CSE8a or CSE11 is a prerequisite for this course. Students without CSE8a/11 will be automatically dropped from the class and will not receive a grade. The prerequisite exists because all students will need some fluency in building interactive systems to complete the project. Every student must make a significant contribution to their team's implementation; students who are unable to do so should not take the class. That said, some may do more of the programming work, and others more of the user testing work. Project teams will benefit from being multidisciplinary. Students with less programming experience (and e.g., more design experience) should consider partnering with students who with complementary strengths. Additionally, we presume that all students will have access to a digital camera for use in assignments.

Bring a laptop to class, lab, and studio

Bring a laptop to class, especially lab and studio. This is a course requirement because of the hands-on work we'll do. If the laptop's battery won't last the whole class, arrive early to get a set near a plug. (And you may want to bring an extension cord.) Please restrict your laptop use to class-relevant activities, like doing the exercises or taking notes. No Facebook, email, etc. How come? It distracts other students, not just you.


The laboratory curriculum teaches you the tools for designing and implementing effective interaction designs. It functions as an interactive session with downloadable code and walkthroughs.

Lab slides will be up on the class website the day before lab. Each week, there will be a lab assignment due at the end of class. You should be able to complete the lab assignment by attending the lab session and following the instructor. However, you may choose to try complete the lab assignment on your own between Tuesday night and Thursday class time. If you run in to any issues and need help, please come to the Thursday lab session to complete your assignment. Otherwise, you may turn in the lab assignment in advance and do not have to come to lab, except when there is a quiz.

If you encounter problems with submitting your lab assignment that cannot be solved by the end of class, there are TAs that hold office hours after lab to help. You are welcome to come get additional help with these problems. Lab assignments can be submitted until 3pm Friday (when the teaching staff meets).

Assignments & Deliverables

You'll have a weekly design project, submitted online by Thursday 11.59pm and shared in studio on Friday. Your project work culminates in a presentation and poster at the end of the quarter in front of invited design jurors. Your team will share its quarter-long design project.

Submit work online

You will use to submit your work. Your assignments will be submitted online as a pdf or word doc including plain text and a series of digital photographs or screenshot. Do not spend time "beautifying" your submission. Submit early! Late assignments will not be accepted. There are three reasons that assignments need to be submitted on time. First, to be able to provide you with rapid feedback about your work, the teaching staff meets on Friday afternoon to grade. Second, you'll present your work in studio every week, and you need to be prepared to participate. Third, after the submission deadline, students can view each others' assignments, so that you can learn from each other. We encourage you to see what your peers are up to.

No late assignments will be accepted, but you may submit them early. If there is a problem with the website that makes it so you cannot submit your assignment, you must email your TA by 1am or else it’s a 0. You can only do this once.


The rubrics in each assignment explain how you and the staff will grade your submission. The rubric cells summarize performance at different levels, from 'nope' through 'mastery'. While true mastery in any field is a lifelong process, we don't expect you to become Garry Kasparov or Jony Ive in just 10 weeks. (That will take until next quarter.) For this course, 'mastery' means performing at the level described in that rubric, as interpreted by the assignment. And we leave a little headroom at the top for out of the box submissions that transcend simply achieving what's described by the rubric. So make sure to review the entire assignment before submitting.

What is the 'out of the box' column in the rubric?

Design can excel in many ways, and often the best designs are unanticipated. You can do good design by following the rules, but to achieve great design you need to transcend them. Great design is also rare. To acknowledge and encourage this, the very top score in each assignment rewards unusually creative, out-of-the-box work. About 5% of submissions earn these points. If it helps, you can think of this as kind of like an A+.

Grade composition & scale

Letter grade only: the "credit/no credit" option is not available. The course grade is out of 244 points, comprising:
  • Ten weekly assignments: 166 points (14 to 25 each).
  • Three in-class quizzes: 32 points.
  • Self assessments (A2-A10) · 18 points: 7 for simply completing them all; one each for accuracy (self within 2 points of staff); 2 for the end-of-quarter team assessment.
  • Submitting Lab exercises: 8 points
  • Lecture/Piazza Participation: 10 points
  • Studio Participation: 10 points (one unexcused absence: max 7. two unexcused: max 4. Three+ unexcused: no credit.)

