Takings Notes would be more beneficial if:

If you did not have the chance to read my previous post, I discussed the advantages and disadvantages of laptop and longhand note-taking in classrooms in regards to performance in class.

Longhand note-taking is beneficial in a way that people pay more attention to what they are noting down, but they cannot easily multitask on other assignments given by the instructor during lecture. On the other hand, laptop note-takers can easily multitask on different assignments such as quizzes, slides, but are most likely to associate with verbatim overlap i.e. just noting word to word of the lecturer without any critical thinking.

Consequently, I thought there would be ways we, designers, can improve the note-taking experience for students who prefer longhand and laptop note-taking distinctively. However, when I tried to search on the internet, I couldn’t find laptops and notebooks that can satisfy both needs. Therefore I came up with my own ideas which I believe would increase multitasking for longhand note-takers and decrease verbatim overlap for laptop note-takers.

  “Kalimba Education Notebook”

Kalimba Education Notebook – US Letter by maureenisimbi. (2018). Canva.com.

This notebook provides room for notes during the lecture and students can write the tasks assigned for the future and their due dates, they can note down questions they would like to ask the lecturer at a later time, and also note the highlights of the lecture in case they would like to remind themselves what the lecture was about. It is different from the normal notebooks where students of put everything together which might confuse them and not show the priority activities.

        “Kalimba Education Notebook”

342 magnolia streetpasadena, ca 91105 – Social Media by maureenisimbi. (2018). Canva.com.

Using the above laptop for notetaking would be very effective because a student can turn it into notetaking mode so that other screens are hidden. In addition to that, the notebook of the laptop has the same features as the actual notebook I suggested where the student is able to note down tasks, questions, and highlights during class. Furthermore, since typing is very correlated to verbatim overlap as we saw in the research study that was conducted by Cartsens, Watson & Williams (2015), there is a quiz at the end of the notes asking the laptop notetakers to answer some questions about the notes they took so that they pay attention to what they write.

In conclusion, I believe the note-taking media can significantly affect the performance of students in academic assignments which is why using the above notebook and laptop feature would highly impact the education quality of a student.


342 magnolia streetpasadena, ca 91105 – Social Media by maureenisimbi. (2018). Canva.com. Retrieved 6 May 2018, from https://www.canva.com/design/DAC2ZwfaLJ8/VROHbxVUr6HnsU9Bqxee6w/edit

Carstens, Brittany A., Tiffany L. Watson, and Robert L. Williams. “Unstructured Laptop use in a Highly Structured Entry-Level College Course.” Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology (2015).

Kalimba Education Notebook – US Letter by maureenisimbi. (2018). Canva.com. Retrieved 6 May 2018, from https://www.canva.com/design/DAC2YyqCkMw/g0XuA7s7BCYe4zVXEEFftg/edit



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Note-taking mediums, human factors and academic performance

Aleardi, M. (2018). Regulations on laptop use in college classrooms differ among professors. The Ithacan. Theithacan.org.

Recently, in my class of experimental psychology, we carried out an experiment about which note-taking medium is more efficient in terms of better performance on factual and conceptual questions.

Our results suggested that taking notes by hand can be useful in a way that students are not distracted by other things while in a lecture, and they write things that they have relatively thought about as opposed to students who write notes by laptops. This gives them an advantage of performing slightly better on conceptual questions than the students who take notes on laptops.

Herbert, W. (2014). Ink on Paper: Some Notes on Note Taking. Association for Psychological Science.

On the other hand,  laptop note-takers can record notes while multitasking effectively i.e. viewing powerpoint slides, paying attention to their instructor and asking questions which would be very hard for longhand note-takers (Cartsens, Watson & Williams, 2015). In addition to that, many college courses are more convenient when they apply some technological tasks.

Sorting Thoughts. (2018). The simple and private note-taking app | available for Windows, macOS, and iOS. Sortingthoughts.de.

So how do note-taking media relate to human factors and ergonomics? Looking at the advantages of both note-taking media, there are things we can learn from each and apply to another. For instance, can we limit the distractions in laptops so that students can concentrate in class during lectures? Or can we design books that enhance multitasking so that students can express their knowledge maximumly?

Due to how much interest I grew in the topic, I took on a task to come up with an idea that can help longhand and laptop note-takers both benefit from the media they feel comfortable taking notes with. In the following blog, I will have finalized the ideas I came up with regarding a more convenient notebook and less destructive class laptop, so stay tuned!


