CS 3570 Advanced Topics in User Interface Design

Graduate course, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Computer Science, 2019

This course will explore emerging topics at the intersection of the fields of human-computer interaction (HCI), systems, and data. The course intends to introduce graduate researchers to important human interaction and interface design considerations in a variety of emerging areas; including IoT, AI and data driven interfaces, voice and conversational interfaces, sensor-driven interactions, mobile and multi-device user experiences, and applications to health, wellbeing, and safety. Students will gain an understanding of foundational HCI and interface design concepts, such as iterative design, experimentation, and evaluation within the context of the course topics, assignments, and projects.

Seminar: 11:00-12:15 Tuesdays/Thursdays @ 5313 Sennott Square
Office Hours: By appointment

Seminar Schedule

Learning Objectives

In this course, students will:

  • Gain familiarity with emerging and contemporary research topics in the field of user interface design, human-computer interaction (HCI), and user experience design.

  • Understand how basic formative and summative HCI research processes are applied to the research in computer science, information science, and related fields.

  • Practice HCI research methods in the context of a group project.

Resources & references


Academic Integrity

This course will adhere to the School of Computing and Information’s policy on academic integrity.

All assignment submissions must be the sole work of each individual student or, for the group projects and assignments, only those designated on the project team. It is expected that students properly attribute other works correctly, either through citations or other proper acknowledgments. For software and hardware contributions to this course, the use of open source or otherwise freely available resources are permitted as long as properly attribution is given and the contributions of these software and hardware components are not the basis for the group’s intellectual contribution.

In group projects, it is the responsibility of each group member to insure group projects adhere to this policy. Concerns and issues of a single or subset of individuals in the group should be brought to the instructor’s attention immediately.

If you have any doubts about whether a particular action may be construed as cheating, ask the instructor for clarification before you do it. The instructor will make the final determination of what is considered cheating. Any activities determined to be cheating will result in a grade of F for the course and may be subject to further disciplinary action.


Students will be expected to attend all seminar meetings. The very concept of a seminar course is to engage in scholarly conversations and debate. However, it is understood that graduate students have many commitments, some of which may require them to miss the class. Students will be expected to still submit assignments electronically when they are due or to turn in before a planned absence. Unplanned absences that lead to course work not being submitted when due may require the student to provide documentation explaining the absence (e.g. doctor’s note or letter from academic affairs).

Grade Appeals

Students are encouraged to seek the instructor’s feedback when they are concerned or do not understand the grade that they have been given on an assignment or project deliverable. Discussions and potential regrade requests must occur within two weeks of the assignment grade being returned.

Disability Accommodations

The University and the instructor are committed to providing and accessible learning opportunity for all students. If you need accommodation, you should contact both the instructor and the University’s Disability Resources and Services Office. DRS needs to verify and identify accommodations. In most circumstances, retroactive accommodations will not be made.

Religions Observances

Please inform the instructor if you will be absent from class, will need an adjustment in assignment dues dates, or will need exceptions as a result observing a religious holiday or activity.


  • 60% Semester project
  • 20% Seminar presentations and service as discussant
  • 10% Paper reviews/notes
  • 10% Participation


Over the span of the semester you will work in groups of 2-4 on a research project that applies concepts and ideas explored in the seminar. Ideally, these projects blend the research interests of the group while challenging students to explore the human and interaction dimensions of computing research. Some examples may be exploring human interaction with smart/AI agents, designing mechanisms to facilitate cross device interactions, or applying known computing techniques to solve a unique domain-specific problem. Throughout the semester groups will produce milestones that will each be graded independently to compose the total project grade.

MilestoneDue DateWeight
First informal progress update presentation and discussion10/1010%
Mid-semester written progress report11/515%
Second informal progress update presentation and discussion11/2110%
25-30 minute conference-style final presentation12/10 & 12/1215%
Final research paper12/1235%


The project proposal is an important document that outlines the scope and contributions of your project. It is a formal way of communicating to the instructor what accomplishments are planed, the method for completing them, and how team members will each uniquely contribute to the project. The document will also form, in many ways, the rubric for assessing the final project deliverables.

