HCI Education at the University of Tampere, Finland
Tampere Unit for Computer-Human Interaction (TAUCHI)
Department of Computer Sciences, FIN-33014 University of Tampere
phases taking 3, 2, and 4 years, respectively. HCI education
The HCI education offered or coordinated by TAUCHI is available on all levels, as detailed below. In the Finnish
(Tampere Unit for Computer-Human Interaction) is system, students enrolled in the University are expected to
presented. Education is provided on Bachelor’s, Master’s graduate with a Master’s degree, and doctoral education is
and Ph.D. levels in interdisciplinary programs. assumed to take place mainly in the 4-year Ph.D. program.
The Bachelor’s degree consists of 180 credit units (cu’s)
INTRODUCTION and the Master’s degree of an additional 120 cu’s. Thus, on
Research and education in human-computer interaction in the average students are expected to take courses worth of
the University of Tampere goes back a long time. The first 60 cu’s per year.
results were published in the very first Interact conference The goal of the programs varies depending on the levels.
in 1984, and the first user interface course was offered in For the Bachelor level our goal is to give all students in the
1985. The research activities grew within the Department of department the understanding of the basics of user interface
Computer Sciences, and today the unit (called TAUCHI, for design issues and user-centered design. For Master’s
Tampere Unit for Computer-Human Interaction) comprises students we provide a program with a full HCI curriculum,
50 people (less than 10 faculty, with more than 40 offering the students the possibility to specialize even
researchers or funded graduate students). within HCI. The graduate education in Interactive
Organisationally the unit belongs to the Department of Technology is aimed at producing professionals for user
Computer Sciences. The research is organized into six interface design, evaluation and development, and for HCI
• Emotions, Sociality, and Computing UNDERGRADUTE EDUCATION
• Gaze-Based Interaction First and second year courses
• Information Acquisition The curriculum of the department has just been renewed.
• Learning and Collaboration Technologies All first year students take a required set of courses in
• Multimodal Interaction programming, data management, information systems, and
• Speech-Based and Pervasive Interaction HCI. Thus, all Computer Science students learn the basics
TAUCHI offers a large educational program on all levels, of HCI (at least 9 cu’s) and all HCI students learn the basics
as presented in the rest of this paper. More information on of traditional Computer Science.
TAUCHI activities is available through the web.1 In HCI there are two required courses, Introduction to
Interactive Technology (4 cu)2 and Introduction to User
PROGRAM PHILOSOPHY AND GOALS Interfaces (5 cu)3. Brief descriptions of these two required
The first full course on user interfaces was given in 1985 courses are given below.
within the Department of Computer Science, as a computer
science course. Since then, we have gradually increased the Introduction to Interactive Technology
role of HCI in the curriculum – in the mid-1990’s it was Goal: The student understands the importance of taking
based on the SIGCHI curriculum report (the lime book). A users into account in design and the need for iterative
separate discipline, called Interactive Technology, that design. The student learns the basics of human perception
focuses on HCI was established in 2002. The education still (Gestalt laws, color psychology) and modalities. The
takes place within the CS department, but is student knows about human-computer interaction in
multidisciplinary in nature.
Finland is, along with most European countries, moving
into a three-tier system (B.Sc. / M.Sc. / Ph.D.), the different 2
different use contexts and environments, in graphical user A majority of our undergraduate students are Finnish, and
interfaces, small PDAs and ubiquitous computing. most of our undergraduate courses are given in Finnish.
However, since many of our exchange students or
Contents: User interfaces in a larger context. Usability.
international students that only enrol for the master’s
User centered design and the principles of good design by
program do not have all the necessary prerequisites, all the
Norman. Human information processing. Usability
above four courses are given twice per year, once in Finnish
evaluation and iterative design. Examples of different user
and once in English. This is a costly solution and finding
interfaces: graphical user interfaces, personal mobile
ways to bring the costs down would be useful. On the other
devices, ubiquitous computing. Paper prototyping and
hand all four courses rely heavily on weekly assignments
and term projects, making it difficult to switch entirely to,
Work required: An examination (2 hours), assignments for instance, web-based education.
(50% of assigned assignments are required), participation in
A fifth course required from Interactive Technology majors
exercise classes (attendance to 3 of the 6 exercises is
is Human Factors in Interactive Technology (2 cu). This is
required), serving as a participant in one of the research
a lecture-based course which is only given in English, even
projects of TAUCHI and writing a short report on the
for Finnish students, so that all who specialize in HCI need
to be able to use the basic terminology also in English.
Teaching: The course includes lectures (26 hours), exercise
After this basic set of courses which should introduce to the
classes (12 hours), serving as a research participant (1 hour)
students the basic tools of the trade, the students can
and an exam (2 hours). Participation in lecture classes is
specialize in subfields of their choice. Most of these options
highly recommended but not compulsory.
are available on the graduate level, but the first stream,
Materials: The lectures cover parts of the following 2 computerized learning environments, is already available
books: on the Bachelor’s level. It consists of three courses:
Computer-aided Instruction, Internet Based Learning
Donald A. Norman, Design of Everyday Things. Basic Environments, and Constructing Internet Based Learning
Books, 1998 or 2002.
