This general design degree focuses on developing creative design thinking and practical work to address problems in every aspect of life, not just the creative industries. The design modules feature online design studios, social networking and inspiring study materials alongside a significant practical component. As well as design, you’ll study modules in complementary subjects gaining skills and knowledge in an area that fits your needs and interests.
BSc Interfaces and interaction
The first stage 120 Credits
This is the first of two ISC level one modules that introduce you to key concepts in computing and information technology (IT), such as digital technologies, programming and networking. This module will equip you with a comprehensive toolbox of relevant knowledge, understanding and skills and introduce you to issues encountered in computing and IT, including the profound social and ethical challenges posed by these technologies. You will also develop your key skills including communication, numeracy and digital and information literacy (DIL). This will give you a firm basis for further study, especially Introduction to computing and information technology 2.
What you will study
This module is presented in three courses:
‘The digital world’ – the digital technologies that pervade our home, work and social lives;
‘Creating solutions’ – programming skills for creating solutions to simple problems;
‘Connecting people, places and things’ – the computer networks that allow us to interact with others.
Course 1 ‘The digital world’
You’ll start with your own experience of using computing and IT systems, covering a range of topics. You’ll explore how computers and networks developed; how analogue images and sounds are converted into digital formats; and how data is stored and managed in databases. You’ll also gain practical experience of constructing webpages, and consider how interfaces help us to interact with computers successfully.
Course 2 ‘Creating solutions’
You’ll develop programming and problem-solving skills as you work within a graphical programming environment to create programs involving animation, sounds, numbers and text. Since programs don’t always work the first time they are run, or don’t work as expected, you’ll also develop skills in testing and debugging your programs.
Course 3 ‘Connecting people, places and things’
You’ll be introduced to communication networks, including the structure and operation of the Internet, and wired and wireless systems. You’ll also discover how these technologies are combined with connected devices in the Internet of Things. The course ends with a discussion of how people interact with each other online, and also how computing and IT systems relate to modern society.
Throughout the module, you will develop your study skills, digital and information literacy skills and employability skills.
This module builds on Introduction to computing and information technology 1 and prepares you for further study of computing and IT modules. You will:
learn about a variety of information technologies – including basic computer architecture, the cloud and mobile computing – while training your numerical skills;
develop problem-solving skills as you get familiar with the Python programming language, analyse real-world data and carry out a programming project;
practise your communication and analytical skills as you explore the profound legal, social, ethical and security challenges posed by information technologies.
What you will study
This module consists of three subjects:
Essential information technologies
Problem solving with Python
Information technologies in the wild
Subject 1: Essential information technologies
You’ll learn, among other things, about:
how computers store and process data – and why they use binary
the hardware components of your computer
different types of cloud
the parts of a mobile device, from sensors to batteries
how to use latitude and longitude to look up locations on online maps
what happens under the bonnet when you delete a file on your computer.
You’ll also develop your numeracy skills – from using scientific notation and percentages to calculating with binary representations.
Subject 2: Problem solving with Python
learn to use the Python programming language
analyse, with Python, health and well-being data from the Office for National Statistics
complete a small programming project.
You’ll also be introduced to a range of problem solving strategies, which you’ll practise as part of your project.
Subject 3: Information technologies in the wild
how hackers pose a threat beyond the digital world
how you can secure your data
how the Internet is enabling crime, surveillance, and digital freedom.
You’ll also develop your analytical and communication skills – including collecting and using evidence to argue a point.
Each subject consists of parts – you’ll study one part per week. The subjects are interleaved throughout the module. So, you may study a part on ‘Essential information technologies’ in one week and another part on, say, ‘Problem solving with Python’ in the next week and then another part on ‘Essential information technologies’ the following week. This allows you to revisit and strengthen your understanding of the concepts and skills of each subject over the course of the module. Problem solving and programming skills especially can’t be learned in a few weeks; they require continued practice throughout the module.
The second stage 120 Credits
The World Wide Web continues to provide a foundation for the development of a broad range of increasingly influential and strategic technologies, supporting a large variety of applications and services, both in the private and public sectors. There is a growing need for management and decision makers to gain a clearer understanding of the application development process, from planning through to deployment and maintenance. This module will give you an insight into architectures, protocols, standards, languages, tools and techniques; an understanding of approaches to more dynamic and mobile content; and demonstrate how you can analyse requirements, plan, design, implement and test a range of web applications.
