San José State University

Department of Psychology

PSYC 173: Human Factors

Section 80, Fall 2023

Last updated: August 18, 2023

Instructor Contact Information

Instructor: David Schuster, Ph.D.

Office Location: DMH 315

Telephone: 408-924-5659


Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:00am-11:00am on Zoom meeting; also available by appointment

Course Information

Classroom: Online; this is an asynchronous course

Class Days/Time: Online

Prerequisites: PSYC 001 or equivalent


My name is Dr. David Schuster, and you are welcome to call me ‘Dave,’ ‘David,’ or ‘Dr. Schuster.’ My preferred pronouns are he/him/his. I have been teaching since 2008 and a professor at SJSU since 2013. I earned my Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Central Florida. I am looking forward to being your instructor as we explore how the interdisciplinary field of human factors can increase the safety and effectiveness of human-machine systems.

I am here to help you, so please take advantage of opportunities to meet with me during drop-in office hours and by appointment. In these meetings, you can ask me questions, further discuss any part of the course, talk about your plans after graduation, and connect to other resources on campus.

Course Description

How can technology make our lives safer, more efficient, and more enjoyable? To answer this question, this course will introduce you to human factors, a field focused on understanding interactions among people, technologies, and other elements of a human-machine system. Human factors professionals improve human-machine systems by considering the capabilities, characteristics, and limitations of people.

The catalog description of this course is: Human psychology and physiological characteristics and methods for taking these into account in designs and development of human-machine systems. Current human factor engineering efforts in lab, design process and operational environment.

Course Format

This is an asynchronous online course. That means that you will complete each week’s material at your own pace.

Learning Outcomes

Course Learning Outcomes

The major goal of this course is to show students how applied psychological research informs practice in domains of human-technology interaction.

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • CLO1 - Describe human factors, appropriately use its fundamental terminology, and describe its importance in the effectiveness of human-machine systems.

  • CLO2 - Apply research, principles, and methods of human factors to human-machine system design, system evaluation, and training.

  • CLO3 - Describe how human capabilities and limitations interact with design to affect human-machine system performance.

The learning outcomes will be assessed via assignments and the final project.

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the requirements for a major in psychology, students will be able to:

  • PLO1 – Knowledge Base of Psychology – identify, describe, and communicate the major concepts, theoretical perspectives, empirical findings, and historical trends in psychology

  • PLO2 – Research Methods in Psychology – design, implement, and communicate basic research methods in psychology, including research design, data analysis, and interpretations

  • PLO3 – Critical Thinking Skills in Psychology – use critical and creative thinking, skeptical inquiry, and a scientific approach to address issues related to behavior and mental processes

  • PLO4 – Application of Psychology – apply psychological principles to individual, interpersonal, group, and societal issues

  • PLO5 – Values in Psychology – value empirical evidence, tolerate ambiguity, act ethically, and recognize their role and responsibility as a member of society

Each assignment in this course maps onto one or more of these PLOs, with full coverage over all assignments in the course. PLOs 1-3 are emphasized in the first weeks of the course, and PLOs 2-5 are emphasized in the subsequent weeks of the course.

Required Materials

Canvas and E-Mail

All graded assignments will be accepted in electronic form using the Canvas learning management system assignments page (Canvas is available at Communication regarding the course will be posted to Canvas or sent via the e-mail address linked to your MySJSU account. It is your responsibility to make sure you are enrolled in Canvas and receiving my emails.

Required Texts/Readings

Lee, J. D., Wickens, C. D., Liu, Y., & Boyle, L. N. (2017). Designing for people: An introduction to human factors engineering (3rd ed.). Charleston, SC: CreateSpace. ISBN: 9781539808008

You need the textbook all semester. In addition to using it for readings, we will use the textbook as reference material (e.g., tables of anthropometry data). Additional readings and videos will be made available on Canvas.

As of this writing, a scanned version of the first chapter is available on the author’s ResearchGate page.

