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NUS Computing Review: CS3240 Interaction Design

Module content:

This is one of the unconventional CS modules where the focus is not on hardcore CS concepts. Instead, the whole module revolves around a problem-solving methodology called Design Thinking. Design Thinking is one of the hottest approaches in problem solving these days. SAP charges over a thousand for a Design Thinking workshop that lasts a few days. The Faculty of Engineering has a programme called Design-Centric Programme, which also emphasizes on Design Thinking through the curriculum.

Students in CS3240 will be taught and brought through the various stages of Design Thinking: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test.

Lectures and Tutorials:

The lectures are highly interactive and almost every lecture involves hands-on exercises to reinforce the concepts taught in each phase of Design Thinking. The lecture content is light as there are no tough and technical CS theories to be learnt. Most theories and concepts are quite straightforward and actually makes a lot of sense. Hence they were easy to understand in my opinion.

Note that the tutorials and lectures are combined together into one massive 3-hour lesson, so it might get tiring halfway. There’s also no distinguishing between lectures and tutorials. But somehow time passes pretty fast during the lessons. Also, Dr Bimlesh she brings snacks (Oreo, sweets, etc) and puts them at the back of the class and they are available for any hungry/student to eat. I visit the snacks corner often (:

In the last few weeks, us students took over the lectures instead. In our project groups, we were each assigned an Interaction Design-related topic and gave presentations to the class. However, the quality of the presentations is subjected to the groups effort in preparing the content. In my opinion, some groups’ presentations were off-topic and did not have much valuable content.

Labs:

There were four lab sessions in total covering the following topics: HTML/CSS, Front-end development with Bootstrap and jQuery, HTML5 Canvas, and Chocolate Chip UI. Personally I did not attend any of the lab sessions as I had prior experience with front end development so I am unable to comment on the lab sessions. From the materials covered, the content covered is pretty basic, and students would have to really spend their own time delving into them to be proficient enough in them.

Lab Assignments:

There were two lab assignments for the course: Bootstrap and Chocolate Chip UI. The topics were very open and you could make any app that you wanted, as long as they made use of the various Bootstrap/ChUI elements. For the Bootstrap lab, I made a portfolio site template (https://github.com/yangshun… and for the ChUI lab, I made a Hacker News and Designer News aggregator (https://github.com/yangshun…. The final outcome can be a mockup, as long as interactions were allowed. The labs are only worth 3% each, and each small mistake will cost you 0.3%, hence really negligible impact. I spent quite a lot of time (one-two days each) on the assignments though, because I liked doing front end web development.

Project:

The project group is formed early in the semester and there are three deliverables spread across the semester so that progress can be seen over the semester. The project topic was to solve a problem with a technical solution by applying the Design Thinking techniques and process that we learnt in the class. For the first deliverable, we had to identify our target users, analyze the problem and draft out the requirements for the solution. For the second deliverable, we had to define the primary user persona, define key tasks that our solution will support, build a paper prototype and also get people to test and give feedback. For the third and final deliverable, adjust our prototype according to the feedback, build a final interactive prototype, and evaluate with users. It is up to the technical standard of the team for the final interactive prototype. While it is perfectly fine to build static web mockups, building real working prototypes will definitely score you more points.

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