By Lt. Col. Tanya Estes, Dr. Linda Mallory, and Dr. Edward Sobiesk
Genuinely considering the user experience is an important element of developing usable and acceptable hardware and software. When working outside of a simple classroom project, however, an Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval must be obtained before conducting user studies with human subjects. Obtaining IRB approval is often viewed as a bureaucratic procedure to be endured rather than an opportunity to teach the value and process of conducting user studies. Here, we present our experience educating students on Human Protections Training, seeking IRB exempt approval, and conducting user studies all in a one semester experience. By going through the IRB and user study process, our students learn about the ethical treatment of participants and also experience firsthand the issues and insights involved in critiquing a design that would not have been discovered without usability studies. This best practice is completely in line with curriculum guidelines for computer science from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and IEEE Computer Society requiring coverage of HCI and ethics.
The Value of a One Semester Exposure to the Institutional Review Board Process