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Interaction design and the user experience

From small apps to large business systems, from smart phones to smart environments, from wearables to ambient installations, from virtual reality to augmented reality – interactive computing technologies have become part of the fabric of everyday life. This module will help you on your way to becoming an effective interaction designer. You’ll learn what interaction design is about and how to design interactive products that offer good user experiences. You’ll learn about the multitude of factors that influence user experience; the theories that underlie good interaction design; and the methods and techniques designers use to create effective interactive products.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module

Module code
TM356
Credits

Credits

  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
30
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
OU SCQF FHEQ
3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

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What you will study

Why are some interactive products so popular? How do you create products that everybody wants? One of the fundamental things you will learn in this module is the importance of user-centred design.

You will learn the value of moving away from your desk and ‘stepping out into the world’ to involve potential users in your early design ideas for interactive products. It is all too easy to assume that other people think, feel and behave in the same way as we, the designer or developer, do. It is essential to take into account the diversity among users and their different perspectives and getting their feedback will help you to avoid any errors and misunderstandings that you may not have thought of. Involving users in the process is vital to creating great products and makes good business sense: after all, who wants to buy a bad product?

Through hands-on activities you will work through the design process on a project of your own choosing (with our guidance) as part of the tutor-marked assignments (TMAs). Each TMA addresses one stage in the design life-cycle. By the end of the module you will have practical experience of the full life-cycle through your own project. You will develop skills that will be important to you in a variety of employment settings – whether working as a developer as part of a large software development team, as a partner in a small start-up, or in some other role involved in the managing of, or decision making around interactive products that will be used by people. You will acquire practical skills that will equip you with the tools you need to analyse, design and evaluate interactive products.

The module is organised in four blocks and uses the international best-selling book Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction as a reference text:

Block 1 – Introduction and overview

What is interaction design? This block gets across the fundamental idea of what we mean by interaction design and the importance of it being user centred. You will begin to reflect on what makes some designs usable and satisfying – and others not – and get hands-on experience of the process of designing. An important principle of our approach to interaction design is that there is diversity among users – not only in terms of their physical characteristics and capabilities, but also of their cognitive and sensory characteristics.

Block 2 – Requirements

Who are the users and what do they want? As part of the process of defining the requirements for an interactive product we need to know the user’s characteristics but also need to be aware of the user’s context – both in terms of their physical environment and in terms of the activity they are engaged in. This block studies a range of requirement gathering approaches including talking to users, observational methods including the use of technology probes, and more. You will also learn to use tools and techniques such as developing personas and scenarios, which will help you share information with the stakeholders (the team, the users, the customer) and communicate effectively about the requirements for an interactive product.

Block 3 – Design

Designing is about balancing the requirements. It involves thinking through the underlying idea for the interactive product and also the more concrete, physical aspects. This block tackles all these things. You will learn to use reflective tools to help you work out and communicate the main idea for a design, including what people will be able to do with it, and how they experience it. We discuss a range of interface types, from more traditional screen-based forms of interaction to mobile, wearable, haptic and other interface types and you will learn and use a range of prototyping methods and tools.

Block 4 – Evaluation

Block 4 presents the techniques and knowledge necessary to evaluate an interactive product. This includes the ethical considerations when evaluating with users; techniques and tips for observing users; asking experts and users; and considering when to carry out field studies and when to use lab studies. You will learn how to present your findings and to reflect on the need for iteration of parts of the design life cycle.

The assessment for this module is structured so that you can work on a problem chosen by you, and work through the various processes and iterate through the design life cycle studied in the block as you progress in the module.

If you are considering progressing to The computing and IT project (TM470), this is one of the OU level 3 modules on which you could base your project topic. Normally, you should have completed one of these OU level 3 modules (or be currently studying one) before registering for the project module.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the course material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Future availability

Interaction design and the user experience (TM356) starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2018. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2022.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    Examination
    No residential school

    Course satisfaction survey

    See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies courses at levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject.

    To study this module you will ideally be a competent user of computer technology with an interest in people and good design.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    To get a more detailed idea of the module’s topics, have a look at the OpenLearn course Introduction to Interaction Design.

    Register

    Start End Fee
    - - -

    No current presentation - see Future availability

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2022.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).


    For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time convenient to you.


    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2019. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 11/12/2018.

    What's included

    Preece, J., Sharp, J. and Rogers, Y. (2015) Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction (584 pages) and Block booklets 1–4. Module website and online study materials.

    You will need

    You will need some materials such as wood blocks, cardboard, fabrics and vegetables, and possibly some ordinary household items (coats, gloves and kitchen utensils for example).

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module.  Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • macOS 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones. 

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students. 

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying TM356 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.