Environments. Links to detailed course descriptions are
Alan Dix, Janet Finlay, Gregory Abowd & Russell Beale, available on the web.4
Human-Computer Interaction. Third edition. Pearson Master’s level courses
Education Ltd., 2004. On the Master’s level, education in HCI is organized into
Master’s programs. All beginning Finnish students are
Introduction to User Interfaces expected to directly continue to their Master’s program of
Goal: The course discusses guidelines for graphical user choice, but particularly foreign students can take only the
interface design. The student will learn basics of screen two-year Master’s programme. There are two Master’s
design, dialogues and online help, and also designing and programs in HCI: Master’s program in Interactive
evaluating the interaction in different use context. The Technology (with Interactive Technology as major) and
student knows input and output modalities and their design Master’s program in User Interface Software Development
challenges. (with major in Computer Science). Roughly, the former is
Teaching: The course includes lectures (24 hours), exercise typically taken by students that specialize in usability
classes (14 hours), demos of TAUCHI research (2 hours) evaluation and may be less keen on programming, whereas
and an exam (4 hours). Participation in lecture classes is the latter requires several programming courses, including a
highly recommended but not compulsory. course on Programming Graphical User Interfaces. Again,
more information is available through the web.5
Materials: Net resources: Microsoft Windows User
Experience, Apple Human Interface Guidelines, Interface Most of the HCI courses are accepted in both of the
Hall of Shame, various other resources. Master’s programs; the main difference is in the required
courses. As noted above, we try to offer short streams of
After these first two courses which are required from all courses in numerous subfields that match the research
students in the department, we offer two courses which are interests of the unit. The close connection of teaching and
required from those students majoring in Interactive research is one of the design principles of the curriculum. In
Technology. They are Usability Evaluation Methods (5 cu) research, our mission is summarized with the following
and The Design of Graphical User Interfaces (5 cu). Both of goals:
these courses are heavily assignment oriented. Small groups 1. To obtain a profound understanding of the phenomena
of 2-3 students carry out evaluation and design projects on that affect and regulate the interaction with technology;
which they work for several weeks. The grading is largely
based on the project reports. Progress monitoring and
tutoring for the small groups is provided by TA’s. 4
2. to make use of this knowledge in creating better schools can be topical on a national level, they can be local
interaction mechanisms, particularly based on integrating and multidisciplinary, or something in between. It is thus a
thus far less used modalities with current mechanisms; and system that, on an administrative level, is orthogonal to the
3. to improve the quality of life for all users and for select traditional Ph.D. degree administration.
user groups (including visually and motor impaired, deaf,
For the HCI education in Tampere, two graduate schools
and elderly) in particular by developing applications that
are available: TISE (Tampere School in Information
enable their communication and computer usage.
Sciences and Engineering), established in 1995; and UCIT6
Accordingly, one of the largest Master’s level courses is (User-Centered Information Technology), established in
New Interaction Techniques (5 cu) that is related to 2002. Both schools are interdisciplinary, with TISE
research done with issues 2 and 3 in the research mission. A focusing on Computer Science, and UCIT being created
number of streams focus on specific areas of HCI; two with an HCI core. UCIT is coordinated by TAUCHI, and
courses are available on each of speech-based interaction, the disciplines covered by it are Interactive Technology,
agent technology, and information visualization. We also Computer Science, Psychology, Social Psychology, Public
offer one course in Emotions, Sociality and Computing, and Health, Occupational Safety, and Electronics. Half of the 12
a course on Groupware. funded positions are currently held by our students in
Interactive Technology, with additional students funded
Another way of emphasizing the connection of research and
through other sources being associated with UCIT.
education is that we offer several generic or methodological
HCI courses. These include courses on Research Methods, One of the original motivations for establishing a separate
Readings in HCI, Research Project in HCI, and Scientific major discipline for HCI (Interactive Technology) was that
Writing in HCI. The connection to worklife practice is we were several times contacted by local professionals,
important as well; the biggest single course is Project Work working in usability related professions but with degrees
(9 cu), during which groups of 5-6 students carry out a full with in a variety of disciplines (linguistics, electrical
software development project from requirements engineering, industrial design). They wanted to find a way
specification to usability evaluation of the final product and to continue their education but it was not appropriate to
its documentation. have them enrol as Ph.D. students in Computer Science
with only very little education in basic Computer Science.
