Overview of HCI

The Master of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) degree is open to students from a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds in the human, technological, or engineering sciences. It offers students an opportunity explore their native discipline in more depth while also gaining insight into the language and constraints that specialists in other disciplines in the HCI field work under. The degree prepares all students for direct entry into a career in HCI, bringing cross-disciplinary skills in quantitative and qualitative laboratory and field research that are increasingly sought after in industry and Governments. While no PhD program is offered in HCI at Carleton as yet, qualified students who wish to continue their studies beyond a Master’s degree may enroll in the PhD program of their native discipline, with permission from the relevant School or Department.

The HCI program is a two-year full-time degree, although part-time study may be considered in some cases. It is expected that students will complete the coursework in the first year of study and the thesis in the second year. The degree comprises three streams of study (MA, MASc, MCS). Although professors in all three streams are study Human-Computer Interaction, the three streams have been rather loosely defined in three ways: the MA stream is based on the human sciences. Professors representing the following departments will be able to supervise HCI student theses (Cognitive Science, English/Cultural Mediations, Eric Sprott School of Business, Geography, Journalism, Music (School for Studies in Art and Culture), Comparative Psychology, Sociology & Anthropology. The MASc stream focuses primarily on the design sciences; Professors in the following departments can supervise student theses (Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism, Department of Systems and Computer Engineering, School of Industrial Design, School of Information Technology). The MCS stream is based primarily on computer science, with professors from the School of Computer Science able to supervise student theses in that stream. This structure enables students from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds to complete the HCI degree. A full list of contributing faculty and the Schools or Departments they represent is provided here

Objectives of the HCI program

The HCI program has two major objectives. First, it aims to produce graduates who, while remaining true to their native discipline, understand the language and the constraints that specialists in other contributing disciplines work under. This level of understanding is particularly sought after by the IT industry and by Government agencies. Access to graduates who come equipped with the necessary interdisciplinary skills will offset the cost of training newcomers in a climate with ever tighter product-completion deadlines. Graduates from the proposed program will therefore have an important competitive advantage in the job market.

The second objective is to enable those HCI graduates who qualify and who wish to continue their studies to a PhD level to remain acceptable to their native discipline regardless of whether they apply to Carleton or elsewhere. The HCI program achieves this by incorporating three distinct streams, namely a MA, a MASc, and a MCS stream respectively.


All students complete a total of 5.0 credits, of which 2.5 credits are devoted to a thesis, and 2.5 credits to coursework as follows:

Mandatory courses for all HCI students:

HCIN 5100/ PSYC 5105 (0.5 credit): Fundamentals of HCI design and evaluation

A survey of strategies and practices in HCI design and evaluation. Students will learn to perform studies in user interface analysis and design, to read the research literature critically, distill important points from readings, summarize, and write papers as well as design user interfaces and present their written and oral work.

HCIN 5200 (0.5 credit): Software and User Interface Development

Design and development of user interfaces for software systems based on principles for supporting user interaction, with emphasis on frameworks, tools, and processes for user interface development.

HCIN 5300 (0.5 credit): Interactive Entertainment Technologies

Introduction to the elements related to interactivity in entertainment technologies. A range of topics important in the entertainment industry (film, video games, ubiquitous computing) are examined, and the foundations behind these are explained to understand the significant role of the user interface.

Research skills courses: One (0.5 credit) course mandatory within each degree


HCIN 5400/CGSC 5101: Experimental Methods and Statistics (0.5 credit)

An introduction to the design of experiments and the statistics needed to interpret data in cognitive science

MASc: (one of)

HCIN 5404/IDES 5102: Design Research Methods (0.5 credit)

Critical analysis of research methods in design and disciplines contributing to design including anthropology, psychology, sociology, and business. Application areas include advanced materials and manufacturing processes, advanced visualization, product interaction design, extreme environments, sustainable design, design and culture, design management, and human-oriented design.

HCIN 5405/SYSC 5104: Methodologies for Discrete-Event Modelling and Simulation (0.5 credit)

Methodological aspects of simulation. Modelling discrete events systems. Modeling formalisms: FSA, FSM, Petri Nets, DEVS, others. Verification and Verification. Cellular models: Cellular Automata, Cell-DEVS. Continous and hybrid models. Parallel and Distributed simulation (PADS) techniques. PADS middleware: HLA, Parallel-DEVS, Time-Warp.


HCIN 5406/COMP 5104: Object-Oriented Software Development (0.5 credit)

Issues in modeling and verifying quality and variability in object-oriented systems. Testable models in model-driven and test-driven approaches. System family engineering. Functional conformance: scenario modeling and verification, design by contract. Conformance to non functional requirements: goals, forces and tradeoffs, metrics.

Electives taken by all HCI Students: (one of)

ANTH 5004, ANTH 5106, ANTH 5109, ANTH 5202, ANTH 5208, ANTH 5210, ANTH 5305, ANTH 5401, ANTH 5402,
ANTH 5403, ANTH 5701, ANTH 5704, ANTH 5706, ANTH 5708, ANTH 5809

ARCH 5002, ARCH 5003, ARCH 5200, ARCH 5201, ARCH 5600, ARCN 5101, ARCN 5102

CGSC 5001, CGSC 5003, CGSC 5004, CGSC 5900

COMP 5001, COMP 5002, COMP 5100, COMP 5203, COMP 5306, COMP 5307, COMP 5308, COMP 5400, COMP 5407, COMP 5408, COMP 5703

ENGL 5000, ENGL 5002, ENGL 5003, ENGL 5004, ENGL 5005, ENGL 5207, ENGL 5208, ENGL 5301, ENGL 5302, ENGL 5402, ENGL 5408, ENGL 5501, ENGL 5503, ENGL 5508, ENGL 5601, ENGL 5603, ENGL 5604, ENGL 5607, ENGL 5608, ENGL 5801, ENGL 5802, ENGL 5803, ENGL 5805, ENGL 5807, ENGL 5809, ENGL 5900, ENGL 5901, ENGL 5903, ENGL 5904

GEOG 5005, GEOG 5006, GEOG 5103, GEOG 5104, GEOG 5201, GEOG 5303, GEOG 5307, GEOG 5400, GEOG 5406, GEOG 5500, GEOG 5502, GEOG 5700, GEOG 5800, GEOG 5803, GEOG 5804

IDES 5101, IDES 5103

JOUR 5000, JOUR 5206, JOUR 5208, JOUR 5305, JOUR 5401, JOUR 5706

MUSI 5000, MUSI 5002, MUSI 5004, MUSI 5006, MUSI 5007, MUSI 5008, MUSI 5009, MUSI 5010, MUSI 5011, MUSI 5012, MUSI 5013, MUSI 5014, MUSI 5015, MUSI 5016, MUSI 5200, MUSI 5201, MUSI 5900

PSYC 5001, PSYC 5002, PSYC 5010, PSYC 5011, PSYC 5012, PSYC 5104, PSYC 5105, PSYC 5107, PSYC 5109, PSYC 5209, PSYC 5300, PSYC5301, PSYC 5407, PSYC 5601, PSYC 5700, PSYC 5703, PSYC 5704

SYSC 5101, SYSC 5103, SYSC 5105, SYSC 5701, SYSC 5704, SYSC 5708, SYSC 5807

HCIN 5900 (Directed Studies)

Other courses are possible with the approval of student's supervisor and HCI Program Coordinator


HCIN 5909 Thesis in HCI (2.0 credits)