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"Interaction and Intelligence" Workshop

The workshop organised by our group took place during two Saturdays, February 18th and 25th, and gathered students from different cohorts and programmes, who are interested in Social Computing and Interaction Design. 

During the workshop, students in teams learned how to design user experience and to create a prototype of a client-server recommender application from scratch. Each team consisted of students with expertise either in Data Science in R or visual novel development with RenPy. This diversity helped to achieve successful peer learning and finish the projects in time.

The workshop was organised by Denis Bulygin and Ilya Musabirov, both members of our Group. The main instructor of the workshop was Paul Okopny, Uppsala University (Sweden).

Day 1
During the first day, students had been divided into groups and got through the main milestones of designing the service on paper. In the brainstorming session they analysed existing services and users needs in the attempt to come up with their own ideas. At the end of the day students defined the main topics of their projects:

  • Recommendation of the MOOC;
  • Recommendation of the master's program;
  • Recommendation of the teammates to the project group;
  • Social media recommendations 
After that, the teams discussed how their applications would work, based on information systems and interaction design principles. 
Then they proceeded to prototype the application with R backend and RenPy interface, communicating over HTTP protocol. 

Between two workshop meetings, they had a week to finish their prototypes, closely working in teams. For some of the students, the workshop was the first experience of working on the project outside of their cohort.

It is always thrilling to interact with strangers, but interaction with unknown senior students is twice as thrilling. That is why Saturday morning was quite nervous time for me, but all concerns immediately disappeared, when we started working on the project. Vivid discussions, new ideas, and experience exchange were the most important part. Guys from other years of study helped me, the first-year student, unfamiliar with R programming environment, and I explained them some details of RenPy.

Ekaterina Marchenko 
1st-year student, BA Sociology and Social Informatics

Senior students with some programming skills in R and Python worked together with 1st and 2nd-year students who were better at designing interactive visual novels with the RenPy engine, and their ability to share this knowledge and learn from each other was the key to success.

As for me, such events teach teamwork and sharing responsibilities in a team. I am only in my first year of study and, frankly speaking, do not have outstanding experience in programming or social informatics, but it was enough to participate. While I do not know R yet and can’t always correctly read complex algorithms, I understand Python a little bit, and can even be useful when working with RenPy. This how the whole event was built. Someone knows one thing, and someone – knows something different. In the process of creating something new you are helping others with what you know, and they help you. You acquire new knowledge based on this simple process.

Alexander Nikulin 
1st-year student of BA "Sociology and Social Informatics"

The workshop was also attended by teachers of BA Sociology and Social Informatics, who are interested in social computing. Dr Anna Shirokanova, Associate professor of Sociology, joined one of the teams.

During 6 hours of the workshop, there was the atmosphere of mutual interest in the audience: all participants wanted to learn something new, and the instructors were ready to give them this knowledge. The organisers prepared each stage of the workshop properly, so there were no hiccups in the process. RenPy was absolutely new tool for me, therefore it was very interesting to learn about it from students. It is a great and useful event for HSE, not only because it teaches students new tools, but also because it makes them collaborate with each other. I am looking forward to the second part of the workshop on February 25th and further work."

Anna Shirokanova 
Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology

Day 2

During the week teams had been developing their applications, and on February 25th they finally presented results of their work.

Two teams focused on recommender systems of MOOCs, taking distinct approaches. The first group's prototype suggested online courses to the user based on the program code written by him.

The system designed by the second team, in turn, analyses users’ questions and answers topics on Stack Overflow, and then suggests courses based on those interests.

Education was a really hot topic at this workshop: following the first two groups, the third one presented the application recommending master's programs based on user's interests.

Two last groups focused on social media recommendations and a service to help students to find teammates for group projects.

When the presentations were over, participants shared feedback on projects, including voting for the favourite ones: team composition recommendation system was voted the best project.

The organisers hope that such events will help both to draw public attention to our group research projects, and to facilitate sharing experiences and practical skills among teammates as well.

The form of the workshop was new to students, as well as the task and technologies they used. They applied a lot of effort and got promising results, not just in the form of the application prototypes, but also in the form of new knowledge and new friends. I have an impression that everyone had fun, including myself, and that is, in my opinion, the most important result of the workshop.

Paul Okopny 
Uppsala University, workshop instructor