At the end of the quarter, point scores are translated into letter grades in the standard way. For example (220/244) is a bit over 90%, so that would earn an A-. In this class, as with any, the grade you earn reflects your performance. We don’t 'mark off' for anything. For fairness, the same score-to-letter mapping is applied to everyone in the class.

Attendance & Participation

Design is a contact sport, and studio is where the action is. Sharing your work and discussing designs with others is an important part of your design education. Therefore, studio attendance is mandatory. To receive credit for attendance, you must arrive on time. You are allowed two excused absences for the quarter without penalty; thereafter you will receive zero credit for the missed studio. To receive an excused absence, you must ask your studio leader in advance, and receive an acknowledgment from the studio leader.

If you are more than 5 minutes late (or leave early), you will be marked as absent. Because of the number of group activities that we do in studio, it's important that everyone comes on time.

  • Excusable absences include family emergencies, job interviews, and presenting at a conference. It does not include wanting to leave early for long weekend or vacation.
  • Attending another class during lecture or studio is not an excusable absence.
  • Athletes who would like to miss more than one studio to participate in athletic competitions must make any request during the first week of class.
Participation Rubric

Mastery (9-10): Asked lots of questions. Always attended Lecture/Piazza/Studio. Provided helpful answers on the forum. Came to office hours.

Proficiency (7-8): Always attended Lecture/Studio. Was engaged in pair exercises and provided helpful feedback to peers. Occaionally raised hand and spoke up.

Adequacy (4-6): attendance, attention, and or engagement uneven. May have contributed to Piazza, but was not consistently both present and active during classtime.

Nope (0-3): who? Absent, spaced-out, or doing off-topic stuff during class (like Facebook or other coursework).


It is very important to us that all assignments are properly graded. The teaching staff works extremely hard to grade fairly and to turn around assignments quickly. We know what you work hard, and we respect that. Occasionally, mistakes happen, and it's important to us to correct them. If you believe there is an error in your assignment or exam grading, please submit an explanation in writing to your studio TA within 7 days of receiving the grade. This explanation should list the score that you think is most accurate for each rubric item, and the explanation for why that score is more accurate than the one you received. A second staff member will regrade the entire assignment to ensure quality, and that grade will be your final score. Make sure that the staff have access to all materials needed (e.g., the version of your app as of the submission deadline, login information, images or physical copies of any materials shown in person but not submitted online). No regrade requests will be accepted orally, and no regrade requests will be accepted more than 7 days after receipt of the assignment. Regrade requests must be respectful; we will not consider any regrade requests containing disrespectful language. If you hassle your TA verbally about grading, that automatically earns you a 0 on the assignment.

I would like a higher grade
We strive hard to treat all students equally. Consequently, grades aren't based on what individual students "would really like". They're based on students performance in the class. So, if you would like a higher grade, you know what to do ;)

Self & team assessment

Part of being a designer – or practitioner in any field – is knowing how well you're doing. That metacognitive skill is one of the course goals. To help build that skill, every week in studio you'll self-assess your work.

Being able to successfully assess your own performance in comparison to a given criterion is a skill that you will draw benefit from, both as a student and in your professional career. This is not always an easy task and we hope that this exercise will help you improve your self-assessment skills and get you start thinking about how to evaluate your own work using the yardstick of the setting.

When your self-assessment is reasonable, that will be your grade for the assignment. In this class, what that means is that if | self-assessment - staff grade | ≤ 1, you will receive your own grade. If they differ by more than a point, you'll receive the staff grade. Submitting a self-assessment is a prerequisite for receiving a grade. Even if you miss studio, you are still responsible for submitting a self-assessment.

Team Assignments

For team assignments, you'll self-assess as a team and then individually assess your own and teammates performance. In general, everyone on the team will earn the same grade. However, if a majority of the team reports that an individual was more/less successful in achieving their goals, that individual's grade will be adjusted accordingly.

How well does self-assessment work?

Occasionally, a student will say that self-assessment feels like 'guessing'. If so, students are very good guessers. With impressive consistency, well over half of all students self-assess with 1 point of the staff grade, and well over 80% are within 2 points. Also, when we all meet Friday afternoon, we grade the assignments together to insure consistent grading across studios.

Why do I receive my own grade (when it's reasonable)? Aren't the teaching staff the better graders? (aka: is this just a clever way for you to sneak off and go surfing?)

