OPTOM 101G : How We See

Medical and Health Sciences

2022 Semester Two (1225) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Overview of the interdisciplinary study of human vision. The course introduces the biological/physiological organisation of the visual system, discusses the subjective nature of perception, and the implications of studies of biological visual systems for machine vision. Interdisciplinary understandings of vision will be enriched by the examination of historical paintings and artists’ visual experiences.

Course Overview

Sight is one of the main senses. Vision supports a wealth of behaviour: from picking up a cup, to writing a note, to interpreting the expression on a face, all the way to appreciating the beauty of a view. This course presents a broad overview of the interdisciplinary study of human vision starting with an introduction to its biological/physiological organisation in our species where it occupies the efforts of at least a third of the brain. We introduce students to the problems of studying visual experience. We discuss the subjective nature of perception and why studying this is fraught with both methodological and philosophical caveats. We further seek to demonstrate how visual experience differs from one person to another, both in health and disease, and we enable students to hear first-hand, the profound issues faced by individuals who experience loss of vision. Moreover, the course discusses how our understanding of human vision is supporting current breakthroughs in restoring sight after vision loss. Finally, we discuss how vision science is linked with the arts using examples of how for centuries painters have used principles of the visual system only recently discovered by science.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Course Contacts

Sam Schwarzkopf:   s.schwarzkopf@auckland.ac.nz

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the basic visual pathway and concepts of visual processing (e.g. receptive fields, neuronal tuning, opponency, adaptation) (Capability 1)
  2. Describe common visual disorders and their physiological basis (Capability 1)
  3. Identify the modular organisation of human visual processing (Capability 1)
  4. Describe and discuss the role of attention and awareness in visual perception (Capability 1)
  5. Describe and discuss why perception is subjective and variable between people (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  6. Explain the challenges of machine vision and virtual reality (Capability 1 and 3)
  7. Use basic skills to measure visual function in the lab and clinic (Capability 1, 2 and 3)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Laboratories 20% Individual Coursework
Quizzes 20% Individual Coursework
Measuring vision tutorial 10% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 50% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Measuring vision tutorial
Final Exam

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 42 hours of lectures, 4 hours on a practical, 20 hours of work on lab assignments conducted online, and 84 hours of reading and thinking about the content.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at a scheduled tutorial to receive credit for components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events including group discussions/tutorials.
Attendance on campus is required for the exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

The learning outcomes of the course can be achieved with the lecture slides/recordings. For additional in-depth reading, we recommend Basic Vision by Snowdon, Thompson, & Troscianko, published 2012 in Oxford University Press. Additional primary sources may be cited in lecture slides for additional reading.

Student Feedback

At the end of every semester students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback and respond with summaries and actions.

Your feedback helps teachers to improve the course and its delivery for future students.

Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the department and faculty staff-student consultative committees.

Other Information

Online laboratories will be run on an online platform called testable.org for delivering online experiments. Students will run classical psychophysical experiments on themselves and submit their own results for completion of the course work. We will also administer an online visual acuity test developed by the School of Optometry & Vision Science at myacuity.org.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website http://disability.auckland.ac.nz

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/students/academic-information/exams-and-final-results/during-exams/aegrotat-and-compassionate-consideration.html.

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/students/forms-policies-and-guidelines/student-policies-and-guidelines/student-charter.html.


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 02/11/2021 08:29 a.m.