What you will study
Over the last few years the internet and the World Wide Web have provided the basis for the development of a range of strategic business solutions.
As web technologies have entered the mainstream of IT development, a wide range of applications in sectors such as marketing, selling, purchasing, banking and publishing have been deployed, positioning the Web in the relationship between providers and users.
This module starts with a focus on the foundations of web applications, including protocols, standards and content handling. It builds on these by exploring application architectures, components and alternative application designs before considering how applications and content can be made more dynamic and mobile.
The module is made up of four courses and a project.
Course 1 Foundations of web technology
The first course covers the basic technologies on which the Web is founded. Aspects covered include: historic development of the Web; ‘architecture’ and basic client server architecture; protocols such as HTTP; content markup (HTML, CSS, XML) and issues of accessibility and usability; standards and standardisation organisations (W3C, Internet working group); and security (firewalls, HTTPS, certificates).
This course of the module covers all of the basic foundations on which the remainder of the module builds.
Course 2 Web architectures
After examining the different approaches to web application architecture, course 2 focuses on how the components of the client-server architecture can deliver dynamic content to web pages.
While this course considers a range of programming languages and their roles in developing applications, it does not teach programming and you are expected to have already acquired these skills.
Course 3 Mobile content
Course 3 examines the trend toward more portable content and content customisation and also explores mobile content and applications. It considers aspects such as Web 2, content manipulation and approaches to delivering content to mobile devices. You will also undertake the development of a simple mobile application.
Course 4 Developing applications
The final course explores how applications are planned, designed and developed by IT professionals, examining project planning, application design, development environments and tools as well as application deployment and maintenance.
At the end of the module, you will carry out a substantial project applying the skills and techniques from each course.
This module teaches the fundamental ideas behind the object-oriented approach to programming through the widely used Java programming language. Concentrating on aspects of Java that best demonstrate object-oriented principles and good practice, you’ll gain a solid basis for further study of the Java language and object-oriented software development. Some experience in writing computer programs is essential.
What you will study
In the Object-oriented view of software, programs are considered to be collections of objects that interact using each other’s methods and their results. These ideas are at the forefront of modern software development.
Throughout the module you will use BlueJ, an integrated development environment (IDE) specifically developed for teaching and learning object-oriented programming. BlueJ is used worldwide and is easy to use. It places special emphasis on visualisation and interaction techniques to provide a highly interactive environment that encourages experimentation and exploration.
The module takes an ‘objects first’ approach to teaching; you start seeing and interacting with objects right from the very start. This is achieved using BlueJ features that allow you to learn principles about construction and method calling.
You’ll soon start using Java code and syntax to edit provided practical examples, such as a ticket-machine, a digital clock, and a program that draws simple graphics. Initially, you’ll be expected to add minor functionality to the provided projects, and experiment with their facilities.
The module continues the teaching about fundamental object-oriented ideas by investigating:
- how to control the initial state of newly created objects
- different kinds of variables and methods in Java
- different kinds of data, including primitive and object types
- inheritance hierarchies and their impact on code reuse
- overriding methods and polymorphism
- abstract classes and interfaces
- file input and output.
Along the way, you’ll learn about Java structures for selection and iteration, and more about some of the core, provided Java classes. We introduce you to ideas about writing Java code in a good style and using appropriate design, as well as about different kinds of errors you will encounter and how to deal with them.
As you go on, you’ll develop increasingly complex object-oriented projects from scratch, using the BlueJ IDE, and gain a better understanding of the more complex examples in the textbook. The skill of appropriately utilising a provided library of classes (searching for a useful class and method, for example) is explicitly developed in this context.
The last part of the module begins by investigating how data is written to and from files in Java and how objects can be made persistent by writing them to file. Both of these techniques are useful in larger scale programs.
The thrid stage 120 Credits
From small apps to large business systems, from smart phones to smart environments, from wearables to ambient installations, from virtual reality to augmented reality – interactive computing technologies have become part of the fabric of everyday life. This module will help you on your way to becoming an effective interaction designer. You’ll learn what interaction design is about and how to design interactive products that offer good user experiences. You’ll learn about the multitude of factors that influence user experience; the theories that underlie good interaction design; and the methods and techniques designers use to create effective interactive products.