Aleardi, M. (2018). Regulations on laptop use in college classrooms differ among professors. The Ithacan. Theithacan.org.

Carstens, Brittany A., Tiffany L. Watson, and Robert L. Williams. (2015). “Unstructured Laptop use in a Highly Structured Entry-Level College Course.” Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology. 

Herbert, W. (2014). Ink on Paper: Some Notes on Note Taking. Association for Psychological Science.

Sorting Thoughts. (2018). The simple and private note-taking app | available for Windows, macOS, and iOS. Sortingthoughts.de.






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Why airplanes can be comfortable and uncomfortable

Airplanes can be very comfortable for some individuals and very frustrating for others mainly due to the human factors behind the design of airplanes. In my blog today, I will write about some few examples that airplane designers should consider changing in order to provide a better experience for people who travel by flight.

Lavinia Plonka (2015). Have a Comfortable Flight. Lavinia Plonka.

For example, the photo above shows an experience passengers often encounter even in long flights which can be so devastating that a person ends up hating flights just because of a poor design of an airplane.

A better design would be allocating more space between the passengers’ seats and limiting the stretch of seats so that the passengers behind do not get squeezed due to the excessive lay back of passengers sitting in front of them. This would provide the passenger in front a chance to lay back although in a limited way, and some sort of comfortability for the passenger sitting behind.

In addition to that, there should be a button to press to inform that a passenger wants to lay back because most of the times passengers lay back without first informing the passengers behind them which might lead to accidents such as knocking someone or even spilling drinks or food.

Another example of a poor design of airplanes that designers should consider is the fact that the chairs don’t provide support to passengers’ heads since most passengers sleep on flights.

Airplane Headrest Cover. (2018). Airtrafficgroup.com. 2018.

There has been a suggestion of a better design for airplane chairs where passengers can have support for their heads which I believe would increase their overall flight satisfaction. The following design has been considered by Kühne’s thesis project, created with help from the Human Factor’s and Ergonomics Lab at Zodiac Aerospace (Owen, 2016).

In conclusion, I believe airplanes can be more comfortable for passengers if airplane designers considered the small facts such as headrest, the interaction between passengers and just to always take passengers feedback and improve the ergonomics of planes since they are used frequently by some people.


Air Traffic Group. Airplane Headrest Cover. (2018). Airtrafficgroup.com. 2018.

Lavinia Plonka (2015). Have a Comfortable Flight. Lavinia Plonka.

Owen, E (2016). Finally, Someone Designed an Airplane Seat Headrest That Actually Looks Comfortable. Travel + Leisure.



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My top five human-centered designed products

Ever since I started studying about human factors, I realized that many products actually have human-centered meanings behind their design. I took time to think about five products that I have ever used that captured the attention of my human psychology.

5. Traditional African Desks

 Traditional African desk in a classroom in Cameroon

The traditional African desks are designed in a way that the seat is not separate from the table. They are designed as such so that space and resources are maximized due to a large number of students and small classrooms. However, the desks are so ergonomically designed in a way that people are able to sit in many positions without hitting their knees on the tables. They are suitable for any height and can just serve multiple purposes. I wish we had such desks at Tufts.

4. 574 Boston Ave Chairs

The 574 Boston Ave chairs are comfortable to sit on for a very long time compared to other chairs at Tufts. They are designed in a way that the sitters’ backs are upright without them consciously reminding themselves to sit upright. In addition to that, I always find it a good idea to have class chairs with wheels because classes can get tiresome and boring sometimes, and wheels always help with preventing sleep and fatigue.

3. Google Docs


I really appreciate the design of Google Docs because it considers what the human brain can easily overlook. For example, Google Docs automatically saves what is written immediately unlike Microsoft Word. This is beneficial because most of the times people forget to constantly save their work which can be lost in case their devices run out of power. Also, the fact that it can allow more than one person to work on it at the same time is a great invention that covers the psychology of sharing.

2. Touchscreen

Woman touching tablet computer.

The invention of touchscreens was among the groundbreaking ergonomic designs in world’s history. The ability to control a device by one’s finger without a button as a mediator deeply attracted human psychology in a way that people feel more in charge of how they use their devices. In addition to that, the button phones were very time-consuming, especially at composing a text because the keyboards put more than one letter on one button. For that reason, I believe touchscreen devices are among the top ergonomically designed products.

1. Snapchat

Snapchat is undeniably among the top products that have really attracted the human psychology. In Snapchat, people are able to turn themselves into many features. Just like I mentioned above, people are very attracted to anything that can enable them to be in control. People love power and fiction. Snapchat also served the purpose of retouching people’s faces, and most people no matter how beautiful they may feel, they always want to add a little more which Snapchat has covered in its very ergonomic design.