All Master’s students have to write a Master’s thesis, worth
The new major of multidisciplinary character served their
needs. We now have several students who work for the
Within HCI we offer a total of 19 different courses, a industry but also want to work towards a Ph.D. The
number that is by far the largest in any Finnish university. multidisciplinary basis of UCIT has proven particularly
We have been successful in attracting a large number of useful for these students.
international applicants (more than 200 applications both in
UCIT is still building its curriculum. Thus far it has made
2003 and 2004 for the two Master’s programs). However, a
use of courses offered by the participating departments, but
vast majority of the applications is from students lacking
a UCIT specific core curriculum is being planned for
the necessary background, and we have become very
second term of UCIT, to begin in 2006.
cautious in admitting students whose qualifications are not
well documented. Tuition in Finland is practically free, The events organized directly by UCIT have been topical
which in itself attracts a lot of applicants. We would like to seminars, six-monthly broad seminars designed to be of
get more applications from students interested in the interest to all UCIT students, and intensive lecture series by
specific strengths of our program. visiting experts. For this last activity there is a tradition
going back to 1997, and the visitor program has brought a
GRADUATE SCHOOLS large number of renowned experts to Tampere.7
Graduate Schools are a relatively new concept in Finland.
Ph.D. education has been, and is still being, regulated by In 2003, a special effort took place to foster the
the universities, who set the formal requirements for the interdisciplinary co-operation of students. We put together
Ph.D. degree. However, there has been relatively little teams consisting of majors in social sciences, computer
organized education; mostly Ph.D. studies have consisted of science, interactive technology, and electronics. They
supervised individual research, accompanied by course designed, implemented and evaluated various health-related
work that for the most part has made use of advanced innovative prototypes. This was an educational experience
Master’s level courses. which the students liked, and one has actually led to a
In 1995, a support system was established by the Ministry
of Education. The main activity of these Ministry
authenticated schools is the financial support for students
for 4 years. In addition, there are funds for organizing
courses, for travel to conferences, etc. Currently there are 6
about 100 schools, with about 1500 funded positions. These 7
conference publication8. However, this type of education is network type of program together with other departments,
also challenging, since it takes time away from the students’ notably the Department of Psychology. However, it proved
main activity, the Ph.D. research. to be difficult to create the number of new courses that we
desired using such a network. We resorted to developing
Industry co-operation was important from the beginning of
the courses ourselves, but employed several researchers
UCIT. There were two industry representatives on the
from other disciplines. We now have 5 researchers who
UCIT board, one representing Nokia, the other VTT
have graduated in psychology, and some in social sciences,
Technical Research Center of Finland. Incidentally, during
in addition to the traditional computer scientists. This way
the three years of UCIT activity, both industry
each course can be taught by a person well trained in the
representatives have taken a position in the academia – at
topic, but the organisation is dynamic and can react to the
least in this sense industry co-operation has been
changes in enrollment or funding opportunities.
We have deliberately expanded the curriculum to create a
UCIT aims at international co-operation. Discussions are
full HCI program. However, since most of the courses rely
currently going on with the Graduate School on Human-
heavily on assignments and projects done in small groups,
Machine Interaction in Sweden, and with HCI-related
they are labor intensive and can be costly to teach. With the
graduate schools in Denmark, to establish a Nordic co-
growing number of students, this is becoming a threat, and
operation network of graduate schools in HCI.
new solutions to cope with the issue need to be searched
Roughly 100 new undergraduates start their studies at the
department each year. The first required courses have an
In the workshop, I would like to see the following items
enrollment of about 150 students, with numerous students
from other disciplines as well.
Sharing of video and demonstration material. The digital
Since students that start their studies at the department
library collected, e.g. by Georgia Tech is an excellent tool.
don’t have to choose their major before choosing the
We have regularly used CHI videos and other
Master’s program, and also since the drop-out rate is high
demonstrations material on our courses. There are,
(because of free tuition with no consequences from
however, limitations to the use of the digital video
dropping out), it is hard to say what is the real number of
collection in classroom teaching (where it best belongs):
seriously beginning HCI students; a guess based on current
even with improved, fast network connections, it is risky to
course enrollment is between 20 and 30.
trust on streaming video for classroom use. It is
The number of master’s theses in HCI has varied from 5 to unpredictable when a network is down for one or another
15 yearly, and is clearly on the rise after the establishment reason. Could a licensing system be developed that would
of a specific discipline for Interactive Technology. The make the material available in downloadable form for
same holds for Ph.D.’s, where an output of 4-5 HCI doctors educational purposes?
per year is expected from 2005 onwards, thanks to the
Co-operative implementation of courses. For instance, some
possibilities offered by the graduate schools.
courses involve peer reviews of essays or project
descriptions. Doing that through the web in a multi-cultural
context could be extra motivation for the students.
International co-operation in all forms has long been our
strategy. For instance, we are inspecting possibilities for a Promoting the different programs. For instance, developing
joint Euromaster’s program together with the University of a database with a search facility, so that students interested
Central Lancashire and Eindhoven University of in a program with certain characteristics could easily find
Technology. We are committed to contributing appropriate the available opportunities.
material to the HCC Education Digital Library.
Some experiences were already presented above,
particularly that of reaching those international students that
would be interested in our program.
Multidisciplinarity is a challenge that needs continuous
effort. In the beginning we considered establishing a
J. Höysniemi et al., Shadow boxer: a physically inter-
active fitness game. Proc. 3rd NordiCHI Conference
(2004), ACM Press, 389-392.