04-800-AA   IT for Behavior Change Support

Location: Africa

Units: 12

Semester Offered: Spring

Course description

Behavior change is the altering of people’s habits over the long term. It can be used to improve health, learning, environment management, social justice, and other outcomes in society. This course introduces the theories around behavior change and how personal computing devices, data science, and artificial intelligence can be used to provide support for personal or community-level behavior change in different domains. Students will learn how to choose appropriate behavior change techniques (BCTs) based on the problem behavior being addressed and the user being targeted. They will also learn how to evaluate the effectiveness of their intervention including through randomized controlled trials (RCTs). The negative sides of persuasive technologies and the discussion of ethics in design will also be explored.

Learning objectives

Students will be introduced to personal and social theories of behavior change and what they tell us about factors that influence people’s motivation and ability to change behavior. The course will also cover the concept of persuasive design and the theoretical underpinnings of its methods of tunneling, suggestion, self-monitoring, etc. Strategies such as gamification, personalized informatics, social media integration, the use of immersive technologies, and nudging will be introduced. Students will learn the theoretical basis of the techniques, how to apply them in an application, and their strengths and limitations. Case studies will be used to reinforce understanding of the best practices and challenges of the techniques. The Concept of “do no harm” will be introduced and students will learn how the misuse of persuasive design (e.g., through UX dark patterns) can lead to harmful behaviors such as addiction to technology and mental illness prompted by excessive social comparisons. Students will learn practical ways to ensure persuasion is done ethically. The course will use lectures, seminars, and group discussions as modes of instruction. Student learning will be assessed through quizzes, a paper on critical reflection on the successes and challenges of presented and self-selected case studies, a project and paper on the design of a behavior change technology to solve a global challenge, and a final exam.


After completing this course, students should be able to:

  • Describe personal theories of behavior change
  • Describe social theories of behavior change
  • Describe components of persuasive design and nudging
  • Know when and how to integrate nudging, gamification, social networks, and other techniques to drive behavior change
  • Identify, discuss, and ethically address concerns around persuasive technologies

Content details

  • The concept of behavior change and persuasive design
  • Person-focused theories of behavior change (e.g., Fogg’s behavior model, theory of planned behavior, transtheoretical model)
  • Social theories on behavior change (e.g., social cognitive theory, social learning theory)
  • Behavior change taxonomy
  • Persuasive technology design and evaluation
  • Nudging
  • Gamification and serious games
  • Personal informatics
  • Ambient displays
  • Just-in-time adaptive interventions
  • Immersive applications
  • UX dark patterns
  • Ethical concerns of persuasion
  • How to “do no harm”


Android Programming


Edith Luhanga