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Why the area of human factors is not very common

While human factors, commonly known as ergonomics, is a very important field in many work systems, it is rarely given attention. In fact, there are only about thirty-six higher education institutes in the US that have the human factors/ergonomics related majors (Ergoweb, 2014). One may wonder why it is the case even though many design companies invest in human-centered designs for their products to be successful.

“Human Factors in the healthcare system”

Human factors | Cambridge Consultants. (2018). Cambridgeconsultants.com.

There is a possibility that it is not the human factors field that is missing in the work system, but rather many fields misunderstand the term and its uses. For example, according to Russ, Fairbanks, Karsh, Militello, Saleem and Wears (2013), there are misconceptions about the term “human factors” that are beginning to take root in peer-reviewed medical literature where some papers refer to human factors yet point to the failures of people as the cause of some errors which is the opposite of what human factors suggest about human errors. Therefore, it is important to give attention to the definitions different work systems associate with human factors because it might be the reason behind the unfamiliarity and avoidance of the field.

Some researchers provided recommendations to better integrate human factors and ergonomics in different work systems. For example, Gurses, Ozok & Pronovost (2011), suggested that there should be market forces that demand the integration of human factors and ergonomics design principles into medical technologies and an increase in the number of human factors and ergonomics practitioners in healthcare organizations. As a result, there will be a clear view of the importance of human factors and ergonomics field and how it impacts the comfortability, safety, and satisfaction of the users of different products from different sectors.

I would also add a suggestion of increasing the number of higher education institutes that have human factors and ergonomics-related majors in different areas such as healthcare, technology, and many others because human factors/ergonomics cover almost every aspect of human lives.


Gurses, A., Ozok, A., & Pronovost, P. (2011). Time to accelerate integration of human factors and ergonomics in patient safety: Table 1. BMJ Quality & Safety21(4), 347-351. doi:10.1136/bmjqs-2011-000421

Human factors | Cambridge Consultants. (2018). Cambridgeconsultants.com. Retrieved 6 May 2018, from https://www.cambridgeconsultants.com/expertise/human-factors

Russ, A., Fairbanks, R., Karsh, B., Militello, L., Saleem, J., & Wears, R. (2013). The science of human factors: separating fact from fiction. BMJ Quality & Safety22(10), 802-808. doi:10.1136/bmjqs-2012-001450

University Programs for Ergonomics and Human Factors | Ergoweb. (2014). Ergoweb. Retrieved 6 May 2018, from https://ergoweb.com/university-programs-ergonomics-human-factors/#usa

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Traditional Human Factors

Image result for botswana culture
The National Accommodation Association Of South Africa – Soweto. Naasoweto.co.za.

If you are addressing people’s issues, you should definitely consider their cultures and traditions. This includes their religions, outfits, utensils, languages and many other cultural factors. For instance, many products that are designed and produced by western companies tend to less consider the population that uses their products from other cultures. The simplest example I can come up with is all the products with auto-corrects such as Microsoft, Grammarly which will take all non-western names as incorrect words.

According to Moalosi, the success of a good product innovation is when it is grounded in the sensitive cultural analysis of the users’ culture (2007). He also mentions that there is no solid theoretical framework linking designers and cultures which has hindered designers to conduct successful cultural analyses in relation to their designs (Moalosi, 2007).

Kigali Convention Center in Rwanda

The above is the Kigali convention center complex that was designed by Roland Dieterle, a German architect. In his interview with The New Times in 2016, Opobo asked Roland why he came up with such a unique, appealing design to both Rwandan citizens and foreigners. The dome shape is a concept that was inspired by the Rwandan king’s palace:

Urukari (the Rwandan king’s palace)

Roland went on explaining why the building is colorful ” The colors are also something we found in the country, like people are wearing clothes, also buildings are wearing an envelope like cloth, and our idea was to translate the tradition of how to wear clothes, particularly female dressing into the building” (Opobo, 2016). Therefore, the famous Kigali Convention Center was a successful design because people relate to it so much in their culture and everyday lives.

Designers from all over the world should highly consider the traditions that determine the reactions and perspectives of users because, at the end of the day, the cultures have proven to be the most influential and everlasting factors that guide communities. In addition to that, it would be very important to design a theoretical guideline for designers to conduct cultural analyses in the individual communities in which their products will be used.


