Involving End-Users in HCI Education: A Case Study and Steps Forward

Involving End-Users in HCI Education: A Case Study and Steps Forward

Table of Contents


Users are at the core of HCI—they are the focus of our designs, evaluations, and HCI pedagogy; however, limited research exists on how HCI/design students engage with end-user populations in their coursework. In our CHI’20 paper, we provide a case study of a graduate-level HCI/design course working with children to co-design an interactive STEM learning experience. Our findings highlight communication strategies and challenges, power dynamic issues, and the student’s perceived value in engaging with users. In this workshop paper, we first summarize our CHI’20 research and then outline key pedagogical and process changes made to the next course offering. We close by describing initial observations between the 2019 and 2020 course. This ongoing research contributes empirical evidence of how HCI students directly interact with users in a formal course context, principles for reflective pedagogy, and the need for a more intentional investigation into HCI educational practice.

Author Keywords

HCI education, User-centered design, Children

CSS Concepts

Human-centered computing~Human computer interaction (HCI)


Involving users throughout a design process is a defining characteristic of HCI research and practice. As such, HCI pedagogy foregrounds the need for HCI students to directly work with users in authentic design settings [3,4,10]. But limited research exists exploring how HCI students interact with target populations in their coursework. In our CHI’20 paper [14], we offer empirical evidence of how HCI students directly engaged with users in their design process, propose principles for reflective HCI pedagogy, and call for more attention to HCI educational practice. In this workshop paper, we begin by summarizing our CHI’20 study and then outline the key pedagogical and process changes made to the 2020 course offering. We close with a preliminary analysis of initial differences between the 2019 and 2020 course based on curricular changes.

1.1 Users in HCI Education and Pedagogy

There exists a rich body of HCI literature in both research and practice that offers methods and techniques for engaging users [18–20], models and stages for involving users [7,9,13,21], and guidelines for working with users [2,8,11,12]. Despite extensive research on involving users in HCI practice, little scholarship discusses how to involve users in HCI education and pedagogy. Prior research by Agogino et al. [1] and Silveira et al. [16] hint at the value of interactions between students and users but offer few details on how students worked with users and challenges or opportunities in their interactions.

Students often involve users in their design projects across contexts [15]. However, there is a lack of a nuanced understanding of how students interact with users, particularly users with different identities. During EduCHI 2019, Putnam et al. outline five unresolved challenges of teaching accessibility, one of which includes the need for more support in facilitating direct interaction with diverse end-users in addition to drawing on supporting materials. Our research builds on prior EduCHI research by proposing challenges and opportunities in involving a wide range of users in HCI pedagogy. After a close review of HCI literature, we find open questions around how HCI educators expose students to working with and involving users in their design process, which our work begins to address.

1.2 Masters-Level HCI Course Context

To support HCI students in working with users, we established a partnership between a graduate-level prototyping studio course (10-weeks) and a children’s co-design team (ages 7-11). Graduate HCI student teams iteratively designed and built a low-cost physical computing STEM learning experience for children. Following Cooperative Inquiry [5], a participatory design method focused on children as design partners with adults, HCI students participated in two co-design sessions with children (Figures 1-3).


Each co-design session brought together three to four HCI student teams, five to seven children from an intergenerational design team (KidsTeam UW), student volunteers, and a lead facilitator. Parental and child assent was obtained as part of a larger study and HCI students granted consent as well. Co-design sessions followed a general structure of snack-time (15- minutes), circle-time (15-minutes), design-time (45- minutes), and discussion-time (15-minutes). During snack-time, children, volunteers, and HCI students had a chance to eat and get to know each other informally.

For circle-time, everyone sat on the floor and shared their name, age, and a question of the day that set up design-time activities. During design-time, each HCI student team had a station set up with their prototypes, and the children rotated in pairs or trios to each station for 10-minutes each. Finally, during discussion-time, the KidsTeam UW facilitator led a conversation between the HCI students and the children in sharing likes, dislikes, and design ideas for each prototype. To understand how HCI students engaged with, reacted to, and reflected on working with users in their design process, we analyzed: video recordings from the co-design sessions (n=8), semi-structured interviews with HCI students after the course ended (n=14), and artifacts from teams’ final project documentation. For more details on the study, see [14].


In closing, as HCI education programs continue to grow and expand around the world there is great need for HCI students to engage in educational experiences that help them develop knowledge of working with real-end users. In our CHI’20 paper, we provide a case study of a graduate-level HCI/design course working with children to co-design an interactive STEM learning experience. In this workshop submission, we provide preliminary observations of the next course offering after making key curricular changes. During the second course offering, we observe key changes in how HCI students engage with users: they are more intentionally building rapport with their users by drawing on communication strategies with children, they are bringing more interactive prototypes that have the children playing and embodying the designs as opposed to simply watching and after creating session plans they are managing their design sessions better.

We call for the use and implementation of additional reflective tools and activities in the HCI classroom to scaffold HCI students in learning how to work with users. As HCI programs continue to grow and as educators explore ways to support their HCI students in learning to engage with a broad set of users in their design process, we believe reflection will serve as a key component of this process. We look forward to sharing our findings from the second version of the course and discussing opportunities for future research in the symposium. We hope the findings and reflection activities highlighted in this workshop paper will serve as inspiration for future HCI educators seeking to support HCI/design students in working with users unlike themselves.

About KSRA

The Kavian Scientific Research Association (KSRA) is a non-profit research organization to provide research / educational services in December 2013. The members of the community had formed a virtual group on the Viber social network. The core of the Kavian Scientific Association was formed with these members as founders. These individuals, led by Professor Siavosh Kaviani, decided to launch a scientific / research association with an emphasis on education.

KSRA research association, as a non-profit research firm, is committed to providing research services in the field of knowledge. The main beneficiaries of this association are public or private knowledge-based companies, students, researchers, researchers, professors, universities, and industrial and semi-industrial centers around the world.

Our main services Based on Education for all Spectrum people in the world. We want to make an integration between researches and educations. We believe education is the main right of Human beings. So our services should be concentrated on inclusive education.

The KSRA team partners with local under-served communities around the world to improve the access to and quality of knowledge based on education, amplify and augment learning programs where they exist, and create new opportunities for e-learning where traditional education systems are lacking or non-existent.

FULL Paper PDF file:

Involving End-Users in HCI Education: A Case Study and Steps Forward



Wendy Roldan University of Washington Seattle, WA 98195, USA
Jon E. Froehlich University of Washington Seattle, WA 98195, USA
Jason Yip University of Washington Seattle, WA 98195, USA




Involving End-Users in HCI Education: A Case Study and Steps Forward

Publish in

EduCHI 2020

A (Virtual) CHI 2020 Symposium


PDF reference and original file: Click here



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Nasim Gazerani was born in 1983 in Arak. She holds a Master's degree in Software Engineering from UM University of Malaysia.

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Professor Siavosh Kaviani was born in 1961 in Tehran. He had a professorship. He holds a Ph.D. in Software Engineering from the QL University of Software Development Methodology and an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Chelsea.

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Somayeh Nosrati was born in 1982 in Tehran. She holds a Master's degree in artificial intelligence from Khatam University of Tehran.