Students overwhelming report learning a lot from self assessment. Many appreciate being able to assign their own grade, but some are uncomfortable with the responsibility. There's a philosophical reason why your self-assessed grade counts: it's your life! That doesn't mean we're not paying attention. If you've been to driving school, you know that you get to drive the car, AND there's an instructor right next to you in the passenger seat. They often have a brake pedal for emergencies. This class is like that. You drive, but we're right there next to you, paying attention and correcting when necessary.

(By the way, we do like surfing. Having both self and staff assessment approach is more work for us, not less—that's how much we believe this will help you learn to think like a designer.)

Frequently asked questions

How much time should I expect to spend?

In post-class surveys, students report spending 10-12 hours a week on this class. Some spend less; others spend more. As with any design experience, you get out what you put in. Great projects explore broadly and dive deep, and needfinding, design, implementation and evaluation take time to do well. Expect to spend a good deal of time outside of class with your team building your project.

What's the distribution of engineering, designing thinking and psychology?

There's a healthy balance of all three. The first class each week will cover design principles and methods. The second class each week gives you practice building interactive Web applications. Friday is the time you'll have to share and give feedback on your progress.

The class teaches node.js and Javascript. Can our group use other technologies, like Ruby or a native app?

We recommend against it. Most group problems arise when one person strongarms their teammates into using another technology. Late in the quarter, it turns out that only one person can really do the work, and that causes all the problems you can imagine. If you use node.js & Javascript, lab will teach you key techniques and the TA's will help you if you get stuck. With other technologies, you're off-piste: we can't save you, and it can get awfully cold when the sun goes down. With that information, the choice is yours.

If I'm familiar with the lab technologies, should I still attend lab?

Yes. We'll be asking you to pitch in and help other students during the lab.

Do I have to go to studios?

Yes. Studio attendance is mandatory.

Can I have an extension? I have a lot of work in other classes, I'll be out of town, I'm generally overwhelmed…

No. It's not because we're callous – we've all been in your shoes. Two reasons: 1) because sharing work in studio is integral to the class, there's no practical way to offer extensions. 2) Psychology teaches us that people consistently believe they'll have more time in the future than in the present – and that it's a fallacy. When you pick classes for the quarter, make sure not to overcommit. In our experience, you'll learn more and have a better resume by doing a great job in a smaller of classes, rather than trying to take as many units as humanly possible and doing a mediocre job with all of it.

Are there any midterms or finals?

Nope! There are 3 in-class quizzes. The quizzes are closed-note; you may not use any outside resources.

When do we form groups?

You will form groups in the studio on the second Friday of the quarter. You can form and sign up for studios as a group but they have to be groups of 3. We'll be encouraging everyone to form groups as soon as possible so that you can pool resources. In the second studio, during team formation make sure to ask your potential teammates 2 questions. 1) When are you available to meet? 2) What level of performance to you intend to achieve? This will help you find like-minded teammates.

One or more of my teammates aren't pulling their weight...

In classes as in life, some team problems are inevitable. As soon as you encounter subpar performance by a teammate: talk to them and accurately record their performance in your team assessment. There are many benefits to speaking up early. First, you've made your expectations clear so your teammate can adjust their performance. Second, it's on record in case things get worse later. Past performance is the best predictor of future performance, and transparency is the best management tool. If you speak up early, we can help. If you wait until late in the quarter to speak up, you share responsibility for the problem — and there's little we can do.

...Can I fire them or quit?

If you have a serious problem with your teammate(s), email them with your concerns, cc'ing the instructor, and requesting that the team attend office hours to discuss the issue. If this discussion doesn't ameliorate the issue, you may notify your teammate(s) via email (cc'ding the instructor) of your intention to quit/fire them unless performance improves. Finally, if performance doesn't improve, you may email your teammate(s) (cc'ing the instructor) with your resignation/firing. A teammate who quits or is fired is responsible for future assignments on their own. This short essay by Oakley et al. provides great advice on diagnosing 'hitchhikers' and dealing with them effectively.