Each Proposal needs to contain the following sections:

  • Introduction. This section describes the problem being addressed. Both from a technical perspective, but also from a social, cultural, or societal perspective. You should argue why the problem is interesting from both of these perspectives. You should also ground your work in a sufficient amount of the related literature, convincing the instructor the the work fits within established research trajectories while situating how it can extend the state of the art.

  • Research plan. This is a breakdown of the technical aspects of the work. If, for example you plan to conduct a needs finding survey or interview, this section should describe the objectives of this survey. Similarly any technology prototyping should also be outlined and broken into subtasks. The more detail the better.

  • Deliverables and contributions. The work in the tasks outlined in the research plan should produce tangible deliverables and contributions. For example, prototypes should be used to produce a working demonstration of the interaction or application concept. Studies should produce lessons and/or insights that inform design or present conclusions to, and implication of evaluation hypotheses.

  • Timeline. To communicate to the instructor the scope of the project is attainable within the semester timeframe, a clear timeline of milestones should outlined.

  • Roles and responsibilities. Each group should attempt to leverage the interests and expertise of each group member. As a result, it is unlikely that each member will do exactly 1/n of all tasks outlined above. To enable the instructor to provide credit fairly, he needs to know who is responsible for the parts of the project. Roles can be shared, but how they will be shared should also be explained.

This proposal should be sufficient in length to communicate and convince the instructor that your group is addressing an interesting, compelling, and relevant research project. Expected length is 5-6 pages, but there is no penalty for longer, more detailed writing.

Informal progress update presentation and discussion

Twice in the semester your group will present informal presentations discussing and contexualizing project progress. These presentations can be slide-based, but they can also be partially working demos of prototypes or results from experiments or evaluations. Groups should report on how their progress is fairing against their timeline. Time will also be devoted for discussion about challenges, surprises, and deviations encountered in the project so far. Each group member is expected to participate in these progress updates.

Mid-semester written progress report

The mid-semester progress report is an opportunity to formally communicate with the instructor the progress being made in the semester project. It is also an opportunity to formally document changes that need to be made against the original project proposal. For this report, the group should submit an amended project proposal that addresses progress made. It should also update deliverables, contributions, timelines and roles and responsibilities as they have shifted over the semester. Further, and most important, the report should explain why these changes have been made. There are likely important lessons behind those deviations; there may be contributions in the reasons why, and your response.

Final presentation

Each group will present a conference-style final presentation. Labor and presentation time should be split across members. Similar to the proposals and progress reports, groups should provide a presentation that details not just what they did, but why they did it, why they did it they way they did it, and why what they did should matter to others. External members of the SCI community will be invited to attend these presentations.

Final research paper

A final, conference-style research paper is the terminal project deliverable. It is the groups’ opportunity to distill their work into a scientific report. The report will be critiqued on the quality of the final research contributions as well as the quality of the writing.

Seminar Participation

Each student will be asked to lead seminar topic selection and discussion three times per semester. This method allows students to more actively guide the topics explored in the seminar. This is a relatively simple responsibility that involves working with the instructor to select 2-3 research papers for the class to read and to lead the initial discussion in class. Discussion leaders should be prepared to discuss how the papers are connected, important contributions that the authors made, relevance to their existing work or work in the field, and lessons learned from reading the paper (these may be research-based or research-process-based; e.g.; you understood how to report on a particular result or how to construct a specific evaluation).

In addition, three times a semester each student will be selected as the discussant. In this role, the student comes prepared to class to offer their own assessment of the works read. Similar to reading the discussion, the discussant should point out themes that connect the work and lessons learned. As is often the case for this role, discussants may chose to provide more critical feedback on the papers discussed. However, this is is not required.

Paper Reviews & Notes

Students are expected to participate in the seminar by reading all selected papers. To communicate this effort to the instructor, students should upload their notes to the online box folder.