What you will study
Why are some interactive products so popular? How do you create products that everybody wants? One of the fundamental things you will learn in this module is the importance of user-centred design.
You will learn the value of moving away from your desk and ‘stepping out into the world’ to involve potential users in your early design ideas for interactive products. It is all too easy to assume that others think, feel and behave in the same way as we, the designer or developer, do. It is essential to take into account the diversity among users and their different perspectives and getting their feedback will help you to avoid any errors and misunderstandings that you may not have thought of. Involving users in the process is vital to creating great products and makes good business sense: after all, who wants to buy a bad product?
With our guidance, through hands-on activities you’ll work through the design process on a project of your choice. This will include hands-on activities and form part of the tutor-marked assignments (TMAs). Each TMA addresses one stage in the design life-cycle. By the end of the module you will have practical experience of the full life-cycle through your own project. You will acquire practical skills that will equip you with the tools you need to analyse, design and evaluate interactive products. You will develop skills that will be important to you in a variety of employment settings – whether working as a developer as part of a large software development team, as a partner in a small start-up, or in some other role involved in the managing of, or decision making around interactive products that will be used by others.
The module uses the international best-selling book Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction as a reference text and is organised in four courses:
Course 1 – Introduction and overview
What is interaction design? This course gets across the fundamental idea of what we mean by interaction design and the importance of it being user centred. You will begin to reflect on what makes some designs usable and satisfying – and others not – and get hands-on experience of the process of designing. An important principle of our approach to interaction design is that there is diversity among users – not only in terms of their physical characteristics and capabilities, but also of their cognitive and sensory characteristics.
Course 2 – Requirements
Who are the users and what do they want? As part of the process of defining the requirements for an interactive product we need to know the user’s characteristics but we also need to be aware of the user’s context – both in terms of their physical environment and in terms of the activities they are engaged in. This course studies a range of requirement gathering approaches including talking to users, observational methods including the use of technology probes, and more. You will also learn to use tools and techniques such as developing personas and scenarios, which will help you share information with the stakeholders (the team, the users, the customer) and communicate effectively about the requirements for an interactive product.
Course 3 – Design
Designing is about balancing the requirements. It involves thinking through the underlying idea for the interactive product and the more concrete, physical aspects. This course tackles all these things. You will learn to use reflective tools to help you work out and communicate the main idea for a design, including what users will be able to do with it, and how they will experience it. We discuss a range of interface types, from more traditional screen-based forms of interaction to mobile, wearable, haptic and other interface types and you will learn and use a range of prototyping methods and tools.
Course 4 – Evaluation
Evaluating an interactive product is essential to ensure that it meets the requirements or to identify ways in which it can be improved so that it does meet the requirements. This course presents the knowledge and techniques necessary to evaluate, including ethical considerations when evaluating with users; techniques and tips for observing users, and asking experts and users; and how to decide when to carry out field studies and when to use lab studies. You will learn how to present your findings and to reflect on the need for iteration of parts of the design life cycle.
The assessment for this module is structured so that you can work on a problem chosen by you, and work through the various processes and iterate through the design life cycle studied in the course as you progress in the module.
If you are considering progressing to The computing and IT project, this is one of the ISC level 3 modules on which you could base your project topic. Normally, you should have completed one of these ISC level 3 modules (or be currently studying one) before registering for the project module.
Innovations emerge from complex, dynamic, iterative processes. But how do designers, engineers, entrepreneurs, managers and users create opportunities and generate ideas for innovation? How are ideas developed into successful products, services and systems? What are the impacts of design and innovation? This online module uses a range of contemporary case studies to explore such questions. Its concerns go beyond innovation for commercial advantage to consider how, through responsible design, innovation can contribute to the development of a more sustainable future. The module includes a design and innovation project in which you will identify and research a problem, and develop your own solution.
What you will study
Central to the module is a project which will give you the opportunity to apply some of the concepts and methods that you will learn.
The module is structured into two parts, each made of up of three courses that explore different aspects of innovation.
In Part 1 you’ll focus on how opportunities and ideas for innovation are created.
Next, in Part 2 you’ll consider how ideas for innovation are implemented and may result in widespread adoption. You’ll begin working on your project in this second part of the module.
The study material, which is delivered online, makes extensive use of a range of media and resources to support your learning.
