This course provides theoretical grounding, practical knowledge, and hands on experience of key skills and competences needed to shape computing systems for the 21st century.
As computing becomes ever more pervasive and reaches out into everyday life, academia and industry recognise that successful systems development increasingly relies on our ability to place people at the centre of the digital revolution.
Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) is a distinctive branch of computer science dedicated to understanding the relationship between people and computers, and to enabling systems designers and software engineers to develop computing applications that better respond to the needs of customers, clients and end-users. Related terms include human-centred design, interactive systems design, user experience design, user interface design, and usability engineering.
HCI is a key area of computing, promoted globally by the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and nationally by the British Computer Society (BCS). The course addresses core areas of the ACM SIGCHI Curricula for Human-Computer Interaction and is intended for students with diverse disciplinary backgrounds and experiences, including computer science, engineering, natural science, social science, and art and design.
Whatever your background, whether you are a software engineer seeking to further develop professional skill and competence or someone with little or no experience of systems design, if you believe that people should be at the heart of computing and are interested in shaping our digital future to meet human need, then this is the course for you.
Modules are offered by the School of Computer Science and the Faculty of Engineering. Compulsory modules provide a foundation in Human-Computer Interaction, and a range of optional modules provide the opportunity for more advanced study.
During semester one, you must take three compulsory modules:
- Introduction to Human Computer Interaction
- Studying Human Performance
- Ubiquitous Computing
Students must also take one of the following additional compulsory modules, depending on previous experience and individual preference:
- Cognitive Ergonomics in Design
During semester two, all students take compulsory modules in:
- Contemporary Issues in Human Factors and Interactive Systems
- Design Ethnography
- Human-Computer Systems
In both semesters, students must also take some of the following optional modules, making up 120 credits in total from taught modules:
Advanced Methods in Human Factors
In this module you will be introduced to further techniques that will develop your analytical and evaluation skills from a Human Factors perspective. Topics include predictive evaluation techniques (e.g. GOMs, Fitts Law), ergonomics project management and eye tracking methodologies amongst others. This module has considerable practical work to enable you to understand how methods can be used in research and development work. You will spend two hours per week in lectures for this module.
Cognitive Ergonomics in Design
This module will provide you with a thorough understanding of cognitive ergonomics and the way in which cognitive ergonomics can impact on human performance in the workplace. Throughout this course there will be some short interactive exercises which form part of the assessment. In addition to this, there will be two hours of lectures per week.
Computer Vision (Level 4)
You will examine current techniques for the extraction of useful information about a physical situation from individual and sets of images. You will cover a range of methods and applications, with particular emphasis being placed on the identification of objects, recovery of three-dimensional shape and motion, and the recognition of events. You will spend around three hours a week in lectures and tutorials.
Contemporary Issues in Human Factors and Interactive Systems
This module will help you develop an understanding of human factors and interactive systems design through student-led seminars and an individual literature review that you will conduct on a contemporary topic area. Systems analysis and design are introduced to enhance other modules on both the MSc in Human Factors & MSc Interactive Systems Design courses. For this module you will have a two hour lecture weekly.
This module introduces you to the theory and practice of design ethnography. You will cover a range of topics including: origins and evolution of ethnography, foundations and nature of the ethnomethodological approach, ethnographic analysis; and the perceived problems with the approach. You will spend around two hours each week in lectures and tutorials for this module.
This module will provide you with a thorough understanding of the growth of IT and human computer systems. You will examine the concepts and methods available for the analysis, design and evaluation of computer-based interfaces through hardware, software, task and systems design. For this module you will have two hours of lectures weekly.
Individual Project: Human-Project Interaction
You will undertake a project which is relevant to Human-Computer Interaction, developing your skills in research, such as: planning research activities, empirical investigation, literature review, critical reflection, evaluation, oral and written communication, individual learning and time management. Collaboration with business, industry, and other outside bodies in encouraged.
Providing you with an introduction to machine learning, pattern recognition, and data mining techniques, this module will enable you to consider both systems which are able to develop their own rules from trial-and-error experience to solve problems, as well as systems that find patterns in data without any supervision. In the latter case, data mining techniques will make generation of new knowledge possible, including very big data sets. This is now fashionably termed 'big data' science. You'll cover a range of topics including: machine learning foundations; pattern recognition foundations; artificial neural networks; deep learning; applications of machine learning; data mining techniques and evaluating hypotheses. You'll spend around six hours each week in lectures and computer classes for this module.
The term 'mixed reality' defines a spectrum of applications of computing that runs from virtual reality, in which a user is immersed in a computer-generated environment at one extreme to augmented reality, and ubiquitous computing, in which the everyday world appears to be overlaid with digital information at the other. This module will explore the Human-Computer Interaction challenges and principles that arise when creating mixed reality applications. It will introduce the concepts and technologies that underlie different forms of mixed reality, and will illustrate these using a variety of applications ranging from entertainment to wellbeing. Students will learn about the concepts and techniques of mixed reality, and will gain hands-on experience of applying these to the design of a prototype application.
Mobile Device Programming
You will look at the development of software applications for mobile devices, with a practical focus on the Android operating system. You will consider and use the software development environments for currently available platforms and the typical hardware architecture of mobile devices. You will spend around three hours per week in lectures and computer classes for this module.
