Course Syllabus

HCDD 113: Foundations of Human-Centered Design and Development



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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.


This course will focus on foundational theories, models, and methods needed to be effective human-centered design and development (HCDD) practitioners. Throughout the semester the course emphasizes what it means for application design and development to be context-aware, interaction-focused, and human-centered. The course will balance project work with quizzes, short essays, and discussions. Students will learn about key HCDD concepts from psychology, social science, and philosophy domains. Students will apply these concepts to real-world problems in addition to discussing and writing about them. Assignments will reflect the diverse career opportunities that students might anticipate (e.g. interaction design, learning solutions architecture, UX research). In addition, students will be introduced to a repertoire of human-centered methods and techniques that they will re-encounter and practice in future courses. This is an intensive, hands-on course designed for undergraduate students who have expressed an interest in the HCDD major.


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Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Describe a condensed history of human-centered design & development, human-computer interaction, and user experience design
  • Explain the Design Thinking paradigm and its different activities & phases
  • Apply knowledge of physical abilities to real-world design projects
  • Explain and apply key cognitive models to real-world design projects
  • Explain and apply key social models to real-world design projects
  • Explain how philosophical considerations apply to human-centered design & development
  • Present design work in concise, aesthetically pleasing formats (e.g. live presentation, online portfolio, poster)


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Required Materials

  • Norman, D. (2013). The design of everyday things: Revised and expanded edition. Basic books.  ISBN: 9780128182024.
    • Purchase via BNC.
    • A limited number of users can view online through the Penn State libraries here. Note: requires log in.
  • Johnson, J. (2014). Designing with the mind in mind: simple guide to understanding user interface design guidelines, Third Edition. Elsevier. ISBN: 9780465050659.
    • Purchase via BNC.
    • A limited number of users can view online through the Penn State libraries here. Note: requires log in.
  • Other materials in Canvas and online, posted as assigned.

Assignments & Grading

The course will follow an active, problem-based approach to learning. Quizzes, essays and other homework assignments, group activities, and the final exam will provide the opportunity to gain practice with new concepts and skills, and develop and demonstrate a solid understanding of the course material.


About five (5) quizzes will be given over the course of the semester to encourage your ongoing attention to course material. Covered topics will be drawn largely from assigned readings, but all other lecture content and supplementary readings are also fair game.


Homework activities are assigned and reviewed regularly. Some of these will be short, reflective writing assignments, and others will involve applying the HCDD methods you will learn as part of the course. The purpose of many homework assignments is to encourage you to explore material before it is discussed in class. Homework assignments are marked with an emphasis on effort, quality, and completeness. Though some assignments are for group work (see course project below), note that this will be specified for each assignment and you should assume assignments are to be completed on your own, individually, unless explicit in the assignment.

Course Project

The course project will consist of analysis and design of an interactive application concept. You will work on the project exercises in groups of three-four. The instructor will assign group membership during the first few weeks of class. The purpose of this project is to give you hands-on, in-depth experience with a wide range of methods in human-centered design & development.

Final Exam

The final exam will be comprehensive, covering all aspects of the course. The final week of class will include an in-depth review session to explain what to expect on the exam.

In general, assignments will be graded based on the following general criteria:

  • Correctness (e.g. concepts, techniques, and tools are used appropriately)
  • Completeness (e.g. written work address all aspects of the problem as described in the assignment specification.)
  • Clarity (e.g. written work and diagrams are free of typographical and grammatical errors, and are formatted neatly)

 Course Grading Breakdown

Writing assignments & other individual work 25%
Project design & other group work 25%
Quizzes 30%
Final Exam 20%
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

Final grades WILL NOT be rounded up.

Course Policies and Expectations

Late Policy

  • Late Submissions: All work must be completed and turned in before the due date and time.
    • Assignments submitted late are deducted 25% for each 24 hours period after the due date and time i.e max 75% within 24 hours of the due date and time, max 50%  within the next 24 hours, and so on.
    • There are no exceptions to the late submission policy.
  • Logging into Canvas - Students are expected to login regularly to check for course updates, announcements, emails, discussions, etc.
    • Updates will occur regularly so please make sure to keep up with announcements and updates to the course site.
  • 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.


Find extensive information and links to many resources, including the Penn State library, web conferencing, course tools, writing help, and much more on the Resources (Links to an external site.) page.

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:

While utilizing additional sources outside of this class is encouraged for gaining a better understanding of course concepts, seeking explicit answers for graded assignments from outside sources (e.g. Course Hero, Chegg, tutoring services like, etc.) is considered CHEATING and will not be tolerated. Sanctions range from failure of the assignment or course to dismissal from the University. Additionally, sharing course content without permission is a violation of copyright and may result in university sanctions and/or legal ramifications. 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.

Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated and can be reported through Educational Equity via the Report Bias webpage (


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 Due