Three (3) credits will be given in award of the successful completion of this course.
To adapt Ranganathan: information is for use. But nowadays people interact with that information via many and various types of technologies such as computers, smart phones, and tablets. Often these use online, 'cloud', or networked software of one kind or another, including web sites. At some point the User meets the information and that is at the interface between humans and computers. The academic discipline of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) studies exactly this interface.
This course offers instruction in a) the User Interface in Information Systems, b) Human Computer Interaction, and c) the design and evaluation of 'information' interfaces.
When looking at HCI, four considerations, and their interactions, are prominent
- Human capabilities. These include physical and cognitive issues: what folk can do with their hands, eyes, and brains. Humans are highly variable, and have cognitive strengths and weaknesses (for example, humans have poor memories yet good abilities to recognize patterns in a visual scene).
- The technical features of the computing machines. Principally what the computer presents, and receives by way of input and output; and the style of the interaction between the User and the computer. For example, an older computer might be able to take input only from a keyboard, and give output only to a printer—in which case, human-computer interaction would be similar to a dialog or conversation (these days the possibilities are far richer with, for example, mice, or touchscreens, for input and sophisticated visual displays for output).
- The tasks being undertaken. For example, there is a world of difference between typing in a document for word processing, and producing some architectural drawings using a CAD/CAM package. Additionally, a modern trend is that of moving from the single user—single interface to group working (think about Facebook and Twitter) and multitasking.
- The environment. What is the work, or task, setting? What are its physical and socio-cultural characteristics? (For example, it is unwise to use sound input or output in a noisy setting; another example, it is unwise to expect children to spell keywords perfectly for a Search in an Online Public Access Catalog in a library.)
The academic backdrop to HCI
HCI is concerned with the design, evaluation, and implementation of interactive computer systems and study of major phenomena surrounding their use. Many academic disciplines—including cognitive psychology, social psychology, organizational psychology, computer science, ergonomics, linguistics, artificial intelligence, philosophy, sociology, and anthropology—have a role to play in the theories behind HCI and interface design.
Web Site, and Information Access, design
Information interface design augments HCI—it applies and extends the principles of HCI in a special case. To make a rough and ready distinction. Plain stand alone computers tend to calculate what they offer, whereas web sites, or information access gates or portals, are part of a network or networks and tend to retrieve information that they, or others, already have and to offer that. So the design of infomation access artefacts can put an emphasis on the organization of information, on information architecture (IA), and the management of information. The design of information access artefacts brings into play traditional library science skills.
How this course will be taught
This is an online course taught virtually at a distance using the Web. The course is conceived of as discussions on 15 (or so) topics. A lecture course in the University of Arizona amounts to 37 1/2 hours of instruction spread through a semester. Our 'discussions' will be the virtual counterpart of 15 (or so) two and a half hour lectures, delivered at a rate of one topic a week. There will be notes, readings, videos, discussion groups, chat, video conferencing, and (of course) assignments.
The course has a start date and an end date, and the class as a whole will move through the course as a cohort together. The primary means of introducing the scholarly material will be Notes. These are going to be posted one at a time steadily through the session, keeping the whole class moving forward through the material. There are 15 plus sets of Notes, and these normally will be delivered at a rate of one set a week (usually with one part put up on a Tuesday and another part on a Friday). There will be assignments, with due dates, and formal discussions, and these will serve to check progress. There also will be readings or references to be followed up on the Web.
Most of the interactions will be asynchronous. That is, students can log on whenever they wish, and read material and post replies on timetables that suits their individual needs. A student will typically need to log on about 5 times a week. (An analog here is email—most folk check their email at least five times a week.)
d2l (desire to learn) is used as the instructional and course management environment. Students who enrol in the course will be given an account. They will be able to log in to their account via the d2l Portal.
d2l is going to be supplemented with Google Hangouts (students should establish a Google+ account) and also NoteBowl. NoteBowl is an initiative/startup created by former University of Arizona students, and it is being trialed in this class and elsewhere in the University. Students will be given a Notebowl account through https://notebowl.arizona.edu. Notebowl will be used in conjunction with Hangouts
Students are expected to log on reasonably regularly, to read and study the Notes and references, to participate in the online discussions, to interact by email (and other means) with their fellow students, to write (or otherwise answer) the assignments, to download and upload files (this will be taught), and to carry out various other activities. It is hard to anticipate accurately how much time all these course related activities will take in total (and such a figure would vary from student to student and from week to week), but, seven hours a week is a rough order of magnitude estimate.
The course will start in earnest a few days after the start of the semester. The d2l software can detect when students log on, and when most of the students have shown that the are present by logging on, the Instructor will get the course underway.