New Media Design
This is a practical module covering the critical elements of New Media Design, with a particular focus on its use in the web. Critical elements such as colour, images, audio, video and animation will be introduced and discussed, in addition to broader issues around usability and interaction. Processes to support effective design work will also be considered. You will gain hands-on experience of technologies used to manipulate New Media in a professional context. Such tools will be put into context with emerging paradigms, including new media for mobile platforms.
This module aims to equip students with fundamental knowledge and skills regarding the physical characteristics of people (body size, strength, flexibility, etc.) and environments (lighting, thermal, sound, etc.) as they relate to the design of products, workplaces and tasks/jobs. You will spend two hours in lectures per week when studying this module.
This module gives you a comprehensive overview of the principles of programming, including such concepts as procedural logic, variables, flow control, input and output and the analysis and design of programs. Instruction will be provided in an object-oriented programming language. You will spend around five hours per week in lectures and computer classes studying for this module.
Risk and Safety Science for Engineers
The module aims to give an understanding of risk, primarily in the context of safe systems but also in relation to major projects, investments and public and social systems. The potential causes of accidents and of human error are explained, and an introduction given to methods of reporting and investigating accidents and techniques for analysing accidents and systems reliability which will lead to the design of safer organisations and work systems. You will spend two hours in lectures each week when studying this module.
Simulation and Digital Human Modelling
This module aims to equip students with the knowledge and skills required to use digital human modelling and systems simulation approaches in human factors research and design/evaluation work. In addition, the module aims to provide students with an understanding of the fundamental assumptions upon which digital human modelling and simulation tools are based and their primary capabilities and limitations. You will spend two hours in lectures and two hours in practicals each week when studying this module.
Simulation for Decision Support
This module introduces you to three broad simulation paradigms commonly used in Operations Research and Management Science: System Dynamics, Discrete Event, and Agent-Based. Covering topics such as the introduction to the principles of modelling and simulation, conceptual modelling, model implementation, and output analysis, you will become competent in choosing and implementing the correct method for your particular problem. You will spend around four hours per week in lectures and computer classes for this module.
Software Project Management
Through two hours of lectures each week, you will consider the required activities and the tools available, to manage commercial software development projects. Real case studies will be used to illustrate many of the tools and techniques introduced.
Studying Human Performance
The module aims to give a broad review of the measurement techniques which can be used in ergonomic analysis and evaluation of systems or products, together with an understanding of the need for experimental design and control in order to obtain valid and meaningful results. It will also provide a theoretical basis for techniques which may be practiced during laboratory work and exercises in other human factors modules. You will have two 2-hour lectures weekly for this module.
Systems Engineering and Human Factors
This module fills a current gap in Engineering teaching by addressing systems analysis and development across a range of applications. You will learn that technical, human, organizational and economic factors must be addressed when understanding the operation and potential failure in existing systems, and in developing requirements, implementation and evaluation approaches for social and socio-technical systems, and for systems of systems. You will spend two hours in lecture weekly for this module.
You will explore the emerging field of ubiquitous computing, in which computation spreads away from the desktop to become embedded into the world around us, including into artefacts, furniture, buildings and ultimately into our own bodies. You will cover the distinctive design challenges in this field including designing for public settings, adapting to context and coping with uncertainty in positioning and wireless communications. You will spend around three hours in lectures and computer classes each week.
Please note that all module details are subject to change.
Over the summer period towards the end of your course, you will undertake an individual research project in Human-Computer Interaction under the supervision of a member of academic staff. The topic can be in any area of HCI that is of mutual interest to both you and your supervisor, ranging from purely theoretical studies to empirical studies of users and/or practical design work developing and evaluating prototypes of novel computing systems to support user needs, including novel mobile and location-based or 'ubiquitous' computing application
For more details on our modules, please see the module catalogue.
There is an increasing need in industry for graduates with an understanding of the human element in systems design. The MSc Human-Computer Interaction provides you with skills and knowledge essential to design companies that appreciate the value of human-centred design. The course will equip you with the knowledge and skill sets necessary to shape the development of new technology that puts people at the heart of computing, including core HCI techniques for identifying user needs, shaping systems design, and evaluating developed systems and applications. It provides a pathway to careers in interactive systems design, user experience design, user interface design, and usability engineering.
The MSc HCI is also good starting point for students who wish to study for a PhD in Human-Computer Interaction and the associated area of Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW). Beyond academia, PhD students in the Mixed Reality Laboratory have also taken up internships in world-leading industrial labs across Europe and America, including Xerox, Microsoft, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard, where they have gone on to develop their careers.
Average starting salary and career progression
In 2014, 90% of postgraduates in the School of Computer Science who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £28,375 with the highest being £43,000.*
* Known destinations of full-time home and EU postgraduates, 2013/14.
Career Prospects and Employability
The acquisition of a masters degree demonstrates a high level of knowledge in a specific field. Whether you are using it to enhance your employability, as preparation for further academic research or as a means of vocational training, you may benefit from careers advice as to how you can use your new found skills to their full potential. Our Careers and Employability Service will help you do this, working with you to explore your options and inviting you to attend recruitment events where you can meet potential employers, as well as suggesting further development opportunities, such as relevant work experience placements and skills workshops.