Moses Opobo. “Tracing the story behind the Kigali Convention Complex”. The New Times. 2016.

Richie Moalosi. “The Impact of Socio-cultural Factors upon Human-Centered Design in Botswana”. School of Design Queensland University of Technology. 2007.


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Human Factors Leadership

As I continue to explore my interests, I am surprised that human factors cover most of them. Besides majoring in human factors engineering, I minor in engineering management because I believe every person should be able to have some level of leadership expertise in their area especially if you are aspiring to have your own company or manage an existing company.

         Teamwork – a leadership skill

Human Factors Leadership Teamwork (2017). Leadership in Diving? Why is it needed, it is only a sport. Human in the system.

I recently learned about the concept of Incident Command System (ICS) which is “a management system designed to enable effective and efficient domestic incident management by integrating a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure, designed to enable effective and efficient domestic incident management” (ICS, 2008). Therefore, as much as we, human factors engineers, consider the details of human psychology in relation to machines and technologies we design, we should also pay a significant amount of attention to the processes of our decision making as leaders and managers of our teams and companies.

In my engineering management class, we learned how different organizational structures significantly affect the sales of their product which I believe goes hand in hand with human psychology as well. Let us take Microsoft as our example. This is their organizational structure:

Microsoft Organizational Structure

Dudovskiy, J (2017). Microsoft Organizational Structure: Divisional Structure With Focus On Innovation – Research Methodology. Research Methodology.

The advantage that Microsoft has over other companies is that Microsoft has a good understanding of customers which helps them have clear objectives of the products that are mostly demanded which is a strong strategy to stand out in their competitors. However, Microsoft has a disadvantage of complex customer support because there are different people that use Microsoft products around the world with distinct conditions of living and working, such as the level of access to internet to update Microsoft products, level of training in Microsoft products, languages used, which need to be addressed when designing some products of Microsoft.

Therefore, to consider different human factors of the diverse population that uses Microsoft, I believe Microsoft would explore other organizational structures such as Geographic organizational structure. Microsoft is used by 1.2 billion people from 140 countries and 107 languages around the world (Microsoft website). This is a very big and diverse number of people to use the same products despite the differences they have. The simplest indicator of the lack of geographic organization of Microsoft is writing my name, Isimbi, and having a red line on it. Therefore, as Microsoft benefits more in marketing their products, I believe they would benefit more if they put more effort into addressing carefully their customers from each location that Microsoft products are used hence utilizing their human factors knowledge in their leadership and marketing skills.


Dudovskiy, J (2017). Microsoft Organizational Structure: Divisional Structure With Focus On Innovation – Research Methodology. Research Methodology.

ICS (2008). Incident Command System Training. FEMA Training.

Human Factors Leadership Teamwork (2017). Leadership in Diving? Why is it needed, it is only a sport. Human in the system.


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Less is actually more!

Today I’ll be sharing one major thing I have learned in real life and in human factors too. As designers, we tend to think that complicated products with so many features are the ones that attract customers. But to be honest, when I, too, visit a website like this,

Busy website

Coredna (2018). “10 Web Design Mistakes Even Professionals Are Guilty Of.” Coredna.

I am no longer interested in its concepts. There are all sorts of things on the home page which makes me already feel tired to look deep into the website.

I believe I am not the only one who dislikes too much information at the same time. In fact, according to Whitenton (2013), when the amount of information is more than what our minds can handle, it takes us longer to process things just like how a computer slows down when the user runs many programs at the same time. Therefore, due to the fatigue, we may miss important details, and eventually abandon the task.

Why am I discussing this topic? Like I promised you in the previous blog, I will be sharing my interest in aviation in relation to human factors. In lab 3 assignment, we were required to form groups and design the landing gear controller of an airplane such that it
only relies on visual, non-text affordances, i.e. no labels, to communicate its purpose and operation to the pilot. My group mates, Eric, Ryan, Ben, and I came up with the following design idea, and explanation to why we think it is a very simple but efficient landing gear controller.

Landing gear idea for our third lab assignment

The first feature we focused on was the lever to release the landing gear. We thought making the knob of the lever a wheel would create an easily identifiable signifier for the part. To further differentiate this lever from others we designed it to pull out as it goes down. We thought the combination of the wheel and motion was a good affordance because it mimics the shape and motion of a landing gear being released.

As the handle is pulled out, the three lights arranged in correspondence to the location of the landing gear in the image of the plane turn to from red to green signifying that the landing gears are fully out. Once the landing gear is fully extended, a brake pedal for the landing gear pops-up out from the floor. This pedal pops out significantly higher than any other pedal and is meant to be pushed back in by hand.

