CS 631: Computing off the Desktop

Course Syllabus

Professor: Dario Salvucci
Email: salvucci @ cs.drexel.edu
Office: University Crossings 142
Office Hours: Thursday 11-12 or email for appointment


This course discusses the use of computers "off the desktop," focusing in particular on design and implementation aspects of the user experience. The course is taught as a graduate seminar: while there are minimal lectures to introduce important concepts, the majority of the time is spent presenting and discussing research papers on each topic. All students are expected and required to read all papers before each class session. The course also involves a multi-week individual project in which students design, implement, and evaluate an "off-the-desktop" interface system.

Goals and Objectives

This course aims for students to (1) discuss the basics of design and evaluation for off-the-desktop systems; (2) practice the programming, writing, and speaking skills relevant to this area of research; and (3) appreciate the larger context in which off-the-desktop systems are designed, implemented, and ultimately used.


The class will assume familiarity with Java and its Swing package for developing user interfaces; students who have not learned Swing (in CS 338 or 530) will need to learn it on their own outside of class. Undergraduates in the course must have attained at least a B in CS 338 and a 3.0 overall GPA.


Topics covered in class may include the following (note that these topics may change to substitute relevant topics that may arise in the news, etc.):


Readings will come from primarily from academic papers and electronic resources, most of which will be distributed to the class in electronic form. All students are expected and required to read all papers before each class session.

For those not completely fluent in Java and/or Swing, you may find it helpful to purchase a Java and/or Java Swing reference book for the programming aspects of the course. Feel free to choose whatever suits you best; there are many books to choose from, including:

The Java Tutorial, Third Edition (2000), by Mary Campione, Kathy Walrath, & Alison Huml.  Addison-Wesley; ISBN 0201703939.
The JFC Swing Tutorial: A Guide to Constructing GUIs (1999), by Kathy Walrath & Mary Campione. Addison-Wesley; ISBN 0201433214.
However, before you purchase additional books, please note that the Web contains many on-line resources that may serve just as well, such as Sun's on-line Java Tutorial.


Throughout the course, each student will give a presentation and lead a discussion on one of the special topic readings. Presentations will be done individually, and you will be asked to give a short lecture about the reading, including your analysis and critique of the work, and then lead a class discussion on its context in the course.


The course will include an multi-week individual project that brings together all aspects of the learned material. The exact form of the project will be discussed and decided on in class. The final week includes a presentation session in which students present their projects and results to the class.


All aspects of this course are important for developing an understanding of and appreciation for building user interfaces. The grading breakdown is as follows: Late assignments cannot be accepted and receive a score of 0. Missed presentations also receive a score of 0.


The instructor will disseminate important announcements by email through the course mailing list, and also post these announcements on the course web site. Also, the web site contains a timeline with links to all information (lecture slides, assignments, etc.) relevant to the course.


Attendance for lectures and exams is expected. In the case of a school closing on an exam day, the exam will be given in the next class period. The Drexel snow emergency information number is (215) 895-6358.

Academic honesty is essential. Cheating, academic misconduct, plagiarism, and fabrication of any submitted material, including both code and prose, are serious breaches of academic integrity and will be dealt with accordingly. Violations will result minimally in a grade of zero for the exam/assignment in question, an additional reduction of one letter grade in the overall course grade, and a report of the violation to the Drexel administration; further penalties may apply to more serious and/or repeat violations. Please refer to Drexel's official Academic Honesty Policy for more information.