Postgraduate study

Human Computer Interaction MSc

This course provides the theoretical grounding, practical knowledge, and hands on experience needed to shape computing systems for the 21st century.
 
  
Duration
1 year full-time
Entry requirements
2:2 (or international equivalent) in a computer science, engineering, natural sciences, social sciences or art and design subject
IELTS
6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses may be available
Start date
September
UK/EU fees
£7,785 - Terms apply
International fees
£22,815 - Terms apply
Campus
Jubilee Campus
School/department
 

 

Overview

This course provides the theoretical grounding, practical knowledge, and hands on experience needed to shape computing systems for the 21st century. The course is intended for students with diverse disciplinary backgrounds and experiences to learn about how we can shape our digital future to meet human needs.

Key facts

  • Delivered by the School of Computer Science and the School of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering.
  • Both schools are ranked in the top ten for 'research power'*
  • Modules taught by specialists and members of the Mixed Reality Laboratory and Human Factors Research Group specialists in HCI research.

* Research Excellence Framework, 2014

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.

HCI page

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.

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) is a distinctive branch of computer science dedicated to:

  • understanding the relationship between people and computers
  • 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 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.

 

Full course details

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.

MSc Human Computer Interaction is offered on a full-time basis over one year. The course comprises 180 credits, split across 120 credits’ worth of compulsory and optional taught modules and a 60-credit research project.

 
 

Modules

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.

Semester one

During semester one, you will study the following compulsory modules.

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 also provides a theoretical basis for techniques which may be practised during laboratory work and exercises in other human factors modules.

The syllabus covers:

  • introduction to experimental design; experimental controls; selection and recruitment of subjects; user trials; ethical considerations
  • observational methods: direct and indirect observation; recording techniques; measurement of behaviour; activity sampling
  • subjective measurements: ranking methods, rating scales, application in interviews and questionnaires
  • task analysis: task description; tabular and hierarchical task analysis; applications
  • introduction to SPSS
  • descriptive statistics
  • statistical analysis: types of data; normal distribution; non-parametric tests; parametric 2 samples tests, correlation and regression, chi square, ANOVA
 
Design Ethnography

You will cover a range of topics including: origins and evolution of ethnography; foundations and nature of the ethnomethodological approach; ethnographic analysis; its relationship to systems design; and the perceived problems with the approach. You’ll spend around three hours each week in lectures and tutorials for this module. 

 
Cognitive Ergonomics in Design
  • cognitive psychology and ergonomics
  • the human as information processor: Memory and attention, mental models
  • human workload
  • displays, controls, consoles and control rooms
  • decision making, automation
  • situation awareness
  • problem solving and artificial intelligence
  • decision support systems, decision making biases
  • situated cognition and joint cognitive systems
 
Programming

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.

 


Semester two

You will study the following compulsory modules:

Contemporary Issues in Human Factors and Interactive Systems

This module develops an understanding of human factors and interactive systems design through student led seminars and an individual literature review that each student conducts on a contemporary topic area. The seminar will cover aspects such as: defining human factors and interactive systems, approaches (experimental, ethnographic, analytical, etc) and the design of systems, case studies illustrating the need for socio-technical perspectives, and issues in user-centred design for products, processes and interfaces.

The literature review will equip each student with essential skills in the searching, critical analysis and synthesis of relevant literature (which may come from a variety of scientific journals, books, industrial/business/professional publications across a range of disciplines). Each student will develop their knowledge and understanding of a specific area in human factors/interactive systems. The information collected will be critically analysed to produce an extended essay/review.

