CS 791/891 - Visualization Seminar
Fall 2015: Wednesdays, 9:30am-11:55am, E&CS 2120

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Course Overview

"The purpose of visualization is insight, not pictures." -Ben Shneiderman

The main goal of the course is to provide students with a place to improve not only their chart-making skills, but also their paper-reading, writing, and presentation skills. It's called "Visualization Seminar" because we will spend some time focusing on chart design, data analysis, and issues involved in clearly presenting data. Whatever your research domain, we can find papers related to visualizing that data or discuss visualizations presented in important papers in your field.

Students will read academic papers, write brief summaries of the papers, give presentations on the papers, critique visualizations, and produce original visualizations based on their own research interests. Since this is a P/F course, none of this will be directly graded. I will put emphasis on constructive feedback rather than a grading rubric. For instance, after a student gives a presentation, the class will offer positives and negatives so that we all can learn from the experience.



Previous knowledge of information visualization is not required -- we'll do a quick introduction. Previous knowledge of D3 is not required -- whatever you typically use to create charts (R, Matlab, Excel, Tableau, D3) is fine. We'll work on basic principles that you can apply using any of these tools.

Course Materials

This course has no required textbook.

I assume that every student has a computer that you can install software on. Recommended software includes

  • R, RStudio -- these may be installed on department lab machines
  • Tableau -- free edition for students

Course Policies


This is a pass/fail course, meaning that there will be no letter grades assigned. But as with other courses, to pass this course you need at least a 70%. This means that to earn a 'P', you must attend and participate fully in class meetings and complete assignments. I will not pass students for just showing up (or not showing up) and doing no work.


I expect you to attend class and to arrive on time. Your grade may be affected if you are consistently tardy. If you have to miss a class, you are responsible checking the course website to find any assignments or notes you may have missed. Students may leave after 15 minutes if the instructor or a guest lecturer does not arrive in that time.


Students should signup for the class email list. You do not have to use an ODU email address -- sign up with any email address that you would check daily. I will use this list to send out important updates (assignment deadline changes, class cancellations, office hours cancellations, etc.)

Classroom Conduct

Please be respectful of your classmates and instructor by minimizing distractions during class. Cell phones must be turned off during class.

Make-up Work

Make-ups for graded activities are possible only with a valid written medical or university excuse. It is the student's responsibility to give the instructor the written excuse and to arrange for any makeup work to be done.

Disability Services

In compliance with PL94-142 and more recent federal legislation affirming the rights of disabled individuals, provisions will be made for students with special needs on an individual basis. The student must have been identified as special needs by the university and an appropriate letter must be provided to the course instructor. Provision will be made based upon written guidelines from the University's Office of Educational Accessibility. All students are expected to fulfill all course requirements.

Academic Integrity / Honor Code

By attending Old Dominion University you have accepted the responsibility to abide by the honor code and honor pledge. If you are uncertain about how the honor code applies to any course activity, you should request clarification from the instructor. The honor pledge is as follows:

"I pledge to support the Honor System of Old Dominion University. I will refrain from any form of academic dishonesty or deception, such as cheating or plagiarism. I am aware that as a member of the academic community, it is my responsibility to turn in all suspected violators of the Honor Code. I will report to a hearing if summoned."

In particular, submitting anything that is not your own work without proper attribution (giving credit to the original author) is plagiarism and is considered to be an honor code violation. It is not acceptable to copy source code or written work from any other source (including other students), unless explicitly allowed in the assignment statement. In cases where using resources such as the Internet is allowed, proper attribution must be given.

For more information on ODU-CS policies, see Academic Integrity.

All students are responsible for knowing the rules. If you are unclear about whether a certain activity is allowed or not, please contact the instructor.