Section 1 – Creating ideas and opportunities for innovation
Course 1: Exploring innovation sets the scene for the whole module. This course presents a number of case studies, including mobile phones and racing bikes, which introduce you to the design and innovation process, its outputs as product, service or system innovations, and its impacts. A model, which is used throughout the module to enable you to understand the design and innovation process, is presented at the end of this course.
Course 2: Sustainable innovation focuses on how design and innovation can address major challenges such as waste and climate change and how the relationships between products, people and context offer opportunities to design things differently. This course will help you critically evaluate design and innovation practices and to integrate social, technical and environmental knowledge in design thinking.
Course 3: Visions for change considers the role of visions of change in creating and promoting opportunities and ideas for design and innovation. It introduces approaches and tools that you can use to help develop visions of change. The course ends with a discussion of responsibilities and ethics of design and innovation.
Section 2 – Implementing ideas for widespread adoption
Course 4: Innovation projects: working for change focuses on the practice of designing product, system, and service innovations. You will learn how to undertake a design and innovation project and develop a design brief from your own ideas. This course will help you to select, use and evaluate a range of tools and methods to help with your design and innovation project.
Course 5: Creating concepts: places for people explores the processes and outcomes that contribute to the making of sustainable homes and built environments to show how design specifications and concepts are developed as part of the innovation process. It will equip you with the design thinking skills and tools to help you further develop your project.
Course 6: Implementing innovation: transport futures draws on case studies of projects in the area of transport and mobility to show how the details of an innovative product, service or system are developed. This course considers how the case for the implementation of these innovations is made and presents tools to assist in this process and help you to plan how your project might be advanced beyond the module.
Cloud computing and mobile technologies offer new possibilities for the production and distribution of IT applications and services. Rapid, elastic and scalable provisioning of IT resources allows organisations to be more innovative, agile and cost effective. In our personal lives, cloud and mobile technologies allow us to store, access and share information online. Storing and processing information with no clear physical location or legal authority raises important concerns around governance and security. In this online module you will learn about the technical and social aspects of cloud computing and mobile technologies, and you will gain hands-on experience of these technologies.
What you will study
This online module will provide you with an understanding and practical experience of cloud technology and the web technology which underpins it, as well as the role that these have in the provision of modern mobile applications. You will gain both a technical and business perspective of the advantages, problems and risks of using these technologies. A number of case studies demonstrate the application of the technology in different contexts, such as start-ups, established organisations and collaborations.
The module is organised into three courses:
- Web Foundations
- The Cloud
- Mobile Applications
The principles behind cloud technology and its utilisation in different contexts are the main focus of the module with Web Foundations providing an appropriate grounding in the enabling technology and Mobile Applications demonstrating how to further capitalise on cloud infrastructure in developing flexible mobile applications.
Trust and security are important themes running through the module, alongside the social, political, technical and legal issues which these recent developments in IT raise. Case studies draw together key features from each part, setting the scene for a project where you will use your new skills to specify, prototype and demonstrate cloud and mobile solutions for an organisation.
Course 1 – Web Foundations
This first course sets the scene for the module by exploring how networks, and especially the internet, support access to networked services and applications. The course first provides a brief overview of the underlying standards and protocols of the web (HTTP, XML, CSS, etc.), including secure protocols (HTTPS, TLS, SSL, SSH) and then reviews the development of modern distributed architectures and different approaches (REST, SOAP) that are used to access web services and how these relate to cloud approaches. The course also includes a range of practical activities using NetBeans to develop and deploy web services to an application server (Glassfish) as well as testing and consuming services.
Course 2 – The Cloud
The second block introduces the cloud model and the types of resources (processing power, databases, general storage and networking) that can be provided by a typical cloud infrastructure. Different levels of cloud model are investigated, such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS), and contrasted with the web services model.
The courses briefly reviews consumer cloud offerings, such as Dropbox and Google Drive for storing assets, before moving on to more sophisticated commercial offerings of cloud infrastructure, such as OpenStack and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Virtualisation and the use of hypervisors are outlined with a focus on the common facilities of the dominant mainstream platforms, including monitoring resource usage, load balancing and automatic scaling of resources to meet demand.
As well as technical aspects, the course considers the business case for cloud in different contexts (start-up, corporate, projects, collaborations) and different approaches to distributing cloud infrastructure (private, public and collaborative) as well as considering security and legal implications for each approach.
