Leveraging human-computer interaction

New challenges, cultural values, and technologies are changing design — and vice versa. Pervasive networked devices have freed design from the confines of the lab: design increasingly roams at large.  Many of these designs meld the physical, digital, and social worlds creating a rich setting to explore new applications of design. Online learning is one such application that has greatly benefited from this melting pot -- the successes are tremendously exciting as we are building systems that enable increasing amounts of people from around the world to learn new skills, but the failure rate is high. Herein lies the challenge.

Today, college is still one of the few windows of opportunity where we can explore and hone new material.  Our geographic location can define the level of education we can receive. And our economic status or learning style confounds our ability to master new material.

Imagine a world in which these issues no longer apply. Anyone, at anytime, anywhere can master new skills. A farmer in Papua New Guinea can master the principles of business, so he can have the tools he needs to manage the earnings from his crop. A teenager in El Salvador is able to master Web development so she can create websites to globally communicate her community’s involvement in eradicating child migration. A single father is able master child nutrition at his own pace, whenever he has the opportunity to complete his assignments.

What exactly would it take make this world a reality, and to design and offer global, life-long mastery learning? We need to design an environment that scales without confounding quality: where students can learn at their own pace, and where we foster an environment for perseverance, connecting students from around the world to support, teach, and learn from each other; where teachers are able to offer the best quality of instruction, giving them the state-of-the-art pedagogy tools.

The rise of online learning gives us the scope for enabling such a vision as we are able to see and study phenomena that was previously intractable. For instance, insight learning is difficult to study because of the longitudinal nature and the difficulty of running experiments in classrooms. My research group builds tools that enable us to study such phenomena: Talkabout and PeerStudio. These tools scale peer collaboration and assessment, collecting data from massive online courses. By combining such data with insights from physical classrooms, we can couple "big" data with "thick" data to arrive at ecologically valid design decisions. We have the tools to make this world a reality, and with your support we can design a world that teaches itself.

Scott is an Associate Professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science & Engineering at UC San Diego, where he is a co-founder and Associate Director of the Design Lab. He previously served as Associate Professor of Computer Science at Stanford, where he co-directed the HCI Group, held the Bredt Faculty Scholar chair, and was a founding participant in the d.school. He has a dual BA in Art-Semiotics and Computer Science from Brown (with Graphic Design work at RISD), and a PhD in CS from Berkeley. His former graduate students are leading professors (at Berkeley, CMU, and UIUC), researchers (at Adobe), founders (including Instagram and Pulse), social entrepreneurs, and engineers. He helped introduce peer assessment to online education, and created the first such online course. More than 200,000 have signed up for this human-computer interaction design class. He has been awarded the Katayanagi Emerging Leadership Prize, Sloan Fellowship, NSF CAREER award, and Microsoft Research New Faculty Fellowship. Nine of his papers were awarded best paper or honorable mention at top HCI venues. He has been program co-chair for UIST, the CHI systems area, and HCIC. He advises university design programs globally. Organizations worldwide use his group’s open-source design tools and curricula.

Design thinking skills will be a key success factor for a new generation of creative leaders in technology, business, and education

Computer Science Colloquium Series

Katayanagi Emerging Leadership Prize

Awarded annually to an individual recognized as an emerging research leader


The most sought-after recognition a new faculty member can receive. Besides being an impressive addition to the recipient's resume, the award gives major bragging rights to his or her department and institution