Data Visualization is a rapidly-changing area of computing, and it’s one that I am learning along with you. We’ll have a lot to cover in one semester, so you will have to manage your time carefully to keep up with all the new material. We’ll spend much of our course time working with the techniques we are learning, rather than in a lecture format. In addition to in-class time, I strongly recommend that you set aside specific times during the week to practice with the course material and complete any work left after the regular class periods.

Complete course policies are detailed below, but the high level points are summarized here:

Attendance: Attendance is required. I will subtract 1.5% from your final grade for each time your are absent, and 0.75% for each day you are late to class. The only excused absences are for long-term illnesses, family emergencies, academic travel, or high holy days. However, you are granted a 3% allotment for penalties, so you can miss two classes or arrive late four times with no impact on your final grade.

Preparation: You should complete all assigned reading before class. If you do not understand the material in the reading, seek out additional materials and talk to your classmates for help. If you find additional reading materials that help you, please share them with me.

Participation: Your participation in class will account for 10% of your total grade. If you participate in class when called upon and work well with your classmates, you should expect to earn 90% in this category; to earn 100% you will need to contribute significantly to the class on a regular bases. This category is separate from any penalty for unexcused absences or coming to class late.

Labs: Lab work will account for 45% of your final grade. Labs will require a significant amount of programming, so please start them early and ask questions. Most labs will be due the following class period, so make sure you have set aside time to complete any remaining lab work.

Project: You will complete an end-of-semester project, which will account for 45% of your final grade. Graded work includes a project proposal, the project implementation, a report, a brief presentation in the final week of class, and critiques of your classmates’ presentations.

Late Submissions: Labs will be penalized one full letter grade (10%) for each day they are late. Late projects and proposals will not be accepted. If there are issues with MathLAN that significantly prevent the entire class from working on a lab or project, I will issue an extension.

Academic Honesty: When you rely on outside sources for help, you must cite them. Submitting work that is not your own, including group work to which you did not significantly contribute, will result in an automatic zero on the assigned work. Serious or repeated infractions will be forwarded to the Committee on Academic Standing and may result in an automatic F in the course.


My goal is to help you learn as much as possible in this course; please let me know what I can do meet your learning needs. If you have a disability that requires accommodations, please contact Disability Resources. Disability Resources will work with you to determine your needs, and will provide you with paperwork outlining the accommodations you require. Please give me this paperwork at least a week before the course activity for which you need accommodations. If this timeline is not feasible for any reason, please contact me as soon as possible and we will work together to find a solution.


Your classmates and partner(s) depend on your contributions to learn new material and complete the required work for this course. Don’t let them down! You are expected to arrive on time and actively participate in every class.

Because your participation is so important, I will not grant excused absences except in exceptional circumstances. I will deduct 1.5% from your final grade for each absence and 0.75% for each time you are late to class. However, each student is allotted a 3% “penalty buffer,” so you may miss two classes or arrive late four times with no impact ony our final grade. This policy is intended to give you the flexibility to deal with brief illnesses or personal issues that require you to miss class.

If you need to miss more than two class periods for an exceptional reason (e.g. to attend an academic conference, deal with a family emergency, to observe a high holy day, or due to long-term illness) please talk to me as soon as possible and we will make an alternate arrangement.

If you are sick, please do not come to class. Stay in your room, rest, and seek medical care as needed. Student Health and Counciling Services (SHACS) offers health and mental health services to students.

Preparation for Class

We will use readings from a variety of sources, but our primary text is Interactive Data Visualization for the Web by Scott Murray (ISBN 978-1-449-33973-9). This is an informal book that walks you through the basics mechanics of building data visualizations. We will spend time discussing techniques for make effective visualizations as a class, and will draw on the work of others to see examples of good and bad techniques.

If you find additional readings that help you to prepare for class, please share them with me! I will incorporate these into a future offering of the class. I also encourage you to share additional references with your classmates.


Your participation in class will account for 10% of your final grade. Participating in class involves:

  • being present in class (physically and mentally),
  • coming to class prepared,
  • asking questions,
  • making contributions to class discussion by volunteering and when called upon,
  • staying on task during collaborative exercies, and
  • working effectively with your group.

Students who consistently meet these criteria can expect to earn 90% (an A-) for their class participation grade. I will reward students who regularly provide significant insights or guide discussion in a productive manner. Students who fail to participate, or participate in counterproductive ways—by dominating the discussion or making inappropriate comments—will earn a lower score.


Lab projects account for 45% of your grade in this class. You are expected to work collaboratively on labs with your assigned partner(s). Make sure you follow all instructions for completing and submitting each lab. This includes requirements for building and running your code. Late labs will be penalized a full letter grade (10%) for each day they are late.

You are encouraged to use outside resources when completing labs, provided you cite them. Building on existing code is a valuable skill, and relying on outside sources will not be penalized. However, you may not use an outside source for the majority of your implementation. If your assignment is to implement a shell, you cannot simply submit someone else’s shell implementation with a citation. If you find an outside source you would like to use but you are unsure whether that would be acceptable, come talk to me.


The final project will account for 45% of your final grade. This includes the project proposal, implementation, a report, a presentation, and critiques of your classmates’ projects. You can find a brief overview of the project with links to each sub-part on the Project page.

Late projects and project proposals will not be accepted in general, but if a special circumstance comes up please let me know as soon as possible so we can discuss an alternate timeline. If there are issues with MathLAN that significantly prevent the entire class from working on a lab or project, I will issue an extension.

The same rules for collaboration and citing sources apply to both labs and all stages of the project.

Academic Honesty

I encourage collaboration when it promotes learning. However, it is important for you to understand the course materials and demonstrate your own learning on quizzes. As an instructor, I will meet my obligation to bring any work suspected to be in violation of the College’s Academic Honesty Policy to the attention of the Committee on Academic Standing, after which there is no recourse with me.

Students are free to discuss readings and assignments, but copying is not acceptable. The work you turn in must be your own. You must acknowledge the contributions of others, whether they come from other students in the class, or from print and online resources. In short, while you are encouraged to collaborate with others, you are expected to be able to construct and explain each solution on your own.


There will be no curves or competitive grading in this course. Every student has an opportunity to earn an A. Your final grade will be determined with the following scale:


I reserve the right to adjust this scale during the semester, until two weeks before the end of class. I will notify all students of any change in the grading scale. You may ask me for your current grade in the class at any point; I will happily give you my best estimate based on the current scale and graded work so far, but these estimates are not guarantees of a specific final grade.

Getting Help

Office Hours

Please come by during my office hours to discuss course content, get extra assistance, or just talk about how the course is going. I am using a new system for office hours this semester; if you would like to meet during my office hours, make an appointment at If I have unscheduled time during office hours you can still stop by.

If you cannot make it to regular office hours, email me to schedule an appointment. Please provide at least three possible meeting times so I can pick one that works for me.


I am happy to answer questions by email, but please allow 24 hours for a response (except on weekends, when I may not answer email at all). If you have an urgent issue that must be resolved, email is the best way to reach me. If an issues comes up and it cannot wait until the next class period, please include the text “URGENT” at the beginning of your subject line.