Human-Computer Interaction teaches the fundamental issues that underlie the creation and evaluation of usable and useful applications. Through lectures and design activities, students work in teams of 4 to design a solution for a real-world problem. The end result of the team project is a high-fidelity interactive prototype of a mobile application, targeted at solving a particular real-world problem. Over the term, students will achieve this end goal by (i) conducting user interviews to understand the context of the problem, and identifying specific functionalities required for the successful adoption of the application, (ii) creating and prototyping both low- and high-fidelity designs of the application, and (iii) assessing the designs through evaluations.

There are no midterm or final exams for this course. There is also no programming involved. There is, instead, a strong emphasis on the "process" of design---project groups will be asked to maintain an online design notebook, where they document the design activities and lessons learned. The design notebook helps the instructor and TAs to monitor the intermediate progress of the projects and to provide forehanded feedback on the next steps.

Specifically, you will learn to:

CS449/649 is a highly interactive studio-style course, where students take part in design activities, critique sessions, peer evaluation of prototypes, and presentations during class time. CS449/649 involves preparation activities (remote), studio activities (in-person), exploration activities (remote, individual), team building exercises (remote), and multiple project outputs, as described below.


This year's project theme is Re-envisioning How We Live, Work and Play. In this design project, students are encouraged to examine recent trends in our world, identify problems or opportunities brought about by these recent trends, and design an app to address the problem or capitalize on the opportunity. Student teams must select one of the project topics (e.g., B3) listed on the project page. There are five components to the course: preparation activities, studio activities, exploration activities, team builiding exercises, and project outputs.

1. Preparation Activities (Remote)

Ethics Training (P1): The TCPS 2 Tutorial Course on Research Ethics (CORE), also known as the TCPS2 tutorial, is mandatory for all researchers who intend to engage in research with human participants. Students must complete the ethics training course during the first week of the class, before they are allowed to interview users.

Preparation for Studio (P2-P12): Each week, there are different kinds of preparation work---e.g., lecture videos, individual or group-based design activities---that must be completed in preparation for the upcoming studio lab. The studio activities depend on and build upon the preparation activities, and so, failure to complete the preparation work will negatively affect the team's ability to complete the studio activities. All preparation activities should be documented in the design notebook.

2. Studio Activities (In-Person Lab)

Design Activities (D1-D5): The studio labs are interactive and fast-paced. Students will work with their team, as well as with other teams, on a variety of design activities. Students will be graded based on the quality of their studio activity outputs as well as their individual contribution to the studio activities. All studio activities should be documented in the design notebook.

Design Critique Sessions (C1, C2): There are two design critique sessions (C1 and C2), one on design ideas (before any prototypes are built) and the other on the high-fidelity prototype. Teams will work in pairs, through several rotations, to present designs and provide critique. The critique sessions are peer graded, and will be based on both the quality of the presentation and the critique.

Prototype Evaluation (E1, E2): Students will conduct two prototype evaluations---a low-fidelity prototype evaluation (E1) and a high-fidelity prototype evaluation (E2), with fellow students in the studio lab acting as their mock users. The findings from the prototype evaluations should be documented in the design notebook.

Challenge Report (CH1) and Presentation (CH2): The challenge report is a mid-term report documenting how the team has, on a weekly basis, challenged and "poked holes" at their own assumptions about the users and the problems. The student teams will give a 5-minute presentation on their challenge report, followed by a 5-minute discussion.

3. Exploration Activities (Remote, Individual)

Building an Annotated Bibliography through ChatGPT (EX1): In this exercise, students are asked to individually think of a question they are curious about---related to user interfaces (UI), user experiences (UX), human-computer interaction (HCI), and concepts that they are learning in the course---and use ChatGPT to assemble a course-wide annotated reading list/bibliography.

4. Team Building Exercises (Remote)

Team Contract (T1): The success of your project depends on your dedication towards teamwork. At the beginning of the course, the team will draft a team contract. The contract specifies how the team will work together, and is considered to be agreed upon by all members of the team. The team contract should be documented in the design notebook.

Team Building Activities (T2-T5): Each team will complete a bi-weekly team building exercise. Learnings from the team building activities should be documented in the design notebook.

Team Reflection (T6): Each team will reflect on their successes and challenges that they face as a team over the term, and provide a peer grading to their team members. Learnings from the team reflection should be documented in the design notebook.

5. Project Outputs

User Interviews (PO1): Student teams will interview 6-8 unique target users outside of the class (i.e., they should not be students enrolled in the course). There are two types of interviews---informational interviews for understanding the context of the problem, and prototype evaluation interviews to assess the usability and utility of the designs. The team should document the findings of the interviews in the design notebook.

Final Products (PO2a-PO2d): There are four final products: final prototype (PO2a), demo video (PO2b), final project presentation (PO2c) and a design portfolio (PO2d) in the form of a blog post or website documenting the entire design process. These requirements are independent of any choice students may make regarding any intellectual property connected to their course projects. Please note that all final products will be posted on the course website and publicly available for viewing. Different from the rest of the deliverables, the final products are not graded by your lab's TA, but a random TA.

6. CS 649 Additional Requirements

Research Proposal (R1, R2): Students taking CS649 are expected to learn, through assigned reading, at least two different types of HCI methodologies, and individually produce a 6-page (or longer) report that describes the design of two studies, one per methodology, to investigate research questions related to their CS449/649 project/application, and provide a convincing argument on how and why these questions can be appropriately answered by the corresponding methodology/study design. They are also expected to submit a 2-page draft.

Grading Scheme

Specific grading guidelines for each deliverable are available on the Deliverables page. Note that CS 649 has a separate marking scheme with weights distribution that differs from CS 449.