A range of cloud operations are demonstrated and included in a set of practical activities to provide hands-on experiences. These activities include:
using a cloud dashboard to create resource constraint descriptions in which to run virtual machines and other components
creating security rules to control access to cloud resources
launching, accessing, monitoring and destroying cloud resources
scripting and testing an auto-scaling scenario so that an application which comes under a high load is automatically replicated with the load shared between the existing and new resources
use of a programmatic REST API to perform cloud operations.
Course 3 – Mobile Applications
Finally, this courses explores the current state of the mobile market and the prospects for mobile technology as well as its combined use with cloud technology. The courses commences by investigating a range of challenges facing developers of mobile apps, including dealing with the multiplicity of:
users’ devices (tablets, mobile phones etc.)
framework technologies (Java, Microsoft, Android, iOS)
communication technologies (Web services, HTTP, and TCP sockets).
The courses examines a range of considerations in developing a mobile application including deployment and upgrading, user interface design, performance and memory management as well as connectivity, back-end storage and security. The courses also includes a case study element, exploration of toolkits for developing applications and the practical development of a mobile application which is subsequently extended to exploit cloud facilities.
Each of the three courses includes a tutor-marked assignment (TMA), which has a practical and written element. After completing the three courses you will undertake an end-of-module assessment (EMA), which takes the form of an individual project. This requires that you produce a considered assessment of cloud and mobile technology for use by an organisation and also apply the methods and tools used during the module to provide a technology demonstration for the organisation.
The duration of this 30-credit online module is 31 weeks requiring around ten study hours per week. These hours are only a guide and you may take more or less time according to your study pace. You should be prepared to spend significant amounts of time online (at least six hours a week, if not the majority of your study time).
If you are considering progressing to The computing and IT project , this is one of the ISC level 3 modules on which you could base your project topic. Normally, you should have completed one of these ISC level 3 modules (or be currently studying one) before registering for the project module.
Electronic communication is ubiquitous in homes, offices and urban environments. You probably regularly use mobile devices, Wi-Fi and broadband. What makes such forms of communication possible? How do they relate to each other? Why is their performance so variable? This module gives you an insight into these and other questions, by looking at the fundamental principles of communications technologies. Through these principles you will gain an insight into the possibilities and constraints of modern communications technology. This module complements other modules relating to networking, human-computer interaction, and pervasive computing.
What you will study
Course 1 concerns the physical aspects of signals and their environment. You will study the theory and practice of signals (such as how electrical and radio signals can represent data), the propagation of signals through space and through materials, and the physical media that are used to convey signals, such as optical fibres, free space and conducting materials. Issues of noise and spectrum availability are ever-present because they set limits on what is possible. Accordingly you will study and use Shannon’s theorem, which specifies the maximum rate at which information can be sent over a channel of a specified bandwidth in the presence of noise. You will also study some concepts from Fourier’s theorem, which shows how an information-bearing signal occupies a band of frequencies rather than a single frequency.
The second course concerns the nature and types of codes that are used to represent digital data. Although digital data is thought of as a succession of zeros and ones, the way those zeros and ones represent data needs ingenuity because perfect transmission in the presence of electrical noise (or interference) is impossible; and noise is unavoidable. In practice, the probability of error must be made sufficiently low, and this is achieved by use of error detecting and error correcting codes, which add extra zeros and ones to the data. You will study some of the main coding methods used to add resilience to signals. You will also look at some of the techniques used to reduce the amount of data imperceptibly so that files can be compressed.
The final course looks at the principal types of access network in use. These are the networks used to connect users to the main data and telephony trunk routes. They include mobile data (3G, 4G and 5G), DSL broadband (which is the type delivered over a user’s fixed-line telephone connection), Wi-Fi, optical fibre and co-axial cable. The basic principles of these are covered with a view to uncovering their similarities (such as the increasing adoption of orthogonal frequency division techniques) and the factors that affect the performance of these types of network. The course concludes by looking at the implementation of security and virtual private networks in the context of teleworking.
If you are considering progressing to The computing and IT project , this is one of the ISC level 3 modules on which you could base your project topic. Normally, you should have completed one of these isc level 3 modules (or be currently studying one) before registering for the project module.