Course Syllabus

Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus are subject to change. Instructors will notify students of any changes and students will be responsible for abiding by them. Even if you print this syllabus, please check the online version often.


IST 331: Foundations of Human-Centered Design (3 credits) - Interdisciplinary survey of topics and methods related to the human-centered design use and usability of information systems.

This course provides students with theories, models, and analytic techniques regarding how users interact with information, and with Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Basic concepts of use, tied to how humans process information, are developed through projects, case studies, examples, and discussion. The course also covers aspects of how small groups process and share information, use ICT and interact. The course serves as a focused introduction to the concept that people are important in technology systems and has become either a co-requisite or prerequisite to all other 300 and 400 level IST courses. It is now a required course for incoming IST students.


  • IST 240 or IST 242, grade of "C" or better required


Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Define in a quantitative and qualitative way aspects of human behavior.
  • Explain the terms used in human-computer interaction (HCI).
  • Be familiar with theories, problems, and terms in the area of human-computer interaction.
  • Be able to gather data in several ways to explore how people use an interface individually and as a group.
  • Develop an appreciation for the "user" perspective in information and communication technologies (ICT).
  • Apply user profiling in a selected HCI project.
  • Examine how groups and larger social units process and share information, use, and interact.
  • Explore emerging technologies and the impact they will have on individuals, groups, organizations, and society.
  • Differentiate their thoughts from the more traditional view in computer science of only focusing on computers and MIS's rather "user-less" orientation.


  • TBD


  • Johnson, J. (2014). Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Guidelines (2nd edition). Morgan Kaufmann. ISBN 9780124079144
    • An online version of this text is available at no cost as a Penn State Library E-Book and can be accessed through Library Resources in the course navigation. Some E-Books will only be available online, while others will be available to download in full or in part. You may choose to use the E-Book as an alternative to purchasing a physical copy of the text. For questions or issues, you can contact the University Libraries Reserve Help.

Assignments & Grading

Course Grading Breakdown
Grading Category Percentage of Final Grade
Individual Assignments & Quizzes 25%
Group Term Project - All deliverables except final 30%
Group Term Project - Presentation and Final Deliverables 35%
Class Participation 10%
TOTAL 100%

Course Grading Scale

The following are minimum cutoffs for each grade:

  • 93.00% = A
  • 90.00% = A-
  • 87.00% = B+
  • 83.00% = B
  • 80.00% = B-
  • 77.00% = C+
  • 70.00% = C
  • 60.00% = D
  • less than 60.00% = F

Course Policies and Expectations

  • Logging into Canvas - Students are expected to log in regularly to check for course updates, announcements, emails, discussions, etc.
  • Emailing through Canvas - Students are expected to use Canvas for all course email communication.
  • Attending virtual meetings - Students are expected to use specified virtual meeting tool(s) for collaboration, meetings, presentations, etc., as needed.

Academic Integrity

Penn State and the College of Information Sciences and Technology are committed to maintaining Penn State's policy on Academic Integrity in this and all other courses. We take academic integrity matters seriously and expect you to become a partner to the University/College standards of academic excellence.

For more information, please review these policies and procedures:

WARNING: In addition to other policies, using any material in any media format - from “answer sites” (such Course Hero, Chegg, and all others) and/or other types of sources - is considered CHEATING and will not be tolerated. Sanctions range from failure of the assignment or course to dismissal from the University. Contact your instructor with questions related to this topic.

University Policies

Review current information regarding various Penn State policies (such as copyright, counseling, psychological services, disability, and military accommodations, discrimination, harassment, emergencies, trade names, etc.) on the University Policies page.


Find extensive information and links to many Penn State and IST resources (including the Penn State libraries, video conferencing tools, technology and software, writing and research help, and much more) on the Resources page.

Technical Requirements

Standard World Campus computer technical specifications are assumed for this course. Please test your computer for requirements. In addition, a webcam and a headset with a microphone are REQUIRED for the course. These may be used for virtual meetings, virtual office hours, interactions with classmates and your instructor, and group presentations - which are all conducted with virtual meeting tools. No special software is required.


The following schedule outlines the topics covered in this course, along with the associated time frames, readings, activities, and assignments. All due dates reflect Eastern Time (ET). Specifying the time zone ensures that all students have the same deadlines, regardless of where they live.

Course Summary:

Date Details