Educ 206: Data Visualization For All

Fall 2021 Syllabus

Our course meets in-person, wearing face masks in compliance with the campus Covid policy, on Tuesdays & Thursdays 2:55-4:10pm in Seabury S205 with Professor Jack Dougherty at Trinity College, Hartford CT. Email me a quick question or schedule an in-person or Zoom appointment on my calendar.

Course description: How can charts and maps tell meaningful stories? How can they mislead us from the truth? In this introductory hands-on course, we will create data visualizations in order to better understand design principles and develop a critical analysis of the field. Students will learn skills in both quantitative reasoning and digital storytelling as we advance from beginner tools to editing code templates. For the community learning component, our class will build interactive charts and maps on a public policy issue with a Hartford-area partner organization. No coding experience is necessary, but curiosity is required.
Fulfills requirement in Numerical and Symbolic Reasoning (NUM).
Cross-referenced with Community Learning, Public Policy & Law, Writing & Rhetoric, Urban Studies.
Enrollment limited to 19 students.

Community Learning Partners

This semester we will create data stories in partnership with two Hartford organizations that focus on housing. While we will work virtually with our partners on their digital projects, there may be optional opportunities for you to visit their public events or building sites in person.

Intro video, Fall 2021 with Center for Leadership and Justice partners: Cori Mackey, Tieasha Gayle, AJ Johnson.

Intro video, Fall 2021 with Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity partners: Suzanne Feola, Makenzie Bahr, Tracy Thomas, Karraine Moody. Learn more about Karraine Moody, Trinity ‘01.

Course Materials and Tools

book covers

  • Two open-access books are freely available online (or you can purchase print editions).
  • Bring a laptop computer (Mac, Windows, or Chromebook) to every class. Install more than one browser (such as Firefox, Safari, Chrome) for testing purposes. Tell me if you need a temporary laptop loaner.
  • You will need to sign up for several free web services (such as Google Drive, Datawrapper, GitHub). See my list of recommended free digital tools in this course.

Learning Goals and Assessments

In this course you will demonstrate the knowledge and skills you have developed to meet 12 broad learning goals (with more specific sub-goals listed in the schedule further below):

  1. Strengthen Your Spreadsheet Skills
  2. Find and Question Your Data
  3. Clean Up Messy Data
  4. Make Meaningful Comparisons
  5. Chart Your Data
  6. Map Your Data
  7. Edit and Host Code with GitHub
  8. Build with Leaflet Map Code Templates
  9. Transform Your Map Data
  10. Listen, Tell, and Show Your Community Partner’s Data Stories
  11. Detect Lies and Reduce Bias
  12. Embed on the Web

Your progress toward these learning goals will be assessed in three ways:

A. Open-Book Weekly Quizzes

  • The purpose is to demonstrate your knowledge and skills through questions that emphasize conceptual understanding and how to apply it in new contexts. You will have more than one opportunity to successfully complete each quiz while working independently with your notes, readings, and any web resources.
  • Each week, select any 2-hour period during the 2-day window (typically from Sunday 12 noon to Tuesday 2pm) to complete a Moodle quiz of around 5 questions on the designated learning goal. You may see different versions of questions than other students, but all questions address the same goal.
  • Short-answer questions will be scored automatically by the computer, and show-your-work questions will be scored manually by the instructor. If you respond incorrectly to an auto-scored question, the quiz will offer advice and allow you to try again. If you respond incorrectly to a manually-scored question, the instructor will email you with advice and allow you to try again within one day. Furthermore, the quiz settings allow you to retake it a second time within the 2-day window.
  • After the quiz closes (typically on Tuesday 2pm), if you still have not successfully completed it, you can meet with the instructor to discuss your learning and request another opportunity to retake the quiz by the end of the week (typically Friday afternoon).
  • Before you start the quiz, prepare by reading assigned chapters, doing practice exercises, and discussing the material with classmates who have not yet started it.
  • When you start the 2-hour quiz period, you may use your materials (including your notes, the online book, and the entire Internet), but you must work independently and you may not communicate about the quiz content in any way (except with the instructor) until it has closed (typically Tuesday 2pm). You are responsible for following the Intellectual Honesty policy as described in the Trinity Student Handbook. If doubts arise, the instructor may require you to retake a quiz under direct supervision and/or refer the issue to the Honor Council.
  • 12 broad learning goals x 5 points per quiz = 60 points

B. Building Data Stories

  • The purpose is to show your work in building different stages of data visualizations and written narratives that explain why and how it matters to our community partners.
  • Depending on the stage of the build, your work will be evaluated by the instructor, your peers, or guest experts, based on a rubric.
  • 6 stages worth 5 points each = 30 points. For any overdue assignments in this section, a 10 percent late penalty will be deducted for every 12-hour period beyond the deadline. Exceptions are granted only for documented health or family emergencies.

