Thoughts on the CGT 512 Human Factors of Computer Interface Design

As the semester is coming to an end, now is a great time to exam how I benefit from this course and how can changes benefit future students studying this course.

This course is heavily focused on learning through assignments. The lectures for the most part is either an open discussion of the readings, or a small group in-class group project. I absolutely love having class this way, because I believe at the end of the day it’s not much about what we know, but what we can do with what we know. So in the following paragraphs, I divide in to different kinds of assignments and talk about how I feel about them.

First let’s talk about Research Article Analysis (RAA). Now it is very clear to me that as graduate students, we must be able to read research articles. That’s why courses like CGT 501 and CGT 511 are drilling us to do all the time. However, I don’t see how research articles play an important role in this course. I’m always having trouble finding research articles that I’m interested in. It’s really hard for me to find articles that are closely related to the materials that we learn in this course. I can think of two reasons for that. One is that the methods that we learned in this course are already established years ago, and it’s hard to find articles that are that old. The second one is that the methods and principles that we learned from this course are rarely originated from scholarly research. They are mostly based on experiences and experiments of UX practitioners such as authors of our text books. I managed to find 2 that are related to UR 4 about post-test questionnaires, and that’s it. And 5 total articles are a lot. I would like to see changes on this in the future.


Next let’s talk about Usability Reports (UR). I think having people forming teams doing this is great. It’s a great opportunity to learn not only from the assignments but also our classmates. But I really don’t understand all the intervention that Dr.V put into forming teams. First is the restriction of working with people that you haven’t worked with. And from UR 3 and 4, teams are assigned by Dr.V. I think building dynamics of a team takes time for everyone in the team to buy in. And only when you already get a strong and stable team, can you handle this amount of pressure coming from assignments like UR 3 and 4. We see teams in reality shows collapse all the time, because they are a bunch of strangers randomly put together, and everyone is for themselves. All this fighting and drama in reality shows are not because these people are all bad in nature or the show is scripted. It’s because a lot of things are on the line, and people just have a hard time trusting other people. I think giving people the freedom to choose for themselves definitely helps with this. And I would also recommend especially for UR 3 and UR 4 to have people pitching their ideas in front the class, and have other people choose which team they want to join. I think it’s really really really helpful for people to have something that they all agree on before they start working together. It’s my nightmare to come to a team meeting to have 4 people with 4 drastically different ideas. And my nightmare just gets even worse, when you see one person with multiple drastically different ideas. For people who have worked with me, you may know that I always work more comfortably with my idea. It’s not a matter of “mine is always the best”, but style. I don’t think I’m the only case in this matter. For example, although the groups for the two presentations were changed, you see some styles remained. Some people may be offended by other people’s style, so I think it’s important for people to be able to choose whether they want to be part of it or not.

Blog assignments are a great way of provoking thinking of the things that we’ve learned from this course. I love the idea of having the instructor hand pick the best of the week so we won’t need to follow through all the blogs. But I think there are too many of them. It’s so difficult to have an opinion or an interesting thought on every single thing. And what Dr. V described as “engaging the materials” is just me being lazy. It’s much easier to lead people believe that you’ve put thoughts into something when you opt to argue against it. On the other hand, you don’t have much to say besides repeating and summarizing things if you choose to agree with it. I heard some people get points off for doing that. I feel terribly guilty for not suffering the same punishment. However, if we all deserve to be punished, then it can only be that there is something with the rules. I’ve been following some of the blogs because of this course. And I don’t see them, posting in the speed that we do in our course. If we spread out the posts, it’s like two posts per week. This is kind of insane.



One thought on “Thoughts on the CGT 512 Human Factors of Computer Interface Design

  1. Thank you for sharing your “user” perspective. Let me respond to a few points:

    RAAs – I am surprised you did not use this opportunity to read papers on game usability. The students who use this assignment best do so to either 1) explore different topics they might be interested in or 2) gain in-depth knowledge on a topic. You probably have seen Temi’s series on aesthetics and usability, Deok’s series on personas, or Mike’s series on usability and bioinformatics. I understand that some beginning students may need a bit more help choosing papers for RAAs – but all you have to do is ask me!

    There is a lot of research on teaming and group work in education. From an educator’s perspective, you do not only want a strong team – but you want to expose students to a variety of ideas and working style. Strong teams are usually diverse teams (diverse backgrounds, levels of expertise, gender, etc.). If you let students assemble themselves, birds of a feather flock together. I tried that at the beginning of my teaching career, and while some teams succeeded, others were catastrophic failures. So, I know this makes your life a bit more difficult, but in the long term it is thought-out to be a richer educational experience.

    Agreed that I push the blogging a lot. I know it. I think posting an example and a reading reflection each week is intense, but necessary. If this were not an assignment blog, you would not be required to post as often. I have explained the reasons for that before, so I will not rehash here.

    I need you to know that I put a lot of thought, planning and research in structuring a course. There are no accidental choices. It is interesting to see how you as a student perceive them, and I know you will not like all of them – but I’m glad to explain the thinking behind them if you’re interested.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s