26:  Video Labs   NOTE: No class on Fri, Mar 29 due to Passover.   The video lab on Fri, Apr 19 has been moved to the following Tue, Apr 23, due to a scheduling conflict.

$\longrightarrow$ Tue, Apr 30  Course Wrap-Up.

Due: Friday, March 1

Read the text by Spool et al. in its entirety. We want to apply the ideas in the text to the evaluation of two airline web sites, with respect to three tasks which people might reasonably want to perform:

Price a roundtrip ticket between points A and B for given dates.
Price a roundtrip ticket between points A and B for the lowest possible fare, when the travel dates are somewhat flexible.
Price a ticket for a "triangular" (three segment) trip from point A to point B to point C returning to point A.
You choose the two airlines whose web sites you want to check out, subject to the constraint that one must be a major United States carrier (such as American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, Southwest, United, US Airways, etc), whereas the other must be an international carrier (such as Air France, Alitalia, British Airways, El Al, Japan Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, etc). Try to perform each of the three tasks enumerated above in turn, for both sites. Keep records of how long it takes you to complete the tasks (e.g., how many links you have to follow), of what difficulties you encounter (e.g., blind alley from which you need to backtrack), and other relevant information in accordance with the criteria for good web site design discussed in the text. DO NOT ACTUALLY BUY ANY TICKETS, PLEASE!

When done, prepare a written report in which you:

Use MS/Word and other Office tools as needed to prepare your report, then e-mail the report to me by the due date. CAUTION: Be sure to use the correct address when sending me attachments!