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October 21, 2008


Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
Minutes of the Departmental Meeting on October 21, 2008

Present: R. Abhari, T. Arbel, B. Boulet, C. Brown, P. Caines, L. Chen, J. Clark, D. Davies, F. Ferrie, W. Gross, K. Johnson, G. Joos, F. Labeau, H. Leib, O. Liboiron-Ladouceur, P. Menon, Z. Mi, D. Plant, M. Rabbat, G. Roberts, R. Rose, I. Shih, J. Webb, Z. Zilic. S. Ahmad (ExCESS).

Regrets: J. Cooperstock, F. Galiana, M. Levine, H. Michalska, S. Musallam

The meeting was called to order at 3:05 pm.

1. Adoption of the Agenda:

D. Plant asked that there be an addition to the agenda. He would like to add an item “Introduction of Louis Houle & Stephanie Simard from our after Remarks from the Chair. B. Boulet, seconded by J. Clark. Carried.

2. Adoption of the Minutes (September 23, 2008):

B. Boulet would like to note a correction in item 8 - M. Maheswaran, and F. Labeau were registered and D. Plant had received his license as an engineer. J. Webb, seconded by Z. Zilic. Carried.

3. Remarks from the Chair: ECE Departmental Meeting Briefing Notes – October 21, 2008:

Notices of Motion: please note that during the November 18, 2008 department meeting that we will be voting on two motions. Copies of these motions will be distributed electronically to all academic staff prior to the meeting.

Hiring: we have two slots to fill this winter/spring, one senior and one junior position. In each case, they are connected to an NSERC Industrial Research Chair with Hyrdo-Quebec. In order to fill these slots, we have formed a search committee that will identify suitable candidates. We will be interviewing during January, February and March in order to fill these slots.

4. Introduction of Louis Houle & Stephanie Simard, Schulich Library of Science and Engineering:

D. Plant welcomed Mr. Louis Houle, Associate Director, Client Services, and Ms. Stephanie Simard, Liaison Librarian. L. Houle explained that Darlene Canning retired and Ms. Stephanie Simard took her place. He wanted to let the Department know that the Library is not only for book requests but also for other services. S. Simard wants to be more of a presence in the department and she will be contacting S. McFee. There is work to be done in the undergraduate level to help the students to use the library and the graduate students should be encouraged to do so too. She left three posters and more to come. S. Simard requested that the professors send their reading lists to her and she will check that the licensing agreements meet the requirements of the service providers. Also new academic staff members can have a tour of the library and instruction in the use of it.

5. Report of the Curriculum Committee:

I. Housekeeping Items

a. Computational Science and Engineering Option
Action: Retire/drop the option from the MEng program. Also retire the course ECSE 670 Computation Science and Engineering Seminar, which was created for this option.
Rationale: First, the program has just been causing confusion to incoming students (adding one more choice in the application process). Second, the program requirements are actually a subset of the MEng program requirements, so that a student reregistered without this option can actually take exactly the same curriculum. As a consequence, retiring the CSE option will not prevent students from getting the same “profile”. Last but not least: nobody has ever been in this option in ECE. I think that some students have at some point initially registered for it, then switched back to normal MEng.

After discussion, it was decided that L. Chen would check with other departments and subject to consultation retire this option. Seconded by F. Labeau. Carried.

b. ECSE621 Statistical Detection and Estimation
Action: Revise course description.
Rationale: The course description is not only obsolete but contains also many typos. It needs to be updated. The revised course description is as follows:

Statistical detection and estimation lies at the intersection of telecommunications, signal processing and mathematical statistics. This subject is relevant also to control, computer science, and bioengineering. The main objective of this course is to provide a solid foundation, enabling students to apply statistical tools in their own research.

J. Clark commented that the course description reads more like a rationale listing the topics. L. Chen will bring this back to the next meeting with corrections.

c. COMP 535 Computer Networks
Action: Drop COMP 535 from the EE and CE programs (i.e., as an alternative to ECSE 414 Introduction to Telecommunication Networks). The EE and CE program descriptions will be revised.
Rationale: In recent years, there has been a greater divergence between COMP 535 Computer Networks and ECSE 414 Introduction to Telecommunication Networks. In fact, some of the material regularly covered in COMP 535 is covered in ECSE 489 Telecommunication Network Laboratory. We should thus remove the “equivalence” between the two courses.

J. Webb asked if we were maintaining the equivalence for SE and are students allowed to take both. L. Chen replied no not both. Seconded by B. Boulet. Carried.

II. New course proposal

a. ECSE 424 Human Computer Interaction
Action: Revise the course in terms of making it a 500-level course (e.g., ECSE 537). Remove ECSE 424 from the EE, CE, and SE programs.
Rationale: See 2b.

b. ECSE 538 Human Computer Interaction Design Laboratory
Action: New course proposal (see attached).
Rationale: This would serve as the accompanying laboratory (practical component) to ECSE 537 Human Computer Interaction. Since the value of the co-requisite (theory) course is most pronounced when combined with the practical experience gained from applying the concepts and principles in a sustained, iterative effort, the two should ideally be made as mutually co-requisite.

