CS8803 – Visual Data Analysis
Spring 2020
Mondays, Wednesdays 4:30-5:45pm
College of Computing, Rm. 52

Prof. Alex Endert
TSRB 335
Office hours: by appointment (email me to find a time)

Teaching Assistants:
Laura Strickland
Office hours: by appointment (email to find a time)


Visual data analysis explores visual analytics from an HCI perspective. The course focuses on the cognitive processes involved in gaining insights and understanding from data through interactive visual interfaces. The focus of this course is to learn about analysis, and how interactive analytic interfaces can help enhance these processes (specifically, visual analytic tools).

Course objectives

  • Read, Discuss, and Learn about select research areas and publications in visual analytics, human-computer interaction, and information visualization.
  • Learn about user tasks, questions, and frameworks describing how people think about information in order to support the design of analysis systems.
  • Explore methods, techniques, and modalities for user interaction (specifically for data analysis and exploration).
  • Perform human-centered data analysis through assignments and a semester-long group project.
  • Gain ability to read and discuss research within visual analytics literature.




All assignments are due before the start of class on the day listed in the schedule.  You are given 2 late days in total to use during this semester (e.g., you can use 1 late day for HW2, and 1 for HW3, or use all 2 on one assignment, …). These are for any cases where Institute-approved absences do not apply, and no reason must be given to use them. Beyond the 2 days, any late assignments will receive a 10% per day penalty. Assignments turned in one week or later past the due date will not be graded and given a 0. Too much other work, gone for the weekend, ran out of paper etc. are not emergencies, and that’s what the late days are for. Advance notification to the instructor and TAs is expected in all but the most severe emergency situations. You have to let us know within a week of your submission deadline that you want to use your late days. Once you’ve used them all, you can’t change them later in the semester, so plan wisely. Late days can only be used for individual assignments (HW), not the group project or group panel presentations.

Canvas; Piazza

Canvas will be used for electronic submissions used for most of the assignments, and for recording grades. Piazza will be used for asking questions.


Grading will be based on class participation, a class presentation, homework, use and analysis of some information visualization tools, and a project.  Final course grades may be curved (but not always). Grading weights are:

Class Participation 35%
…(panel presentation) 15%
…(attendance and class participation)  10%
…(avg. of reading summary grade) 10%
HW Assignments 25%
…(HW1) 5%
…(HW2) 10%
…(HW3) 10%
Semester Group Project 40%
…(Part 1) 20%
…(Part 2) 20%

See the project and homework sections for details.


Mutual expectations. At Georgia Tech we believe that it is important to continually strive for an atmosphere of mutual respect, acknowledgement, and responsibility between faculty members and the student body. See http://www.catalog.gatech.edu/rules/22/ for an articulation of some basic expectations – that you can have of me, and that I have of you. In the end, simple respect for knowledge, hard work, and cordial interactions will help build the environment we seek. You are expected to remain committed to the ideals of Georgia Tech while in this class, and always.

Attendance is expected. Attendance counts towards your grade for this course. Each lecture, the TAs will take attendance. Institute approved absences will be accommodated, as will absences for interviews, conferences, etc. Notify us, by email, if you will miss class for one of these two reasons (if you feel some other reason for absence is reasonable, email us, but again, in advance).

Contacting your instructor and TA. By far the best way to get in touch with us is via email. For most of the reasons you might contact us, please include all the TAs and instructor on your emails to make sure we are all informed. Start your email subject with ‘[CS8803] ‘ (e.g., [CS8803] question about final exam, [CS8803] requesting an excused absence for a job interview, etc.) so that it is easier for us to find your emails and respond to them. We will do our best to respond quickly. Piazza works well for questions that you think others in class might have, or other students might be able to answer.

Collaboration and academic honesty. Georgia Tech aims to cultivate a community based on trust, academic integrity, and honor. Students are expected to act according to the highest ethical standards. For information on Georgia Tech’s Academic Honor Code, please visit http://www.catalog.gatech.edu/policies/honor-code/ or http://www.catalog.gatech.edu/rules/18/.

Any student suspected of cheating or plagiarizing on a quiz, exam, assignment, or project will be reported to the Office of Student Integrity, who will investigate the incident and identify the appropriate penalty for violations.

Unless explicitly stated otherwise, you are expected to do homework on your own. Your project, in contrast, is inherently collaborative. Your work may borrow libraries and code fragments from sources on the web that you integrate into an overall working system.  Your source code should indicate what code is imported and used as is, what code is imported and modified, and what code is original. To do so, just indicate it as a header comment or readme file. It is appropriate to discuss your project with others to gain ideas and feedback and help with sticky problems.  It is not appropriate to find an existing InfoVis system, modify it, and submit it as your own work.  If in doubt, confer with your instructor. It is much easier to ask about these things than handle the consequences of a poor decision.

In-class use of computers, cell phones and tablets. Please use your technology appropriately while in class. Using computers. tablets, smartphones, watches, VR headsets, etc. in a way that reinforces the educational context, such as taking notes or visiting a web site being discussed, is appropriate. Reading email, playing games, browsing social media, watching Netflix, doing your HW assignments, purchasing football tickets, web browsing, etc. are not appropriate. Not only does this detract from your learning, it unavoidably distracts those sitting near you. Also, incoming emails and alerts are distracting. Even note-taking on your computer may not be such a great idea: studies have shown that note-taking by hand has been shown to be more efficient for learning (also see this news story), as opposed to by computer, but that’s your call. In short, it’s really in your best interest to take the 75 minutes out of your day, disconnect from the internet, and engage in the course. 

Also, understand that this course is about data visualization. We will spend significant class time showing slides of visualizations and discussing them. The content of the discussion is not captured in the slides, yet you are expected to take notes, learn, and be tested on it.

Accommodations for students with disabilities. If you are a student with learning needs that require special accommodation, contact the Office of Disability Services (often referred to as ADAPTS) at (404)89-2563 or http://disabilityservices.gatech.edu/, as soon as possible, to make an appointment to discuss your special needs and to obtain an accommodations letter. Please also e-mail your instructor as soon as possible in order to set up a time to discuss your learning needs.

Software. Tableau’s data visualization software is provided through the Tableau for Teaching program.