No Section...

VIII.2 March 2001
Page: 105
Digital Citation

University briefs: San Jose State University

Kevin Corker

back to top  Philosophy of Education, Design

This Human Factors and Ergonomics program was founded eight years ago in response to the obvious requirement and growing demand of the Silicon Valley for specialists in the design, development and evaluation of human-machine interfaces in CHI and other applications. The program takes the position that Human Factors/Ergonomics is a discipline concerned with the development and application of human system interface technology to systems analysis design and evaluation. That charter establishes two guiding principles for the program. The first is that it is interdisciplinary in approach. The second is that the education of the student should be grounded in the theory and practice of human performance/ergonomics, psychology (perceptual, cognitive and motor control), and computer/information sciences, as well as associated industrial practice.

This interdisciplinary degree program prepares students for practice in their emerging profession through a course sequence that emphasizes theory, practical applications, and research. Human Factors/Ergonomics students take a group of five core courses from several different San Jose State University departments and elective courses in topics of their choosing. The program culminates in a major project or thesis. The program emphasizes a scholarly and theory-based approach to human factors but at the same time has strong links to the surrounding industrial and research community. This offers ample opportunity for practicum and internship opportunities.

The program focuses equally on research and practice in human factors and attempts to provide a skill set that will serve in either career path. The program has longstanding relationships with the leading software and hardware producers in the area as well as associated web-service industries. Leaders in those industries serve on our board of advisors. The program also has a well-established research connection with the nearby NASA Ames Research Center. A memorandum of understanding has been established between the San Jose State University and NASA Ames for mutual support and research in the area of Human Factors.

The graduates from this program have found employment in information technology, basic and applied research, health and rehabilitation services, and more than a few have started their own successful independent consulting or research practices. The program tries to keep abreast of innovative human-system interface issues and we keep close touch with our graduates in the advanced design departments of such companies as Apple Computer, Oracle, 3-Com, Netscape Alliance and others.

The program focuses equally on research and practice in human factors and attempts to provide a skill set that will serve in either career path.

Our program has a direct impact on both the industrial and government interface design process in that our students are employed in undertaking research to specify interface design requirements for transportation technologies and many HCI application technologies. Our technology transfer process is a direct link between our students' Masters research and the design of advanced HCI.

back to top  Preparing Students for User Interface Careers

The core curriculum of the program covers the areas that we feel supply the student with solid academic grounding in model and theory. There are five courses in the core curriculum: Human Factors and Ergonomics in Workspace Design, Ergonomics for Design, Engineering Psychology (psychological correlates of behavior), Principles and Concepts of Perceptual Motor Learning, and a course in advanced experimental design and statistics. The students also attend a two-semester seminar in which they are exposed to a number of areas of HCI and interface design and testing.

Our program has several strengths; the first is the institutional interdisciplinary basis of the program. In addition to the core courses, the students are encouraged to focus on electives in any of the schools and Colleges that the program spans. In this way, computer-human interaction interests can be met in the Computer Information and Systems Engineering Department. Students with a strong interest in design can attend courses in the area of industrial design and art. Students with a focus on industrial systems are encouraged to take courses in the Industrial and Systems Engineering concentration. Students interested in Ergonomics and Biodynamics have access to a large number of courses in the Human Performance Department. In addition, we have recently added courses in environmental health and safety, and Human Factors regulatory and forensic studies to our electives. We include two explicit courses in design as part of the core curriculum, and we support a wide diversity of applications for those designs.