We thought it would be best to then keep the same mechanism for steering the landing gears and focus more upon the display of the plane’s direction. The display we built will begin as red, similar to the lights in the landing gear section, and the bar will turn green as the landing gear finished extending. Once on the ground, the direction of the plane will be indicated by a yellow arrow located on top of the green bar. To steer the plane as it comes to a stop we decided to use the handle or crank that is currently used in aircrafts to help keep continuity.

I was delighted to work on an assignment that is related to my interests. As you just read, our design for the landing gear controller is easy for a pilot, not distractive and it serves its role very efficiently. Therefore, as aspiring designers, we have to always consider human psychology and the way people interact with information so that our complexity does not lead to confusion.


Coredna (2013). 10 Web Design Mistakes Even Professionals Are Guilty Of. Coredna.

Whitenton, K (2013). “Minimize Cognitive Load to Maximize Usability. Nielsen Norman Group.


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Human Factors and Ergonomics in Aviation

Related image

Growing up, I always wanted to become a pilot. However, where I come from, Rwanda, there was no aviation school by the time I went to college. In addition to that, it was more complicated to apply for a US visa to train in piloting than to attend a four-year college. So here I am at Tufts University majoring in Human Factors Engineering instead.

However, I appreciate being introduced to the field of human factors because it has brought so much into perspective that I would not have learned if I had only concentrated on piloting. In fact, in case I chose to pursue my dream of becoming a pilot, I will operate very well as I will be applying the understanding of the human psychology in regards to the functioning of a plane.

In the blog today, I would like to share with you about three applications of human factors and ergonomics in aviation that I was able to read in the article ” Human Factors Contribution to Aviation Safety” that was written by Dumitru and Boşcoianu (2015).

First, human factors are applied in aviation to manage human error. In order to reduce errors and mistakes a pilot may do, aviation human factors engineers are supposed to design the airplanes in a way that will be very clear to the pilot to avoid confusion that may lead to errors hence risking lives of many people.

In addition to that, an airplane that is designed following proper human factors and ergonomics should make it easy and fast for the pilot to process information. For example, in case of emergencies airplanes should have outstanding heuristics in order to instantly take appropriate measures before massive damages.

Finally, human factors in aviation play a big role in avoiding fatigue. Air transport enables traveling very long distances without resting for pilots. Therefore, pilots need to use airplanes that are human-centered designed i.e do not add more unnecessary, tiresome tasks.

Image result for well designed airplane controller

This was all for today. I hope you learned a little bit about why human factors and ergonomics are very important in aviation and many other related fields. In the following blogs, I will continue to explore opportunities for having the knowledge about human factors. Stay tuned!


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Human Factors?

Image result for human factors

Many times when people ask me what I study at Tufts University, I only say engineering because I am, most of the time, not ready to explain what Human Factors Engineering is. But, of course, they ask me “what kind of engineering?”. I say Human Factors Engineering expecting the question “what is human factors?”. In my own words through what I have learned so far, I tell them that human factors is human-centered design. However, I have learned that my answer is very limited in relation to what would make a person fully understand the term “human factors”.

According to PSNet (Patience Safety Network), human factors is the discipline that takes into account human strengths and limitations in the design of interactive systems that involve people, tools and technology, and work environments to ensure safety, effectiveness, and ease of use (2017). Therefore, as a person who is pursuing a career in human factors engineering, I should consider all the above aspects, i.e people’s strengths, and limitations, safety e.t.c),  in order to think through an important design I would like to create.

Image result for human factors

Human Factors is very related to a term known as ergonomics which originated from a Greek words ergon [work] and nomos [natural laws]. According to HFES ( Human Factors and Ergonomics Society), it is the science of designing user interaction with equipment and workplaces to fit the user (2011).

The foundations of the science of ergonomics appear to have been laid within the context of the culture of Ancient Greece. A good deal of evidence indicates that Hellenic civilization in the 5th century BC used ergonomic principles in the design of their tools, jobs, and workplaces” (HFES, 2011).

It has since developed in many areas such as aerospace, healthcare, product design and other everyday life engineering fields.

Image result for memes about ergonomics


  • https://worldwide.erau.edu/webinars/human-factors-aviation/
  • https://psnet.ahrq.gov/primers/primer/20/human-factors-engineering
  • https://www.saylor.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/psych304-8.3.5.pdf





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