When students work together to solve real-life problems, they begin to understand how to apply theoretical knowledge to practical situations. Students of Professor of Information and Computer Sciences Alfred Kobsa who are studying the concept of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) have analyzed the UCI Libraries’ website annually since 2002. The resulting partnership has benefited the Libraries, the students, and the campus.
Each fall quarter, undergraduate HCI students study the design and evaluation of user interfaces. They learn methods for interface evaluation, apply the principles to various parts of the Libraries’ website, and write evaluative reports. During winter quarter, graduate students in the HCI User Interfaces class conduct usability tests and propose specific design improvements.
The students treat the UCI Libraries as a real “customer” who provides them with information about our particular needs and explains which parts of the site cannot be changed. As a client, the Libraries also of course require a detailed report of methods and findings. Librarians pore over the individual final reports and evaluate with deep interest the (sometimes conflicting) recommendations from different students. In past years, we have made changes based on student input to the ANTPAC catalog interface, the Grunigen Medical Library website, the structure of our discipline-based subject guides, and the language we use for links.
This year the students in both classes have been considering possible improvements to our home page and the E-Resources Locator. Our staff will take the best ideas from both classes, refine them further, and implement a new design by the end of 2007.
"I always aim at assigning real-world usability projects to my students rather than ‘toy problems’,” says Professor Kobsa. “Collaborating with the UCI Libraries on the redesign of its website gives students the invaluable experience of getting to know the breadth of user needs and the complexity of user-centered design. They will profit from this experience in their academic and future professional careers."
For more information please contact Associate University Librarian for Public Services Carol Hughes (firstname.lastname@example.org or x49753).
Jackie Dooley, Carol Hughes, Steve Macleod, Spencer C. Olin, Kevin Ruminson
Editor: Jackie Dooley
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