Guidelines on using Wizard of Oz in the final project

The reason we implement things is to learn about how to better design the interaction, not to do busy work. By making your project more realistic, you will uncover design issues that may not be apparent with Wizard of Oz alone. Your final project will be evaluated on the design of the interactions, and you are certain to produce a better interaction if it is more realistic. Good heuristics to decide what to implement:

  1. If you can implement it, do it
  2. You should be focusing on the interaction design. If implementing it will take an inordinate amount of time, you should Wizard of Oz it in the most realistic way
  3. If it would be impossible for anyone to implement it, your design is wrong

To make this more concrete, consider the following two examples:

  • You are building a navigation application for pedestrians. This application will leverage GPS information to support wayfinding. In this instance it would be highly recommended that you implement GPS functionality for real, since it is central to the application.
  • You are building a social photo sharing application. Among a host of other features, you’d like this application to geotag photos if a GPS location is available. In this case, it may be appropriate to Wizard of Oz the GPS functionality, since it is not central to the application.
While implementing GPS functionality would take the same amount of effort in both cases, there is a much larger potential payoff for implementing it in the first case because it impacts a much larger portion of the interaction design.

Make sure to think about the easiest way to approximate the functionality you seek. For example, if you need basic phone call or message functionality, you may be able to make something sufficient just by using e.g., <a href="sms:">Send a SMS</a>

What will the quizzes cover? you should be able to...
  • Describe merits and drawbacks of interfaces using the ideas from Direct Manipulation & Representations (and other relevant class topics), e.g., what makes an interface more "natural"?
  • Quantitatively analyze input performance using Fitts' Law
  • Critique an interface using Heuristic Evaluation (and other relevant class topics).
  • Improve the visual/information design of an existing interface using principles from the readings and design lectures
  • Improve the collaborative potential of an interface using principles from the social software lecture
  • Describe how to design and perform a user study, analyze the results, and critique a given user study design (both in the "lab" and online).
  • Describe the relative merits of alternative study designs (both in the lab and online).
  • Test for statistical significance using a t-test or CHI-squared test. (You won't need a calculator, and you don't need to memorize any formulas. A table and formula(s) will be provided.)
  • Be generally familiar with vocabulary terms from in-class & video lectures
I was thinking of designing for tablets - is this okay?

It's fine as long as you can make a compelling case that your application benefits from being on a tablet and that those benefits don't extend necessarily to a desktop app or browser.

I would like to take another class that overlaps this class. What should I know?

Class attendance is required because the in-class material and exercises connect the principles taught through lecture/videos to the design project work. Often, you'll submit work in class that will count toward your participation grade. Arriving late or leaving early may prevent you from doing so. Because of the large number of students enrolled, these exercises must be done during class — we don't have the resources to make individual exceptions. However, we understand that life happens — you might have a family event, job interview, attend a conference, or get sick. If you need to miss class, you can receive attendance credit by submitting the in-lab (or in-class exercises when we have them) online anytime before then end of class.

A personal issue (health, family event, other commitment) will take me away from class. What should I do?

Most importantly, let your studio leader and your team know ASAP. The sooner we hear from you, the more we can help. If you give your team a heads-up quickly, they're sure to be empathetic. If you just disappear for a few weeks, they'll be unlikely to want you back. Even if you have a good reason, no one likes being left out in the cold.

Fairness requires us to grade on performance, not desire. Think about if this issue came up when you were about to take the SAT -- or if it came up in a job. Realistically, if you're away for more than a week, you have two choices: you can push forward and accept lower performance, or you can drop the class and retake it when you have more time. We recommend the second option whenever possible.

I'm an international student. How do I get an email and ID number?

Have your advisor email postmaster@ucsd requesting a UCSD email for you. For Web pages requiring a PID, first register for an extension ACMS Account follow this link you need this account to login to UCSD Coursera site. For assignment submission on, email your UCSD email and ID number to our Yu Xia, tell him your Studio time and your studio leader's name

I have a question that's not answered here. How do I contact the teaching staff?

If you have a question, post it to the forum — don't send email. This includes all questions about assignment clarifications and class requirements. The reason: you may think you're the only one with this question. With nearly 300 students, someone else is bound to be interested. Answering all questions in a public place means that every student has access to the same information. It's both efficient and fair.

If you missed class (or will miss class) and would like to find out what's covered, review the syllabus materials then ask a fellow student to fill you in. Do not send email -- it's your responsibility.

Also, you're welcome to come to office hours and ask any question you want. You can ask questions about classes, internships, design, graduate school, jobs, or simply come to say hi, listen to other students questions, or share your background and interests. Office hours are for you, and Scott and the teaching staff really value your presence and questions.

With 300 students, we unfortunately cannot accommodate requests to meet outside of office hours. We trust that if your question is important, you can find a way to make the time to come to office hours.