The Center for Human-Computer Interaction is an interdisciplinary organizational unit for human-computer interaction research, instruction, and outreach within Penn State and beyond. The Center seeks to leverage and integrate diverse HCI activities throughout the university to facilitate interdisciplinary faculty interaction relating to HCI issues, problems, and opportunities. Additionally, the Center helps to focus and coordinate research and service projects throughout the wider community. It is comprised of faculties from a variety of departments, an example of cross-departmental cooperation. The Center for Human-Computer Interaction is a member of the Human-Computer Interaction Consortium (HCIC), which is comprised of leading academic, governmental and industrial organizations working together to “develop and promote the discipline.” Our work currently focuses on software and information design, end-user programming and design, design rationale, creativity in design, training and instructional design, case-based learning and collaborative learning, open source software, e-science, web-based collaborative systems, online communities, wireless community networks, decision support, support for information analysis, community health applications, geospatial information systems, equity and access to computing and information technology, usability engineering methods, and theories in human-computer interaction.
What is HCI?
Human-Computer Interaction is fundamentally an interdisciplinary area. Throughout the world, however, most university faculty and programs in HCI are located in singular, insular departments (e.g., computer science, industrial engineering, psychology). The problems that the field seeks to address necessarily involve expertise in many disciplines, including anthropology, business, cognitive science, computer engineering, computer science, education, electrical engineering, industrial engineering, human factors, information science, management, psychophysics, cognitive and social psychology, science and technology studies, sociology, visual design, and systems engineering. The vision of the Center is to provide a forum for faculty from many HCI-related units to work together in developing a broad range of interdisciplinary research, education, and outreach. More specifically, the objective of the center is to enhance the university’s prominence in human-computer interaction by increasing the breadth of HCI research and scholarship in the university, by developing innovative education programs, and by reaching out to the HCI community at a global level.
Faculty associated with the Center for Human-Computer Interaction are involved in basic and applied projects in such areas as design methods and models, multimedia information access, digital libraries, community computing, educational technology, end-user development, network-based collaboration, aesthetics, visual design, visualization and virtual environments, input and output device ergonomics, documentation and design rationale, training and education, creating new types of interfaces (or similar), and usability evaluation methods and tools.
The Center is a common point of contact for potential industrial sponsors and for industrial continuing education, consulting, and testing requests. The existence of the Center demonstrates to funding agencies and potential industrial sponsors that the interdisciplinary cooperation represented in Penn State proposals is more than an ad hoc repackaging of separate, departmental interests. It shows that this cooperation has been institutionalized. The existence of the Center also assists departments interested in aspects of human-computer interaction with graduate and undergraduate recruiting by creating an externally visible focus on HCI.
There is a critical world-wide need for broadly educated computing professionals. Graduate students with a concentration in human-computer interaction have many opportunities for participation in activities outside the classroom that can complement their course work, enhance their professional development, and provide direct experience in applied settings. Students are encouraged to participate in the human-computer interaction research being conducted by participating faculty members. Involvement in such projects can provide research experience and, in some cases, provide financial assistance, course credit, and thesis or dissertation topics. The Center for Human-Computer Interaction sponsors a seminar series involving presentations by noted authorities on human-computer interaction from both inside and outside Penn State. Students also may participate in cooperative education and intern programs to carry out field studies and develop industrial experience.
There is a national trend toward interdisciplinary degree programs in HCI. Carnegie-Mellon University, Georgia Tech, Stanford University, and the University of Michigan have all recently established such programs. The Center works with interested departments and colleges to coordinate interdisciplinary Masters and Ph.D. programs in areas incorporating human-computer interaction. The Center is also exploring the development of a graduate certificate program in HCI. At the undergraduate level, the Center serves as a resource for faculty delivering core IST courses, many of which focus on human-computer interaction or include HCI content.