 

Human-Computer Systems

You will cover the following topics:

  • introduction to human computer interaction
  • user interface design
  • evaluation of computer interfaces
  • HCI design and requirements elicitation
  • multimodal interfaces
  • mobile computing
  • virtual reality
  • computers in context
  • computers and collaboration
  • accessibility
  • HCI in practice
  • advanced display systems
 
Mixed Reality Technologies

This module focuses on the possibilities and challenges of interaction beyond the desktop.  You will explore the 'mixed reality continuum' - a spectrum of emerging computing applications that runs from virtual reality (in which a user is immersed into a computer-generated virtual world) at one extreme, to ubiquitous computing (in which digital materials appear embedded into the everyday physical world - often referred to as the 'Internet of Things') at the other. In the middle of this continuum lie augmented reality and locative media, in which the digital appears to be overlaid upon the physical world in different ways.

You will gain knowledge and hands-on experience of design and development with key technologies along this continuum, including working with both ubiquitous computing based sensor systems and locative media. You will learn about the Human-Computer Interaction challenges that need to be considered when creating mixed reality applications along with strategies for addressing them, so as to create compelling and reliable user experiences.

 

Optional modules

In both semesters, you will make up 120 credits in total from taught modules:

Advanced Methods in Human Factors

This module develops analysis and evaluation skills from the earlier grounding in Studying Human Performance, introducing further methods and analysis techniques. Topics include: predictive evaluation techniques (e.g. GOMs, Fitts Law); psychophysical methods: paired comparison, method of limits, threshold measurements; verbal protocol analysis; video analysis of observation data; ergonomics project management; qualitative approaches and methodologies; eye tracking methodologies; ethic considerations in Human Factors research. You will spend two hours per week in lectures for this module.

 

Collaboration and Communication Technologies

You’ll consider the design of collaboration and communication technologies used in a variety of different contexts including workplace, domestic and leisure environments. You’ll consider the basic principles of such technologies, explore the technologies from a social perspective, consider their impact on human behaviour and critically reflect on their design from a human-centred perspective. You’ll spend around two hours per week in lectures for this module.

 

Collaboration and Communication Technologies Project

In this module you are given the opportunity to combine your developing CCT knowledge with your programming abilities. You have the whole semester to build a working collaborative project, optionally in a team, and produce a report on how it supports collaboration according to CCT theory. The primary focus is on building a working application, and so existing strong programming ability is required to take this co-requisite with G53CCT.

 
Data Modelling and Analysis

This module will enable you to appreciate the range of data analysis problems that can be modelled computationally and a range of techniques that are suitable to analyse and solve those problems. Topics covered include: basic statistics; types of data; data visualisation techniques; data modelling; data pre-processing methods including data imputation; forecasting methods; clustering and classification methods (decision trees, naīve bayes classifiers, k-nearest neighbours); data simulation and model interpretation techniques to aid decision support.

Spending around 4 hours each week in lectures and computer classes, appropriate software (eg. R, Weka) will be used to illustrate the topics you'll cover.

 

Fundamentals of Information Visualisation

Information visualisation is the process of extracting knowledge from complex data, and presenting it to a user in a manner that this appropriate to their needs. This module provides a foundational understanding of some important issues in information visualisation design. You will learn about the differences between scientific and creative approaches to constructing visualisations, and consider some important challenges such as the representation of ambiguous or time-based data. You will also learn about psychological theories that help explain how humans process information, and consider their relevance to the design of effective visualisations.

If you want to learn how to design and implement your own interactive information visualisation, you should also take the linked module G53IVP (Information Visualisation Project). Together, these two modules form an integrated 20 credit programme of study.

 
Games

This module covers the history, development and state-of-the art in computer games and technological entertainment. Students will gain an appreciation of the range of gaming applications available and be able to chart their emergence as a prevalent form of entertainment.

Students will study the fundamental principles of theoretical game design, and how these can be applied to a variety of modern computer games.

Students will study the development of games as complex software systems. Specific software design issues to be considered will include the software architecture of games, and the technical issues associated with networked and multiplayer games.

Students will use appropriate software environments to individually develop a number of games to explore relevant theoretical design and practical implementation concepts.