C. Class Participation

  • The purpose is to encourage active learning and accountability. Each student begins the course with 10 participation points. During class, you may be randomly called on to discuss a concept in our reading, or to share your computer screen for everyone to view while we learn tools and build data stories. You do not necessarily need to know the correct answer. But if you are not present or not able to participate when called, a point will be deducted from your participation score. Exceptions are granted only for documented health or family emergencies, or scheduling conflicts where you have notified me well in advance.

If you are quarantined or isolated due to Covid, or if you have concerns about your health, contact me in advance to request permission to participate remotely via Zoom during a specific class session. Last-minute requests may not be granted permission.


60 points quizzes + 30 points data stories + 10 class participation = 100 possible points, plus any bonus points. In this course, unsatisfactory work (below 70%) falls in the D or F range, adequate work (70-79%) in the C range, good work (80-89%) in the B range, and outstanding work (90 to 100%) in the A range. Each range is divided into equal thirds for minus (-), regular, and plus (+) letter grades. For example, 80 to 83.33% = B-, 83.34 to 86.67 = B, and 86.68 to 89.99 = B+. Access your individual assessments on the password-protected Moodle site for this course at

Academic accommodations: please notify me before our third class session, and schedule an appointment on my calendar to discuss how we will implement your approved plan. For those students with accommodations approved after the start of the semester, a minimum of 10 days’ notice is required. For Student Accessibility Resources, contact or

Religious observances: please notify me before our third class session regarding any scheduling accommodations.

How to Succeed in this Course

  • Bookmark this online syllabus and check it often for updates, which will appear in bold.
  • Keep a calendar (paper or digital) to manage your time and meet deadlines.
  • Bring a laptop (with a fully-charged battery) to every class, and turn off distractions to help you (and others) focus on learning. On a Mac, set Notifications to “Do Not Disturb.”
  • Use a password manager to keep track of your digital accounts. See my introduction to Bitwarden, an open-source password manager with free core features for Windows/Mac/Linux computers, all major web browsers, and iOS and Android mobile devices.
  • Take initiative and ask questions: during or after class, via email, or by appointment on my calendar. If you don’t understand something, other students probably are puzzled, too. Go ahead and ask.
  • Meet up with other students outside of class. Create a small study group to review the course material and work together. The secret to success in college is teaching yourselves how to learn new material.
  • If anything is interfering with your learning, email or talk with me about it. I care about how you’re doing in life, not just in our classroom.


Always look for important updates from the instructor, which will appear in bold.

Thur 9 Sept

  • Welcome to class: Create name cards and tell me how to remember you
  • Syllabus overview and how to succeed in this course
  • 1-point bonus sample quiz about syllabus, due in class on Moodle
  • Presentation: Why data visualization matters in the “disinformation age”–see HODV Chapter 1
  • Tell us about yourself and what sparks your interest in this course in this Google Form
  • Overview of Learning Goal #1: Strengthen Your Spreadsheet Skills. Start reading and doing sample exercises in HODV Chapter 2
    • Copy, Share, and Convert Google Sheets
    • Geocode locations
    • Sort and filter data
    • Calculate with formulas
    • Summarize with pivot tables
  • Prep for Spreadsheet quiz, to be taken during any 2-hour period from Sun 12 Sept at 12 noon to Tues Sept 14 at 2pm (extended to Thurs Sept 16th at 2pm), on Moodle

Tues 14 Sept

  • Overview of Learning Goal #2: Find and Question Your Data. Start reading Data Feminism, chapters 1 and 2, and start reading HODV Chapter 3 at
    • Challenge power & privilege in data
    • Clarify levels of data
    • Recognize public vs private data
    • Mask or aggregate sensitive data
    • Explore open data repositories
    • Source your data
    • Recognize bad data
    • Question your data
  • Prepare for Find and Question Data quiz, to be taken during any 2-hour period from Sun 19 Sept at 12 noon to Tues 21 Sept at 2pm, on Moodle
  • Prepare for next class Zoom meeting with Hartford community partners (see below)
  • Review your progress toward Goal #1: Spreadsheet quiz. What strategies helped you to learn?
  • Additional practice with spreadsheet skills
  • To share your screen in our classroom, go to my Zoom Room and mute your audio and video

