(de)Coding the Studio Method to Teach the Design of Human-Computer Interaction

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Brandt, Carol
Cennano, Kathy
Douglas, Sarah
McGrath, Margarita
Reimer, Yolanda
Vernon, Mitzi
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This paper reports on the beginning of a three-year project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to apply the studio method to teach computer science students principles of user interface design. The grant spans three universities and four disciplines, with a research team of faculty drawn from computer science, education, architecture and industrial design. The goal of this project is to leverage knowledge about design education from architecture and industrial design to develop new educational models and materials for the design of software-intensive systems, specifically in the area of Human Computer Interaction (HCI). Computer Science is, in many ways, a design discipline. For example, application areas such as graphics and visual programming, artificial intelligence, information systems, and human computer interaction, require the design of algorithms, interfaces, interactions, programs, specifications, simulations, and/or systems. A few innovative computer science programs have implemented the studio method. In these cases the logistics and procedures involved have been well documented, but little is known about which components of the studio experience are critical to successful outcomes. Thus, our aim is to determine through qualitative research an elemental set of interactions that contribute to studio learning. Further, we will identify effective ways of applying these lessons to teaching design in human computer interaction. In this paper, we review the nature of design, the use of the studio method in teaching, both in schools of design and the wider university, and relate our initial discussions on transferring the studio to computer science. The nature of a "hybrid studio" in HCI is demonstrated through describing a course that we are currently examining to gather baseline data for our research. We conclude with a set of questions to take back to architectural design education.
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