COSC 480: Fall 2016

Computer Science 480
User-Centered Design
Fall 2016


Prof. Madeline E. Smith

Office Hours:
311 McGregory Hall
- M 3:00p–4:00p
- W 1:00p–3:00p
- F 11:30a–12:30p

Class Meetings
315 McGregory Hall
- MWF 9:20–a10:10a
- W 4:01p–6:00p

Course Description

This course presents the principles and practices of user-centered design (UCD), focusing on User Interfaces (UI) and User Experience (UX). UCD principles methods covered in this course include: user and task analysis, conceptual inquiry and analysis, modeling and design, wireframing, low-fi prototyping, hi-fi prototyping, and user testing. Students apply these principles and practices in a series of individual and team assignments. The coursework includes reading assignments, lectures, in-class activities & labs, individual assignments, team project with multiple deliverables, guest speakers & a field trip, and a reflection essay.



Lab and lecture grades will be the same. Grading is on an absolute scale (no curve).

*If you receive poor feedback from you teammates' Peer Reviews, your team work grades may be adjusted.

Note that the Final course letter grades are determined as follows:

Letter Grade
A+ awarded for exceptional performance
A >93
A- 90–92
B+ 87–89
B 83–86
B- 80–82
C+ 77–79
C 73–76
C- 70–72
D+ 67–69
D 63–66
D- 60–62
F <60

Course Policies


Students are expected to attend and participate in the entirety of each and every class and lab meeting. Students with unexplained absences will not earn participation points, resulting in lower grades. When an absence cannot be avoided, students are responsible for obtaining any class notes, handouts, assignments, etc. from a classmate.

Classroom Distractions

Except when clearly being used for purposes immediately related to class (and in a manner that is not distracting to others), laptops, tablets, cell phones, and other devices should all be turned off or used in airplane mode during class. You may not talk on the phone, text, IM, email, read, solve crosswords, take pictures, etc. during class. All of these activities are likely to distract you, your peers, and the instructor; which is not fair to others in the class.

Classroom Confidentiality

It is essential to the success of this class that participants feel comfortable sharing questions, fears, reservations and various experiences during discussions. Therefore, you may not create any audio or video recordings during class time nor share verbatim comments with those not in class whether through text messages, email, social media updates, casual lunch time conversation or any other format.

Academic Honesty

You are expected to abide by Colgate's academic honor code. Individual assignments are expected to be completed independently, without collaboration with classmates. Roughly speaking, it is okay to share ideas but it is not okay to share any artifacts.

Deadlines & Late Passes

Adequate time is given to complete all assignments. Work turned in after the stated deadlines will generally not be accepted. However, each student and team has one “late pass” that can be used to turn in a single assignment up to 24hrs late with a 10% grade reduction.

Exceptional Circumstances

If unexpected circumstances arise that could impact your involvement in the course (inability to attend class, complete the homework on time, etc.), please let me know as soon as possible so that we may design appropriate accommodations. Usually these accommodations will be made in consultation with your administrative dean.


Email should be used only for personal issues or questions specific to the student or team. When appropriate, please CC all team members on team-related emails. Make sure to include "COSC 480" in the subject line and that all questions are clear and specific. The instructor makes every effort to respond to emails within 24 hours, but may sometimes take as long as 72 hours to respond. Multiple or repeated emails will delay the response time.

Team Management & Behavior

Teamwork is an integral part of this course. The primary purpose of teams in this course is to provide diverse perspectives and skills for the coursework, not to reduce the amount of work done by individual students.

Whenever possible, all team members should attempt every element of the coursework, then the team as whole should combine the individual efforts into the final product for submission. This gives all students experience in every elements of the coursework, and provides a richer and more coherent final product.

It is expected that all members of a team participate fully and equally in all team planning efforts, meetings, decisions, and coursework. A confidential Peer Review form is used to evaluate team members with scores ranging from 0–5 for each of the following criteria:

Students receive credit for completing each thoughtful Peer Review. However, if you rate everyone a 25 or a 0, your evaluations will not be counted and you will not receive credit.

The average of the peer review scores you receive from your team members determines a multiplier used to adjust your grade for the relevant coursework as follows:

Score ≥ Score < Grade Adjustment
15 25 100%
10 15 90%
5 10 80%
1 5 70%
0 1 50%

Students who have their grades reduced as a result of the Peer Review process receive an explanatory email from the instructor.

Teams that have significant participation, behavioral, or other difficulties with a team member first should attempt to resolve the problems directly with the problematic team member. If the team member refuses input or persists in failing to participate, exhibiting inappropriate behavior, or causing other disruptive conditions, the team should contact the instructor via email—copying all other team members except the problematic member—rather than wait to raise the issue via the Peer Review process. The team should provide the instructor with a clear description of the issue(s), evidence supporting their issue claims (such as emails), and a suggested action by the instructor.

Colgate Resources

Academic Support and Disabilities Services

If you feel you may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability, you should contact your instructor privately to discuss your specific needs. If you have not already done so, please contact Lynn Waldman, Director of Academic Support and Disability Services at 315-228-7375 in the Center for Learning, Teaching, and Research. Ms. Waldman is responsible for determining reasonable and appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities on a case-by-case basis, and more generally, for ensuring that members of the community with disabilities have access to Colgate's programs and services.  She also assists students in identifying and managing the factors that may interfere with learning and in developing strategies to enhance learning.  

The Writing and Speaking Center

Regardless of ability, all writers benefit from having someone else read their work and offer feedback. At the Writing and Speaking Center, writing consultants can help native and non-native speakers alike with a written paper’s focus, development, organization, clarity, citations, or grammar. If you’re preparing a speech or oral presentation, speaking consultants can help you organize your content and improve your delivery to an audience. All meetings are private, and you may visit at any stage of your process, from clarifying your initial ideas to reviewing a final draft or practicing an oral performance. See for more information or to reserve an appointment. The center is located in 208 Lathrop Hall. Phone: (315) 228-6085.

Counseling Center

College life can sometimes get bumpy; if you are experiencing emotional or personal difficulties, the Counseling Center offers completely confidential and highly professional services.