 

Information Visualisation Project

This module provides an opportunity to put into practice knowledge and understanding that you have developed through the linked module G53FIV. You will gain practical experience of how to design and evaluate a distinctive interactive visualisation which presents information gathered from a complex and interesting data source.

Your project will be supported by tutorials that introduce practical topics that are essential to effective visualisation design, and which have not been considered in G53FIV, including specific algorithms for extracting information from data, structured processes for designing visualisations and selected elements of design aesthetics (such as colour choice and typography). You will gain experience in web-based technologies that enable the implementation of multi-layered and interactive information visualisations, supported through lab work that introduces specific features of these technologies.

This module will require some challenging programming work, and assumes some basic knowledge of HTML, CSS and Javascript. Introductory tutorials will be provided to those without this prior knowledge.

 

Physical Ergonomics

A thorough understanding of Human Factors/Ergonomics is critical to the successful design and implementation of products, workplaces, jobs and systems. This module focuses on the physical characteristics of people (e.g. body size, strength, flexibility, vision and hearing abilities) and considers how to account for an individual’s fundamental needs, capabilities and limitations. Ultimately, such an understanding will lead to products, workplaces, jobs and systems which promote productivity, health, safety, comfort, etc.

The syllabus covers: Structure and functioning of the human body; anthropometry (human body dimensions) and product/workplace design; biomechanics (loadings on the human body); work-related upper-limb disorders; manual materials handling; risk assessment for work-related musculoskeletal disorders; designing and assessing environments to account for visual, acoustic, thermal and vibration factors. You will spend around two hours per week in lectures studying for this module.

 

Risk and Safety Science for Engineers

This 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.

Topics covered include: risk and risk perception; risk assessment and management; accident models and accident causation; causes of human error; epidemiology, accident reporting and analysis; accident prevention; human reliability assessment; safety climate and culture; safety systems management. You will spend around two hours per week in lectures studying for 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 and Optimisation for Decision Support

This module offers insight into the applications of selected methods of decision support. The foundations for applying these methods are derived from Operations Research Simulation, Social Simulation, Data Science, Automated Scheduling, and Decision Analysis. Throughout the module, you will become more competent in choosing and implementing the appropriate method for the particular problem at hand. You will spend five hours per week in lectures and computer classes for this module.

 
Software Engineering Management

This module is part of the Software Engineering theme. This module covers the following topics: Management of the introduction of new software or IT systems; Software project management practices; Practical experience of use of an Agile software development project management process; Practical experience of use of Test Driven Development, pair programming and various approaches to software management tools, including the use of software versioning, project management planning tools and continuous integration and deployment.

 
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.

 
Individual Research Project

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.

 

The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.

 
 

Funding

UK/EU students

See information on how to fund your masters, including our step-by-step guide. 

 

Government loans for masters courses

The Government offers postgraduate student loans for students studying a taught or research masters course. Applicants must ordinarily live in England or the EU. Student loans are also available for students from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

International and EU students

Masters scholarships are available for international students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure your course application is submitted in good time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.

 
 

Careers and professional development

There is an increasing need in industry for graduates with an understanding of the human element in systems design. This course provides you with skills and knowledge essential to design companies that appreciate the value of human-centred design. It provides a pathway to careers in interactive systems design, user experience design, user interface design, and usability engineering.

This course is also a great 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.

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Average starting salary and career progression

In 2017, 94.4% 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 £29,250 with the highest being £30,000.* 

*Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2016/17. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK. 

Career prospects and employability

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers** and can offer you a head-start when it comes to your career. 

Those who take up a postgraduate research opportunity with us will not only receive support in terms of close contact with supervisors and specific training related to your area of research, you will also benefit from dedicated careers advice from our Careers and Employability Service

Our Careers and Employability Service offers a range of services including advice sessions, employer events, recruitment fairs and skills workshops – and once you have graduated, you will have access to the service for life.

** The Graduate Market 2013-2017, High Fliers Research.

 
 
 

Disclaimer
This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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