San José State University

Department of Psychology

PSYC 173: Human Factors

Section 1, Fall 2022

Last updated: November 18, 2022

Instructor Contact Information

Instructor: David Schuster, Ph.D.

Office Location: DMH 315

Telephone: 408-924-5659


Office Hours: 4:00-4:30pm Tuesdays and Thursdays; also available by appointment

Course Information

Classroom: DMH 165

Class Days/Time: Tues. & Thurs., 4:30pm – 5:45pm

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 a technology intensive, in-person course. Required technology is described in the required materials section of this document.

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 do need the textbook all semester. Besides using it for readings, we will use the textbook as reference material (e.g., tables of anthropometry data). Additional readings will be made available on Canvas.

As of this writing, a scanned verison 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 for $5. 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.

Because it is distracting, please avoid non-class technology use during class.

We may occasionally hold meetings and activities via Zoom. A webcam and microphone are recommended but not required. For your security, I recommend that you disable and 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

Activity Assignments (50% of grade = 500 points)

An activity will be available on each week’s topic and posted to Canvas. Eleven activity assignments will be worth 50 points each, but the lowest score will be dropped, for a total of 500 points. Each assignment will be graded according to the rubric posted to Canvas. Typically, part of every class meeting each week will be dedicated to an activity. The activities are designed to give you hands-on practice with the techniques and ideas discussed in the lecture and readings. Activities will be assigned on most Tuesdays and will be due immediately at the start of class on the following Tuesday. Activities typically start on Tuesday and may have homework required before Thursday’s class (e.g., picking a topic) and after Thursday’s class (e.g., writing up a report); all parts are required to receive full credit. You are encouraged to work collaboratively, but everyone must do their own work unless otherwise specified; copying is not acceptable. Maps to CLO1-3.

Project Milestone Assignments (20% of grade = 200 points)

You will be asked to prepare a project on a topic of your interest. The points for 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 (30% of grade = 300 points)

The final project follows directly from the milestone assignments and is worth 300 points. More details about the project, including rubrics for grading, will be posted to Canvas during the semester. As part of the project, you will present your work in a poster presentation or talk. This presentation will take place across two class meetings, and you must be present at both to receive full credit; if not, a 20% final project penalty will apply. Without an extension, project assignments submitted late, even by a few minutes, will be accepted with a 25% late point deduction within 24 hours of the due date. Project assignments submitted more than 24 hours after the due date will not be accepted for credit. 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.

Resubmission and Extensions Make-ups, and Grading Process

You can request an extension.

Assignments not submitted by the due date posted on Canvas will be assigned a grade of zero unless you complete this form to request an extension or makeup of the assignment. When you need an extension, please complete this form as soon as you can.

Even with an extension, I can accept assignments until 11:59pm on the last day of instruction for the semester. At that time, all unsubmitted and unsatisfactory/no credit assignments will receive zero points. Should an event prevent you from completing the course, contact me as soon as you are able to discuss our options for an incomplete. Please allow extra time for me to grade late-submitted assignments.

We will work together on make-ups of scheduled activities.

Class activities that are scheduled, such as a guest speaker, cannot be recreated easily. If you need a makeup assignment (e.g., you will miss the talk needed to complete an assignment, or even if you had life events and could not focus on the talk), please contact me. I will work with you to create an alternative assignment. There is no need to pretend you attended an activity that you missed.

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.

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.

Week Date Topics Textbook Assignments
1 Tue., Aug. 23 Definitions and history Ch. 1
Thu., Aug. 25
2 Tue., Aug. 30 Human factors methods of practice Ch. 2 Activity 1, cta
Thu., Sep. 1
3 Tue., Sep. 6 Guest speaker: Gabby Seropian, Google Ch. 3
Thu., Sep. 8 Human factors scientific methods
4 Tue., Sep. 13 Human performance Ch. 4 Activity 2, waldo
Thu., Sep. 15
5 Tue., Sep. 20 Cognitive factors Ch. 6 Activity 3, cardsort
Thu., Sep. 22
6 Tue., Sep. 27 Decision making & macrocognition Ch. 7 Activity 4, MAUT
Thu., Sep. 29 No class meeting, work on activity
7 Tue., Oct. 4 Human-computer interaction Ch. 10 Activity 5, prototype
Thu., Oct. 6
8 Tue., Oct. 11 Thu., Oct. 13 HFES Conference Week, No Class Meetings Activity 6, article
9 Tue., Oct. 18 Stress, workload, and safety Ch. 15 Activity 7, reflection
Thu., Oct. 20 Guest speaker: Evan Silverman, Google
10 Tue., Oct. 25 Displays & controls Ch. 8 Activity 8, heuristic
Thu., Oct. 27 Guest speaker: Daniel Rosenberg, rCDO and SJSU
11 Tue., Nov. 1 Specific applications and careers Project milestone 1
Thu., Nov. 3 Guest speaker: Thomas Alicia, U.S. Army Technology Development Directorate
12 Tue., Nov. 8 Automation Ch. 11 Activity 9, robots
Thu., Nov. 10
13 Tue., Nov. 15 Physical ergonomics & anthropometry Ch. 12 Activity 10, physical
Thu., Nov. 17
14 Tue., Nov. 22 Project workshop meetings, No class meeting (Tue.)
Thu., Nov. 24 Thanksgiving, No class meeting (Thu.)
15 Tue., Nov. 29 Training and job design Ch. 17 Activity 11, train
Thu., Dec. 1
16 Tue., Dec. 6 Last day of instruction, assignment submission ends 11:59 pm Project milestone 2
Final Thu., Dec. 8 Project presentations, 2:45pm - 5:00pm Final project