One of the main reasons these changes is that too many students found the work load in ECSE 424 too high as the project was quite demanding; however, the project is an integral part of the course to reinforce the theory learned. The original proposal by Prof. Cooperstock was to create a new graduate 500-level course that uses common lectures with ECSE 424; only students registered in the 500-level course would have to complete the project. However, the department has been discouraging the practice of co-teaching cross-listed undergraduate and graduate courses (i.e., using the same lectures for the 400 and 500 level equivalents, and simply asking 500-level students to do some additional work).

Notes: (1) Each course would be a co-requisite for the other. Students would need to take both courses as part of their programs (whether they are undergraduate or gradurate). The 6 credits would reflect the workload and students would receive the proper credit.
(2) ECSE 537 and ECSE 538 will be available as technical complementaries in the CE and SE programs, but that approval of the instructor and the Associate Chair will be required.

1. Proposed Course Description:

Title: “Human-Computer Interaction Design Laboratory"

Course description for inclusion in the calendar:
Design and evaluation of human-computer interfaces, with an emphasis on usability, interaction paradigms, post-GUI approaches, computer-mediated human activities, and implications to society.

Optional (given co-requisite) pre-requisite courses: Computer Engineering (ECSE322).
Suggested co-requisite course: Human-Computer Interaction (ECSE5XX).

Accessible to Honours Electrical, Computer, and Software Engineering undergraduate students, as well as graduate students with equivalent pre-requisite background.

2. Motivation and Rationale:

This would serve as the accompanying laboratory (practical component) to Human-Computer Interacton. Since the value of the co-requisite (theory) course is most pronounced when combined with the practical experience gained from applying the concepts and principles in a sustained, iterative effort, the two should ideally be made as mutually co-requisite.

3. Learning Outcomes:

Upon the successful completion of this course, the students will:
1. Be able to assess user needs, abilities, and individual differences, and design interfaces suited for specific populations
2. Be experienced in critiquing an interface design based on formal laboratory experiments, heuristic evaluation, and cognitive walkthroughs
3. Implement a functioning interactive system that provides improved capabilities of user interaction over an existing equivalent system
4. Be able to write clear, informative, accurate, and appropriate documentation for users of a particular information technology system
5. Gain practical experience working through several iterations of the user-centered design process

4. Tentative Syllabus and Structure of the Course:

4.1. Syllabus

The lab is organized as a series of project deliverables, each emphasizing a different stage in the iterative process of user-centered design, development of increasingly functional prototypes, and constant usability testing of the evolving interface. This is described in further detail in Section 4.3.

4.2. Format of the Lectures

There are no separate lectures as all students taking this lab should be simultaneously enrolled in the ECSE-5XX Human-Computer Interaction theory course.

4.3. Project

The project is carried out by groups of 2-4 student members who are mentored closely by an experienced teaching assistant throughout the semester. The project is divided into approximately six distinct phases, each with its own set of deliverables, and follows a traditional user-centered design approach involving several iterations of increasing capability.

Part 1: Defining the project
Groups propose the overall structure of their interactive application.
Part 2: Low-fidelity prototype and evaluation plan.
Design and implement a low-fidelity mockup or similar of the proposed system.
Part 3: Computer Prototype and Evaluation Plan Prototypes evolve from paper/cardboard, to one that runs on a computer.
Part 4: Formative Feedback
Students evaluate another group's design, carrying out a series of exercises.
Part 5: Alpha System
Feedback is incorporated as design changes into a second computer prototype.
Part 6: Beta System
Further user testing and TA feedback leads to a final implementation.

At the end of the term students present and demonstrate their final systems.

4.3. AU Breakdown

100% engineering design

5. Required Resources:

Apart from generic computer workstations that are available to all students, the instructor provides all necessary hardware and software resources. These vary from year to year depending on the particular project theme, but have recently included Nintendo Wii remote controls, Bluetooth interfaces, various sensors, a USB-based generic I/O board, and a CAVE environment.

6. References and Text books: None.

After much discussion it was decided that L. Chen will withdraw this new course proposal and take it back to J. Cooperstock and the Curriculum Committee for more discussion. J. Clark suggested that L. Chen should take this to the Graduate Committee and in parallel.

5. Undergraduate Enrollment Numbers

J. Webb informed the department that there is a slight improvement in the students registered in September. J. Clark stated that the University set the cut offs and the Faculty sets the target. G. Roberts asked what we did to improve our numbers, was there something specific. J. Webb replied that is was for various reasons but not us specifically. J. Clark stated that we are not tapping into our out-of-province students.

6. Other Business:

D. Plant asked for any items for other business. None.

7. Adjournment:

D. Plant asked for a motion to close the meeting. Motion to adjourn: B. Boulet, Seconded by F. Labeau at 4:30 pm. Carried.

D. Davies, Secretary