Thur 16 Sept

  • Before class, read short background stories about our community partners and topics of interest:
  • Zoom meeting in class with Hartford community partners on data stories we will build this semester, which will be video-recorded. Be prepared to ask questions to clarify their ideas and write up Collaborative Notes in this Google Doc.
  • 3-3:20pm with Center for Leadership and Justice on their ideas:
    • 1) Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance (GHIAA) members map
    • 2) Housing Code Accountability: Location and Ownership of 40+ Apartment Units Required to Apply for Hartford Rental License
    • 3) Housing Code Cases: Location and Ownership of Apartments with Complaints or Violations in Hartford
  • 3:30-3:50pm with Hartford-Area Habitat for Humanity on their ideas:
    • 1) Building Neighborhoods: Where has Habitat built homes in North Central Connecticut over time?
    • 2) Increasing Home Ownership: In what kinds of neighborhoods is Habitat building?
    • 3) Generating Tax Dollars: How much property tax revenue do Habitat neighborhoods produce for local governments?
  • Assign Build Stage 1: Find and Question Data, with Spreadsheet Skills, for Hartford Community Partners, due by Thurs 23 Sept at 2pm on Moodle

Tues 21 Sept

Thur 23 Sept

  • Overview of Learning Goal #4: Make Meaningful Comparisons. Start reading HODV Chapter 5 at
    • Precisely describe comparisons – practice in this Google Sheet
    • Normalize your data
    • Beware of biased comparisons
  • Prepare for Meaningful Comparisons quiz, to be taken during any 2-hour period from Sun 26 Sept at 12 noon to Tues 28 Oct at 2pm, on Moodle.
  • Two quizzes are assigned this weekend in order to avoid scheduling a quiz during Trinity Days.
  • Review work from Build Stage 1: Find and Question Data for Community Partners; Geocode Data

Tues 28 Sept

  • Review Clean Up Data quiz and Meaningful Comparisons quiz
  • Different approaches to the Covid case normalization question
  • If invited to share your screen with the class, go to my Zoom room, mute your video and audio, and wait for me to admit you and share your screen
  • Overview of Learning Goal #5: Chart Your Data. Start reading HODV Chapter 6 at
    • Chart types
    • Chart design principles and rules
    • Create bar/column, histogram, line, area charts
    • Create annotated, range, scatter charts
  • Prepare for Chart Your Data quiz, to be taken during any 2-hour period from Sun 3 Oct at 12 noon to Tues 5 Oct at 2pm, on Moodle

Thur 30 Sept

Tues 5 Oct

Thur 7 Oct

  • Review Build Stage 2 findings, so that I can send our work to Hartford partners prior to our next Zoom meeting.
  • Advanced spreadsheet skill: Match Columns with VLookup. Demo with Habitat Homes data
  • Overview of Learning Goal #6: Map Your Data. Start reading HODV chapter
    • Map types (focus primarily on point maps and choropleth maps)
    • Map design principles and rules
    • Choropleth colors and intervals (focus on basic concepts for now)
    • Normalize choropleth map data
    • Create point maps with Google My Maps and Datawrapper. In prior class we used CLJ data and Habitat data. Also, we used Datawrapper Symbol Point tool to create simple point maps, without adding data values to Symbols.
    • Create choropleth map with Datawrapper (which recently simplified steps to input data, and I have not yet updated the HODV chapter, but it’s easier now).
    • Challenge (updated): create a meaningful choropleth map of any data column in this CT census tracts Google Sheet that I downloaded from American Community Survey 2015-19 in Social Explorer.

Tues 12 Oct

  • No class (Trinity Day) and no quiz this week.

Thur 14 Oct

  • Zoom meeting on Build Stage 2 with Hartford community partners, who have received progress reports. Erica Crowley, Director of Community Learning at Trinity, will video record our session from different camera angles, and edited portions may appear in a Trinity web post to describe our process.
  • Read CLJ Progress Report and look for sections assigned to Nolan, Dom, Bonnie, Myri, TeddyW, Deric, TeddyK, Riley, Ifham, Greg
  • Read Habitat Progress Report and look for sections assigned to Emma, Victoria, Nassar, Steven
  • Be prepared to give 30-second demos or summaries of your assigned sections, then pose questions and write notes directly on the page as Google Doc suggestions or comments.
  • If my name is listed after yours in a section, you take the lead and I will assist as needed. If my name is listed before yours, I will take the lead in explaining and you will pose questions and take notes.
  • Prep for Map Your Data quiz, to be taken during any 2-hour period from Sun 17 Oct at 12 noon to Tues 19 Oct at 2pm, on Moodle
  • Be sure to look at the updated challenge problem (with new hints) in the 7 October section of the syllabus.

