CS-E4002: Special Course in Computer Science: Human-Centred Research and Design in Crisis
June 2 – Sept 1, 2020

Instructor: Prof. Nitin Sawhney
Department of Computer Science, Aalto University
Teaching Assistant: Magdalena Mihalache
Credits: 3-6 cr, Online Course
Level of Course: Advanced Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral

The course introduces students to understanding and engaging in crisis contexts, using human-centred design principles and participatory research methodologies in conjunction with domain experts, partner organizations and everyday citizens. The course will build on extensive research findings from inter-related disciplines of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), Participatory Design (PD), Participatory Action Research (PAR), A.I. and Crisis Informatics, among others to develop a range of conceptual, rigorous, creative, and pragmatic approaches towards inquiry and engagement in complex crisis contexts. 

Learning Outcomes

After completing this course students are expected to have a deeper understanding of how human-centred research, design and technological innovations can productively engage the complex challenges emerging in crisis contexts, including natural and man-made disasters, socio-political crises, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Students should develop critical skills to recognize the limitations and ethical implications of conducting research, participatory design, and deployment of technologies including security, privacy and any unintended consequences of such work, while applying rigorous human-centred design principles and practices to have a meaningful impact in such crisis situations. 


All students must actively participate in weekly seminars and workshops, complete selected readings, an online learning diary, and 3 brief assignments as working papers or mixed-media works (blog/website/wiki/video). To receive additional credits, students must complete a group project with a proof-of-concept idea or working prototype and a short paper of their findings for presentation at the end of the course.