HCI Ed 2012Exchanging Practice

HCI Educators Workshop


The 2013 Educators’ workshop continues the work of addressing the on-going challenges facing teachers, trainers and education researchers. In this edition of the workshop we aim to take on three main tasks


Since the first attempt at defining an HCI Curriculum (Hewett 1992) there have been many articles and workshops on HCI Education. Hewett presented a variety of curricula to be adopted in the different education contexts of the time; mainly in the fields of Computer Science, Psychology and Information and Management Science, with an emphasis on usability modelling and evaluations. In the 20 years since Hewett HCI has exploded: the desktop no long predominates, commercial computing is no the main context of operation. Instead, interaction is everywhere, touch interfaces predominate and social and entertainment markets are at least as important as the commercial arena for HCI researchers and practitioners. Of course these developments have posed challenges to teachers of HCI, as we strive to educate the next generation of HCI researchers and practitioners. There has also been a consequent explosion of HCI courses and programmers. Whereas in Hewett’s time HCI was taught in a limited range of institutions and departments, it is now established as a core discipline in Computer Science and Psychology, and become included in other fields, such as sociology, new media, design and fine art. Each of these areas has their own take on HCI education.

2.1 Curriculum Updating 

HCI is a challenging and rewarding area both because of and due to the continuing technological developments that take place. It is rewarding to investigate new technological solutions and improve the general quality of interaction; it is challenging for the same reasons. The methods we develop for one set of technologies and contexts do always survive intact when applied elsewhere. As a discipline with engineering roots we face the challenge of developing techniques that have more general applicability and rigor. We would like to imbue our students with the necessary skills and knowledge to face the challenges of their futures. However, we cannot predict exactly what those challenges might be. Perhaps the best we can achieve is to instill a focus on user involvement and engagement in the development process, with which the future student can adapt the tools and techniques of their era, to apply to the problem contexts and technologies of their era. So the central curriculum development challenge is how to recognise what to keep from our growing band of knowledge, and what to throw away. Do topics like task analysis, planning and usability testing have a currency for the next generation of students, especially those in the new areas of HCI research and application? At a more philosophical level we also face the challenge of situated action as posed by (Suchman 2006). If a planning or analysis approach has no value beyond its current context of investigation, how do we prepare students to design for situated action? Particularly as the main HCI conference addresses “The Internet of Things”, how does an HCI curriculum prepare students for scenarios where any object, anywhere can be interactive? Churchill et al (2013) address some of these topics, looking for example at,

From their discussion we might propose a range of generic skills that should be part of any HCI curriculum, namely

Each of these generic topics would be seen through the discipline lens and the technical lens of the home discipline and technical focus respectively.

So whist there is no “one size fits all” HCI curriculum, there are a range of topics, filters and parameters from which one can develop an HCI curriculum appropriate to one’s needs and context.

2.2 Case Studies of Good Practice

Case studies of good practice in HCI teaching have proved a valuable resource in past workshops. Fincher and Findlay (2008) helped developed the HCI Disciplinary commons a repository of good practice. They collected portfolios of people’s teaching, updated with retrospectives from authors in 2010. McEwan and Knight developed the UXCF workshops to examine the competencies that industry looks for in HCI professionals. Again this is a valuable resource for HCI teachers seeking to align their teaching with actual practice. So, whereas Churchill et al identify tensions around programming or not programming for HCI courses, McEwan and Knight identify prototyping as a more specific and relevant skill, and one that also cross discipline boundaries.

Conversely, given the fluid nature of HCI, most authors on HCI teaching do not identify on-going research as a key element of the curriculum. A Research-Informed-Teaching approach would have a number of benefits

So in this workshop we shall call for more input from research-informed-teaching. 

2.3 Early Stage HCI Teachers 

As HCI has grown it has entered educational institutions and disciplines where it had little or no presence before. This poses a particular challenge to those new to teaching HCI. They find the twin challenge of finding their own feet in the discipline and locating it within the context of their institution. Churchill (2013) notes that some HCI teachers feel they are still not appreciated in Computer Science departments due to the topics supposed lack of rigor. Other early stage teachers may be located in arts and humanities departments with no history of teaching HCI. Many of the major textbooks still have their roots in the 1990’s with some updating for recent topics. These major bodies of knowledge pose a particular challenge to the beginning HCI teaching in contexts outside the normal range of HCI constituent disciplines, (and sometimes even within them). 
So a final challenge for the workshop will be to support and mentor new teachers. We will hold master classes and discussions as part of the workshop focusing on the particular needs of new teachers.


The workshop will be held on one day and will be split into the themes identified above

Session 1: Master class presentations on curriculum developments

Session 2: Case study presentations, especially research informed teaching of HCI

Session 3: Early Stage teaching engagement and mentoring, building on the morning sessions

We expect an audience of around 20 participants, divided roughly into 6-7 experienced teachers, 6-7 presenters of case studies and 6-7 early stage teachers. We would expect participants to submit a 2-3 page position paper on either the topics of session 1 or 2, or for early stage teachers, a statement of what they see are the challenges and opportunities from their perspective. The workshop organisers will review submissions

We also expect to invite one UX practioner to give an industry view of HCI education. 
Presentations and outcomes from the workshop will be made available on the HCI Educators workshop. We will investigate a more formal method of reporting in the run up to the workshop. 


Churchill E F (2013), Bowser A, and Preece J, Teaching and learning human-computer interaction: past, present, and future. interactions 20, 2 (March 2013), 44-53, ACM, New York 

Fincher, S, Findlay, J, (2008), hcidc: Creating a Disciplinary Commons in HCI Education, http://www.cs.kent.ac.uk/people/staff/saf/hcidc/ 
Hewett T, (1992), ACM Curricula for HCI 1992. http://old.sigchi.org/cdg/index.html

McEwan T, Knight J, 2010, BCS UX Competency Workshops UXCF2010, BCS, London.

Suchman, L (2006), Human-Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Actions (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives), Cambridge University Press