Want to Improve Your Human-Centered Design Skills? There's a Class for That

San Diego, June 27, 2014  -- More than 24,000 people have signed up to take a course on “Human-Computer Interaction” that the University of California, San Diego will offer through the Coursera online network this summer. The course begins Monday, June 30 and will run through August 24, 2014. [To sign up, click here.]

Scott Klemmer explains the art and science of designing for human-computer interaction. Watch the video introduction.
It’s the fifth edition of the online course originally developed at Stanford University by Scott Klemmer, prior to joining the UC San Diego faculty in 2012. Klemmer is a professor with dual appointments in Cognitive Science and Computer Science and Engineering. In 2013 he launched a multidisciplinary guest-lecture series, Design at Large – the videos are all online at

“We’re trying to convey the principles and methods to create great interfaces with any technology,” said Klemmer. “Students will learn how to design technologies that bring people joy rather than frustration. You’ll also learn principles of visual design so that you can effectively organize and present information – as well as principles of perception and cognition that inform effective interaction design.”

The course is designed to appeal to a broad audience. Students who do the project should expect to spend 10-12 hours per week. It’s free, no textbook is required, and there are no prerequisites to take the course. Some students who may not have finished an earlier version of the course may take it again. In particular, students may do their assignments and quizzes, but fall short of doing the studio practicum, so they can do it this time without repeating all the quizzes. “The practicum is really useful because it allows students to practice their design skills and get feedback from their peers,” said Klemmer.

Designing a World that Teaches Itself

Solve for X bills itself as “people working to accelerate progress on technology moonshots.” Those moonshots are radical proposals for solving global problems – solutions that can help millions or billions of people with a radical solution and breakthrough technology to make it happen. CSE Prof. Scott Klemmer was in the Bay Area on June 26 at Google I/O 2014, an annual conference. In connection with the event, he delivered a presentation at a Google [x]-sponsored Solve for X forum, and the webcast is now available for on-demand viewing on the Solve for X website (see link below). Klemmer – who is also a professor of cognitive science at UC San Diego – made the case for an “accelerating moonshot project” (in the Solve for X lingo) to solve problems in global education by “designing a world where people teach themselves and each other.”

Klemmer outlined some of the innovations undertaken in connection with the role of students taking his massive open online course (MOOC) on human-computer interaction. To scale up to tens of thousands of students required extensive use of peer assessment, which meant first teaching students how to assess other students. They would then be assigned five anonymous peers to assess, one of which had already been assessed by the teaching staff (in order to gauge how well the students assessed their peers). Even in such courses, students “need more qualitative, personalized feedback, even at massive scale,” according to Klemmer. He reported packaging what he calls “fortune cookies” possible elements of feedback likely to come into play in a MOOC, which peers could then use to easily customize their feedback to other students. Small groups in massive classes also used Google Hangouts to great effect, especially when there was a lot of diversity in each Hangout. Klemmer admits that machine learning is not yet at the point of grading creative assignments, but neuro-linguistic programming can be part of the grading process, i.e., breaking down tests to allow parts of the grading to be done by machine, even if the majority of a student’s creative work must be graded by a teacher or peer. “I think we can use strategies like this to build practical theory with real-world experiences, and bake pedagogy into software that transforms learning,” Klemmer told the Solve for X audience. “Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to think about how to scale more personalized, mastery-oriented learning experiences to this new global community.”

Watch Scott Klemmer’s presentation on peer-to-peer mastery learning.

The video lectures are the same as those used in previous editions of the popular online course, and students can watch roughly two hours of video content each week, at their leisure. However, Klemmer says that he has “revised and updated the assignments and other materials based on the community feedback” (from previous courses). While some of the video lectures contain integrated quiz questions, there are also standalone quizzes as well as assignments that are graded by peers (anonymously). All students are required to spend some time for each assignment grading other students’ work.

The course also depends on students for the equivalent of the professor’s “office hours.” Students can pose questions in a Q&A forum, and students can vote on the most important questions for – and answers from – Klemmer. The teaching staff will also monitor the Q&A to make sure that the consensus didn’t overlook an important question that should be answered.

Students can expect to come away from the course with a variety of design skills. According to the introduction on Coursera, “You'll learn several techniques for rapidly prototyping and evaluating multiple interface alternatives – and why rapid prototyping and comparative evaluation are essential to excellent interaction design. You'll learn how to conduct fieldwork with people to help you get design ideas. How to make paper prototypes and low-fidelity mock-ups that are interactive – and how to use these designs to get feedback from other stakeholders like your teammates, clients, and users.”

“In this course as with many online classes, you’ll get out what you put in,” said Klemmer in his teaser video on the Coursera site. “Some of you will join to watch a few videos. Others will want to participate in the studio track, where you’ll have the chance to prototype your own design project. Some past alumni of the course have even continued their projects afterward, launching startups or getting Kickstarter funding, working with nonprofits and schools, or just using the project as a portfolio piece for their own fun.”

The summer course that begins June 30 is the only time Klemmer’s course will be available on Coursera in 2014. The late cutoff date for enrollment by students who want to work toward a Certificate of Accomplishment is July 15, 2014.

“Human-Computer Interaction” is one of four UC San Diego courses delivered this summer over the Coursera network. Biology professor Stephen Mayfield’s course, “Our Energy Future”, began in June and runs through August. On July 1, faculty from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and other campus divisions will begin co-teaching a new course, “Climate Change in Four Dimensions.” Then on August 1, Terry Sejnowski and Barbara Oakley will launch a one-month primer on “Learning How to Learn.” 

Related Links

Human-Computer Interaction on Coursera
#HCI5 on Twitter

Media Contacts

Doug Ramsey, 858-822-5825,