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Courses, Workshops, or SIGs?

Courses, Workshops, and SIGs: What’s the Difference?

ACM CHI offers Courses, Workshops and SIGs. When deciding whether to offer a workshop or a course, consider the following table:

Instructor (or several instructors) as expert(s), able to communicate knowledge effectively with students at a specified level (beginners to advanced). The instructors are expected to anticipate a variety of engagement methods, in the proposal for a course.
Takes responsibility for creating new knowledge or insights along with a group of knowledgeable peers; Facilitates interactive session that fosters knowledge creation, sharing and dissemination.
Is responsible for facilitating and organizing discussions (and presentations where appropriate) during the SIG.
Learners on a new topic. These learners are possibly experts in unrelated topics or topics not directly addressed in this activity. Learners are typically not asked to submit qualifications before enrolling in courses.
Knowledgeable peers and experts in related topics. Participants are typically asked to provide a position paper or show related work to qualify for entry. Workshop participants are selected by the organizers of a workshop.
Anyone with an interest in the topic of the SIG. Attendees are often active researchers in the area, but SIGs are also an excellent opportunity for non-expert attendees to learn more about a topic they might be interested in working on.
Specific learning objectives appropriate to the course topic and anticipated student level.
Share knowledge and extend knowledge on a specific topic (which may be covered in other venues at CHI).
Network and build community around the topic of interest (e.g. identify potential contributors for future collaborations).
To work out what the current priorities and areas of excitement are in an area and to open discussion to those with fresh perspectives.
Topics are open to specific technologies, methodologies, devices, including topics that may be part of university courses or those that will help newcomers more rapidly integrate into the CHI community. Course topics are often quick ways for learners to get up to speed on “state of the art.”
Topics often cross boundaries, look at emerging topics and fields or attempt to build alliances with organizations beyond CHI. Workshop topics are often beyond “state of the art.”
Topics should serve an identifiable interest group (e.g., a research community), but are an opportunity for new expertise to be added to such groups. SIG topics are usually about the state of the art and how to move beyond it.


A workshop on prototyping (for example) might encourage sharing of a variety of prototyping tools and methods among people who are accustomed to using one or more of the tools already. The goal of such a workshop would be to clarify issues related to methods and tools, output and success metrics, and additional goals that are appropriate to discussions among experts to extend best practices or create new understandings and practices.

A SIG on prototyping might involve a couple of short talks, perhaps with differing opinions on prototyping, followed by a discussion where other attendees can contribute their own thoughts. The goal is to consider what the important problems in prototyping are at present, drawing on the experiences of attendees.

A course on prototyping would introduce the purposes of prototyping, review a selection of prototyping tools and the resultant prototypes. It might discuss how the results would be useful for which types of testing, or shared with a development team.