The author has also posted that Amazon is now offering an electronic version to purchase for $15. I have not used this edition yet, but if it is complete and you can access it during class on your laptop or tablet, it appears to be a low-cost option.


A laptop or tablet computer with Internet access will be necessary to participate in class activities and for your use outside of class. In lieu of a computer or tablet, a smartphone may be used but is unlikely to provide a good experience. You will need a keyboard. If you do not have a laptop or tablet computer available for this course, please meet with me to discuss free options for computer resources. I will work with you to find acceptable free computing resources.

You may choose to meet with me via Zoom. A webcam and microphone are recommended but not required. For your security, I recommend that you disable or cover your webcam when not in use.

This course may require occasional use of software such as Excel and Word. I will provide instruction in the use of the software; you do not need to start the course with this knowledge. You do not need to purchase licenses for any software.

In case you need them, these software packages are available to you at no cost:

Grading Policy

Determination of Grades

Grades will be available to you on Canvas throughout the semester. Grades are assigned based on your final point total out of 1000 points for the course:

Grade Points
A plus > 965 points
A 916 to 965 points
A minus 896 to 915 points
B plus 866 to 895 points
B 816 to 865 points
B minus 796 to 815 points
C plus 766 to 795 points
C 716 to 765 points
C minus 696 to 715 points
D plus 666 to 695 points
D 616 to 665 points
D minus 595 to 615 points
F < 595 points

Rounding is Included in the Grading Scale

The point totals reflect rounding up to the nearest percentage. For example, an A- would normally require 900 points (or 90% of 1000 points). With rounding, it only requires 896 points (or 89.6% of 1000 points). Because rounding is built into the grading scale, your grade will be based on your final point total, rounded to the nearest whole point (so, 895.6 points is an A-, but 895.4 points is a B+). To be fair to everyone in the class, these are firm cutoffs.

Course Requirements and Assignments

Engagement Week (5% of grade = 50 points)

Just as the name would imply, Engagement Week is your opportunity to make sure you’re ready for our asynchronous online course, and if so, that you are also ready to meet the challenges, responsibilities, and expectations of this class in particular. The week will involve activities designed to get you ready to succeed in our class.

  • Get on Canvas – Getting logged into and familiar with Canvas is key to your success. Activate your Canvas account and view our course site. Open the “Modules” page to see all the materials for each week of the course. Download everything in the first module (labeled “Start Here”), and keep these materials handy throughout the course.

  • Watch the videos in the module

  • Read Chapter 1 in the textbook

  • Submit your personalized schedule (50 points) – This activity guides you in the preparation of your individualized class schedule. Instructions can be found on the “Modules” page on Canvas.

  • Introduce yourself on our Canvas discussion board

Activity Assignments (50% of grade = 500 points)

Ten activity assignments will be worth 50 points each. Each assignment will be graded according to the rubric posted to Canvas. The activities are designed to give you hands-on practice with the techniques and ideas discussed in the lecture and readings. You are encouraged to work collaboratively, but everyone must do their own work unless otherwise specified; copying is not acceptable. Maps to CLO1-3.

Reflection Questions (10% of grade = 100 points)

Ten reflection questions are worth 10 points each. The purpose of the reflection question is to help you think actively about the video and textbook content and connect it to your own experience. This is graded for completion; it is okay to not have the right answer, but it does need to reflect your thinking about the material. Reflection questions must be written entirely using your own words, and you may not use chatbots (e.g., ChatGPT) to write your response to reflection questions. This is because the goal of this assignment is for you to think about the material as you write. Maps onto CLOs 1-3.

Project Milestone Assignments (15% of grade = 150 points)

You will be asked to prepare a project on a topic of your interest. The points for preparing the project are divided into two milestone assignments, each worth 100 points. Each project milestone assignment will be scored according to the rubric on Canvas. Maps to CLO1-3.

Final Project (20% of grade = 200 points)

The final project follows directly from the milestone assignments and is worth 200 points. More details about the project, including a rubric for grading, will be posted to Canvas during the semester. You will need to video record your presentation. If events outside your control impact completion of this assignment, you should meet with me to discuss options for a course incomplete. Maps to CLO1-3.

