Teaching HCI

Teaching Sep 21, 2017

Although I have taught undergradute and gradute classes for 8 years, I taught my first HCI class at Chapman University in the Spring of 2017.

I have taught graduate and undergraduate course on behavioral strategies for the special education classroom, introduction to autism, trends in collaborative and constative services, and Human Computer Interaction. As a Teaching Assistant, I supported courses on medical informatics and Computer Supported Collaborative work and Human Computer Interaction and Design. My teaching evaluations continue to be very positive across these varying topics. I have taught 180 undergraduate students and 230 graduate students. Additionally, I have mentored 60 high school students, 24 undergraduate students and 2 master’s students. Through working with these students, I have refined and will continue to refine my approach to teaching.

Providing relevant content
In computing, where innovation happens at a rapid pace, staying relevant is at the top of the list of goals of most students. With excellent job prospects and employers hungry to hire our students, I focus on ensuring that all students have not only the foundational knowledge they need but also are aware of the latest trends in both the industry and research. Foundational knowledge supported by current examples helps my students understand the work we do in designing, developing, and evaluating technology for people. One way foundational knowledge is solidified is through weekly activities that culminate in a semester-long group project. One student from the last Spring said “Professor Boyd is receptive to student input and provides content which helps students better grasp HCI concepts. Presenting activities for students to work in groups to apply such concepts helps greatly to educate students in learning how to apply design principles”. By putting this knowledge into practice through the activities, students begin understanding how our biases about the world can resurface in technology design. By sharing revelations about our own thought process with the group, we appreciate the complexities of designing technology for people. Additionally, I request students contribute to keep the content relevant to them. This approach allows each student to have a voice in terms of what they want to learn. At the same time, we all as a class grow and learn together and from another.

Varied instructional methods
Increasingly, the best run classrooms use a variety of models of online and in-person approaches. Through my past teaching experiences, I have taught hybrid or “flipped” classes, fully online, and fully in –person, and so I am confident in my ability to take advantage of these multiple avenues of instruction to provide the best experience for my students.
As just one example, I found while teaching HCI at Chapman in the Spring that I was able to employ a variety of digital media tools to activate at least three instruction methods within each 75-minutes class meeting time. This might include lecture with PowerPoint, videos or other shared content prior to class time, student-led discussion, student presentations, short videos demonstrating a concept or technique, and small group activities to manipulate the concepts. By employing a variety of instructional methods, I ensure that I connect with each learner, regardless of their learning style. Additionally, the variety of experiential learning techniques I employ in my teaching enables students to make meaning for themselves.

A large part of HCI pedagogy stems from a design ethos and involves group projects and sharing critique. Therefore, when I had the opportunity to serve as lead instructor for HCI, I built the syllabus around a final group project, which involved students learning together as part of a design team as well as serving as end users for other teams. This practice not only provides real feedback to the design teams but also helps each student understand the process of designing technology from multiple viewpoints. I found this was a powerful tool for them to understand how they are different from one another and so added an additional incentive of extra credit for students who did a small presentation regarding diversity in technology. In the future, I will infuse the group projects with the requirement that students reflect on the composition of their design teams and how they are unique from other teams, such as in their educational background, second majors and minors, hometown, ethnic or religious origins, and so on as well as how the diverse viewpoints represented within each team seem to have impacted the design process. These reflections will allow us to discuss as a class with real empirical data how diverse teams impact the formation of creative designs and innovative technologies.

Clear Communication
I pride myself on the ability to quickly develop relationships with my students so that they feel comfortable approaching me before, during, or after class to ask for more information about the content or expressing concern over an assignment when working with a peer. My teaching evaluations reflect my availability to address students’ needs as they arise. A student from a class last year where I was the teaching assistant described me as someone who “genuinely enjoys helping students understand material and answers questions with clear response”. In addition to expressing my expectations of the students, I welcome the students to express their expectations of me and the course. Additionally, I offer a midcourse evaluation so that I can get feedback from everyone in an anonymous form as to what’s working well and what can be improved. Communication occurs between students and the teacher but additionally within the groups the students from the projects. Students reported that their favorite part of the class was the ability to choose a project, have input on their group assignment, and work intensively throughout the semester to reach their goal.

Meaningful assessment of skills
Course assessments are always tricky to accomplish well, but providing evidence that learning outcomes have been met is essential to program improvement and student success. Thus, I work to ensure that every student understands how, when, and why they will be assessed. For example, I make a point to explain how the format of tests and the design of group project final papers incorporate learning that will be used beyond meeting the requirements of this class. By highlighting how combining a certain level of content with skills that are used in every profession such as writing and analyzing and working in a group.