The second strength of our program is the faculty's expertise, breadth of experience and contacts with both industry and government agencies. Finally, through our close connection with local (and global) industry we prepare our students for interface design careers. For instance, one of our faculty, Dr. Tony Andre, maintains a consultancy with extensive interface design and usability testing facilities. (See A number of the students engage in practicums and project development in this facility. Others of our faculty, Drs. Jordan and Corker have close ties with the NASA Ames Research Center and the Human Factors Division there. Student Masters theses are often supported by government grants in the area of human-system interfaces. The students then have access to the NASA facilities and the tutelage of NASA Principle Investigators in support of their theses. Dr Freund has strong connections with the health care industry and supports student research in a number of aspects of those areas including HCI. Dr. Coates has been influential in a number of automotive and product designs and supports student theses and projects in art and Industrial Design. Dr. Wughalter has laboratory and industry facilities to support research by students in motor-control, ergonomic, and other biodynamic interests in the domain of human-computer interfaces.

We are developing distance learning and distributed collaborative learning opportunities for our students in order to have remote access to both educational institutions and laboratories worldwide. We feel that to teach HCI effectively the student should have as much hands-on experience with advanced technology as possible in the academic setting.

back to top  Design Project Example

An example of a recent project involved collaboration between students and faculty at SJSU HFE and principle investigators at NASA. This project centered on the conceptual design of a new space shuttle cockpit interface for NASA's space upgrade project. Working with computational human performance models and interface evaluation software, Man-Machine Design Interactive Design and Analysis System (MIDAS, developed at NASA and under refinement at the SJSU), the team learned procedures and tasks required for shuttle pilotage and system control. They focused on developing a computational task timeline for shuttle performance in launch activities. They then examined the current cockpit to analyze potential instrument and information interface upgrades required to more fully support shuttle mission requirements. The researchers made computational representations of the cockpit instrumentation, the astronauts, and the tasks required.

The computational model that the students developed is illustrated below in application to another project, civil tiltrotor design, along with a design eye view of the cockpit of a civil helicopter application. The purpose of this project was to examine the interface requirements for specific shuttle missions. The analysis provided preliminary design specifications to the shuttle program based on human-centered design principles. This type of project is fairly common as the students engage in research supported by NASA and DOT grants.


The students in our program who choose a research path have a number of such opportunities to examine real-world interface issues and have an immediate impact on them. Other students in industrial or information technology internships also have access to real-world facilities for project development. For example, several students employed in the nuclear power industry have used our design techniques in direct application to their control/display design in nuclear power plant upgrades for middle European customers. We also have undertaken the development of a Human Automation Integration Laboratory to support aerospace projects of this type onsite at the University.

back to top  Author

Dr. Kevin M. Corker
Associate Professor and Director Human Factors and Ergonomics Program,
San Jose State University, San Jose, California
Tel: 408-924-3988
Fax: 408 924-4153

back to top  Figures

UF1Figure. Dr. Kevin M. Corker

UF2Figure. Tempcaption

back to top  Sidebar: Program and University Web Sites

Program Web sites:


SJSU internet links/academic programs/application material and info Web site:

Typical enrollment it the program is 70 students.

Job titles/positions of former students:
Cognitive psychologist/Ergonomist/Graphic artist/Graphic designer/Human factors engineer/Human factors manager/Usability manager/Usability specialist/Usability Test engineer/Usability interface designer/User interface software designer/User interface software designer manager/Our program has been in place for 8 years.

back to top  Sidebar: Practitioners Workbench

Human Factors & Ergonomic Professionals Web Sites:
Bay Area Computer-Human Interface:
Association For Computer Machinery:
The Professional Ergonomist:
Silicon Valley Ergonomic Society:
Bay Area Human Factors & Ergonomics Links:

back to top  Sidebar: Ergonomics Web Sites

Ergonomic and human factors vendors and utilities:
Bay Area Computer-Human Interface:
Association For Computer Machinery:
The Professional Ergonomist:
Bay Area Human Factors & Ergonomics Links:
Human factors and ergonomics programs, tools, link, societies, and actual real time utilities:

back to top  Sidebar: Course Names for course HFE curriculum


back to top 

©2000 ACM  1072-5220/01/0300  $5.00

Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise, to republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee.

The Digital Library is published by the Association for Computing Machinery. Copyright © 2001 ACM, Inc.

Post Comment

No Comments Found