Late Assignments and Make-Ups

Assignments are due as indicated on Canvas, and the deadlines are strict. Because of this, I encourage you to avoid submitting assignments in the last two hours before the due date whenever possible. Late activity assignments, reflection questions, and project milestone assignments will be accepted with a 20% penalty per day. That is, an assignment submitted between 0 and 23 hours past the deadline will be accepted with a 20% reduction included after grading. An assignment submitted 24 hours past the deadline will be accepted with a 40% reduction included after grading. Please allow extra time for me to grade late-submitted assignments. If your circumstances warrant an exception to the late assignment penalty, such as due to a health emergency, complete this form to request an exception. When you need an exception to the late assignment penalty, I need the request form completed as soon as you are able to complete it.

Because the final project occurs after the conclusion of the course, I cannot offer extensions on the final project. If events outside your control impact completion of this assignment, you should meet with me to discuss options for a course incomplete.

Final examination or evaluation

Faculty members are required to have a culminating activity for their courses, which can include a final examination, a final research paper or project, a final creative work or performance, a final portfolio of work, or other appropriate assignment.

The culminating activity for this course will be the final presentation.

Classroom Environment

We agree to:

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9,relevant university policy concerning all courses, such as student responsibilities, academic integrity, accommodations, dropping and adding, consent for recording of class, etc. and available student services (e.g. learning assistance, counseling, and other resources) are listed on Syllabus Information web page. Make sure to visit this page to review and be aware of these university policies and resources.

You must obtain the instructor’s permission to make any audio or video recordings in this class. Unless otherwise specified, course materials created by your instructor are copyrighted and cannot be redistributed.

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of 45 hours over the length of the course (normally three hours per unit per week) for instruction, preparation/studying, or course related activities, including but not limited to internships, labs, and clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Library Liaison

Our library liaison is Christa Bailey. Email:

Additional Information

All assignments in this course should be submitted in APA format. The writing requirement is described above.

Course Schedule

The course schedule is tentative and likely to change; modifications will be posted to this page.

See Canvas for all due dates

Week Starting Date Topics Textbook Assignments (see Canvas for due dates)
1 Mon., Aug. 21 Introduction to human factors Ch. 1 Engagement week
2 Mon., Aug. 28 Human factors and design Ch. 2 Activity 1, cta Reflection 1
3 Mon., Sep. 4 Human factors and science Ch. 3 Activity 2, metrics Reflection 2
4 Mon., Sep. 11 Human performance Ch. 4 Activity 3, waldo Reflection 3
5 Mon., Sep. 18 Cognitive factors Ch. 6 Reflection 4
6 Mon., Sep. 25 Decision making and macrocognition Ch. 7 Activity 4, MAUT Reflection 5
7 Mon., Oct. 2 Human-computer interaction (HCI) and user experience (UX) Ch. 10 Activity 5, prototype
8 Mon., Oct. 9 Displays and controls Ch. 8 Activity 6, heuristic Reflection 6
9 Mon., Oct. 16 Stress, workload, and safety Ch. 15 Reflection 7
10 Mon., Oct. 23 Sociotechnical systems Ch. 18 Activity 7, article Reflection 8
11 Mon., Oct. 30 Applied Research Project milestone 1
12 Mon., Nov. 6 Automation Ch. 11 Activity 8, robots Reflection 9
13 Mon., Nov. 13 Physical ergonomics & anthropometry Ch. 12 Activity 9, physical Reflection 10
14 Mon., Nov. 20 Project workshop
Thu., Nov. 22 Non-instructional day
Thu., Nov. 23 Thanksgiving holiday, campus closed
Fri., Nov. 24 Rescheduled holiday, campus closed
15 Mon., Nov. 27 Training and job design Ch. 17 Activity 10, train Project milestone 2
Final Fri., Dec. 8 Project presentations due, 5:15pm Final project