1. Preparation Activities - Remote (20%/10%)
CS 449 CS 649
Ethics Training (P1) -- --
P2-P12 20% 10%
2. Studio Activities - In-Person (40%)
CS 449 CS 649
Design Activities (D1-D5) 10% (2% each) 10% (2% each)
Design Critique Sessions (C1, C2) 10% (5% each) 10% (5% each)
Prototype Evaluation (E1, E2) 5% (2.5% each) 5% (2.5% each)
Challenge Report (CH1) and Presentation (CH2) 15% (10% report, 5% presentation) 15% (10% report, 5% presentation)
3. Exploration Activities - Remote, Individual (2%)
CS 449 CS 649
Building an Annotated Bibliography through ChatGPT (EX1) 2% 2%
4. Team Building Exercises - Remote (2%)
CS 449 CS 649
Team Contract (T1) 0.5% 0.5%
Team Building Activities (T2-T5) 1% (0.25% each) 1% (0.25% each)
Team Reflection (T6) 0.5% 0.5%
5. Project Outputs (36%)
CS 449 CS 649
User Interviews (PO1) 6% 6%
Final Prototype (PO2a) 20% 20%
Demo Video (PO2b) 3% 3%
Final Presentation (PO2c) 3% 3%
Design Portfolio (PO2d) 4% 4%
CS649 Only (10%)
CS 449 CS 649
Research Proposal (R1, R2) NA 10% (2% draft, 8% final paper)

Attendance Policy

Students are required to attend all studio lab sessions in person, where much of the groupwork and peer feedback take place. The success of a team project depends critically on each student being a responsible member of the team, i.e., showing up and participating. Special consideration can be made for a few exceptions (e.g., academic travel, illnesses and family emergencies). However, students must discuss their anticipated absence with the instructor and provide appropriate documentation. In the event of illness due to COVID, please stay home and arrange with the instructor alternative ways of completing the assigned work.

Online Communication Protocol

We will be using Slack for communication between the studio lab sessions. This includes announcements, reminders, posting of links to lecture videos, question and answering, etc. Here are some basic guidelines regarding Slack communication:
● You can ask your question in the public #question channel, especially if it is a question to which you think other students might be interested in knowing the answer.
● Your team will be provided with a private team channel, which the instructor and your lab's TA will also have access to. You can ask your question in your private team channel, especially if it is a discussion about your team's project.
● You can ask private questions to a specific TA or instructor by directly messaging them.
● If your question requires a face-to-face meeting to resolve, book a 15-minutes zoom meeting with the instructor. If you require 30 minutes, book two 15-minute appointments back-to-back. You can also message and set up an appointment with your TA.
Online etiquette is important. While online chat tools, such as Slack, provide a convenient way for students to reach TAs/instructor and fellow students, do not expect instantaneous answers. Keep your questions clear/concise and your comments professional. Be considerate.

Deliverables and Late Penalties

All deliverables are due 5:00 pm on the due date. Late penalties for all deliverables: -5% of the deliverable total for each additional day (5:01 pm to 5:00 pm).

IMPORTANT: If a deliverable was not submitted before the next deliverable due date, you will get 0% for this deliverable. Furthermore, you are not allowed to submit the next deliverable if the previous deliverable was not submitted. For example, you cannot interview any users unless the entire team has completed ethics training. Failing to submit all the deliverables by the end of the term may result in failing the course.

Course Policies

Academic Integrity

In order to maintain a culture of academic integrity, members of the University of Waterloo community are expected to promote honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility. See for more information.


A student who believes that a decision affecting some aspect of his/her university life has been unfair or unreasonable may have grounds for initiating a grievance. Read Policy 70, Student Petitions and Grievances, Section 4. When in doubt, please be certain to contact the department’s administrative assistant who will provide further assistance.


A student is expected to know what constitutes academic integrity (check to avoid committing an academic offence, and to take responsibility for his/her actions. A student who is unsure whether an action constitutes an offence, or who needs help in learning how to avoid offences (e.g., plagiarism, cheating) or about “rules” for group work/collaboration, should seek guidance from the course instructor, TA, academic advisor, or the Undergraduate Associate Dean. For information on categories of offences and types of penalties, students should refer to Policy 71, Student Discipline. For typical penalties, see the Guidelines for the Assessment of Penalties.


A decision made or penalty imposed under Policy 70 (Student Petitions and Grievances) (other than a petition) or Policy 71 (Student Discipline) may be appealed if there are grounds. A student who believes he/she has grounds for an appeal should refer to Policy 72 (Student Appeals).

Note for Students with Disabilities

AccessAbility Services (formerly the Office for Persons with Disabilities), located in Needles Hall, Room 1132, collaborates with all academic departments to arrange appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities, without compromising the academic integrity of the curriculum. If you require academic accommodations to lessen the impact of your disability, please register with AccessAbility Services at the beginning of each academic term.

Intellectual Property

Students should be aware that this course contains the intellectual property of their instructor, TA, and/or the University of Waterloo. Intellectual property includes items such as:

Course materials and the intellectual property contained therein, are used to enhance a student’s educational experience. However, sharing this intellectual property without the intellectual property owner’s permission is a violation of intellectual property rights. For this reason, it is necessary to ask the instructor, TA and/or the University of Waterloo for permission before uploading and sharing the intellectual property of others online (e.g., to an online repository).

Permission from an instructor, TA or the University is also necessary before sharing the intellectual property of others from completed courses with students taking the same/similar courses in subsequent terms/years. In many cases, instructors might be happy to allow distribution of certain materials. However, doing so without expressed permission is considered a violation of intellectual property rights.

Please alert the instructor if you become aware of intellectual property belonging to others (past or present) circulating, either through the student body or online. The intellectual property rights owner deserves to know (and may have already given their consent).