Tues 19 Oct

Thur 21 Oct

Tues 26 Oct

Thur 28 Oct

Tues 2 Nov

Thur 4 Nov

  • Insert links to spreadsheets and/or visualizations under “work-in-progress” in Build 3 Google Doc
  • Be prepared to discuss your work for 5-10 minutes with instructor
  • No Moodle quiz for next week

Tues 9 Nov

  • By 2pm before class, insert links to your visualization(s), with supporting sheets, Build 3 submission section of Google Doc
  • Be prepared to be assigned to write peer reviews of work by other students, based on these criteria:
    • a) How well do the visualization(s) answer one or more of the specified questions?
    • b) How well does this type of visualization fit the data and the question(s)?
    • c) How well does the visualization(s) follow good design principles?
    • d) (By instructor only): How accurate are the data and visualization(s)?
  • Instructor’s scoring: up to 4 points for your Build 3; up to 1 point for quality of peer review.
  • Overview of Learning Goal #10: Listen, Tell, and Show Your Community Partner’s Data Stories. Start reading HODV Chapter 15
    • Build Narrative on Storyboard
    • Draw Attention to Meaning
    • Acknowledge Sources and Uncertainty
    • Make Labor Visible
  • Try it in class: How would you redesign this chart to draw attention to meaning?
  • Instead of a Moodle Quiz, your data story knowledge and skills will be evaluated as part of your Build Stage 4 (below)
  • Assign Build Stage 4: Data Stories, worth 10 points, due by Mon 15 Nov at 2pm

Thur 11 Nov

  • Feedback from instructor on Build 3
  • Crafting your Build 4 Data Story

Tues 16 Nov

  • Make revisions to Build Stage 4 based on instructor feedback
  • Practice a 45-second presentation of your work in front of class, to prepare for Hartford community partners on Thursday

Thur 18 Nov

  • Zoom meetings with Hartford Community Partners to present Build Stage 4

Tues 23 Nov

Habitat for Humanity worksite
Thanks Victoria and Nassar for participating in the Trinity Habitat chapter workday on Saturday 13 November. See details elow for the next workday on Saturday 11 December!

Thur 25 Nov

No class (Thanksgiving break)

Tues 30 Nov

Thur 2 Dec

  • Overview of Learning Goal #12: Embed on the Web. Start reading HODV Chapter 9
    • Static images versus interactive iframes
    • Get the iframe embed code for a published visualization
    • Embed the iframe code in an HTML web page
  • In your GitHub account, make your own copy of the dataviz-story-template, publish it online using Settings > Pages, and open the HTML code to see how it works
  • Assign Embed Quiz to transfer your data story from Google Doc format to a published HTML web page with embedded visualizations using the GitHub template above, due by end of Mon 6 Dec on Moodle
  • Use updated Habitat Hartford Homes sheet

Tues 7 Dec

  • Reflections with Hartford partners – see further below
  • Feedback on your Embed Quiz (data story web page)
  • Assign Build Stage 5 and 6 (combined) for two expert reviewers, due by Thur 9 Dec at 2pm at your current published GitHub Pages links. At this point your work will be frozen, forked into my GitHub account, and forwarded to the expert reviewers to give them time to read your work.

Thur 9 Dec

Tues 14 Dec

  • Final evaluation with guest experts: Rebecca Lurye (Hartford Courant journalist) and Ilya Ilyankou (civic technologist and book co-author). Instead of a final exam, guest experts will review your final data stories online and pose questions for up to 5 minutes to each solo/duo student about your data, storytelling, and design decisions. Since this final evaluation will be conducted on Zoom, you can participate from anywhere with good internet access. Counts as Build 5 and 6 combined, for total of 10 points from guest evaluators.
  • See final products on the Partners and Projects page

Reflections with Hartford Partners

Reflection video, Dec 2021 with Center for Leadership and Justice partners: Cori Nicewander, Tieasha Gayle, AJ Johnson.

Reflection video, Dec 2021 with Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity executive director: Karraine Moody.

Community Engagement Options

  • Choose one of these options to learn more about our Hartford community partners and to replace our cancelled class session on Tues 23 Nov. Email me a paragraph about what you learned, and include a selfie photo to prove you participated, before the last day of class. Failure to fulfill this requirement will result in a 1-point deduction from your class participation score.
    • Sun 24 Oct 2-4pm CLJ GHIAA Assembly on Zoom. Register in advance at
    • Sat 23 Oct 7:45am-3pm Trinity Habitat chapter build day. Limit 5 volunteers. You must request permission to participate ahead of time by contacting Trinity Co-Presidents Brooke Samaratunga or Archana Adhikari, or Trinity Director of Community Service Joseph Barber.
    • Sat 13 Nov 7:45am-3pm Trinity Habitat chapter build day. Limit 5 volunteers–see above to participate.
    • Sat 11 Dec 7:45am-3pm Trinity Habitat chapter build day. Limit 12 volunteers–see above to participate.
    • Thu 16 Dec 10-11am dataviz training session with Ryan Gorecki at Habitat in my Zoom room
    • Also, anytime prior to Thu 16 Dec, email instructor to request instructions to download 20 photos of Habitat homes from property assessor databases (about one hour of labor)