University of New Hampshire, Department of Computer Science

Information Technology 502
, Intermediate Web Design

Spring 2020

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Syllabus

Instructor

Mike Gildersleeve

W247 Kingsbury

amgilder@cs.unh.edu

(603) 862-2506

I typically respond to e-mail messages more quickly than voice-mail messages.

Please feel free to approach me with any questions or concerns you may have during the semester. I am more than happy to help in any way I can.

Office hours

Tuesday and Thursday: 11:10 AM to 12:00 PM

Unfortunately, on the advice of my doctors, I will not be available for traditional in-person office hours during this semester. However, I will do everything I can to make myself readily available to you when you need me.

I have found that many questions and concerns can be most efficiently addressed via e-mail. However, if you prefer to discuss things with me in real time, I am happy to arrange for Zoom sessions or chats on the department’s Discord server. These typically are less efficient overall, though, since they generally need to be at pre-arranged times. To arrange a time, all you need to do is send me an e-mail indicating your preferred system (Zoom or Discord) along with a general indication of the nature of the conversation you wish to have. Be sure to include a list of times over the next 48 hours when you would be available to “meet.” I will pick the earliest option that also suits my schedule and get back to you as soon as possible. Having sent such a request, please be sure to monitor your e-mail closely for my response so you do not miss our scheduled appointment.

Web site

http://itcourses.cs.unh.edu/502/
This is the main informational site for the course. Here you will find requirements documents for coursework, reading assignments, an updated schedule, useful resources and much more. Bookmark it in your browser and check it often for changes.

Required materials

Cover of Above the Fold by Brian Miller

Above the Fold Understanding the Principles of Successful Web Design, Revised Edition

Brian D. Miller
HOW Books, 2014
ISBN: 9781440336669
We’ll use this book to explore the basic principles and best practices of Web design. The quiz will be on only the first two sections (about 200 pages). The third section is recommended, but not required, reading.
Cover of Neuro Web Design by Susan M. Weinschenk

Neuro Web Design What Makes Them Click?

Susan M. Weinschenk
New Riders, 2009
ISBN: 9780321603609
We’ll use this book to explore the psychological basis behind users’ experience of the Web.
Cover of Don't Make Me Think Revisited by Steve Krug

Don’t Make Me Think Revisited A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

Steve Krug
New Riders, 2014
ISBN: 9780321965516
We’ll use this book to learn the considerations for designing more usable Web sites.
Cover to CSS in Depth by Keith J. Grant

CSS in Depth

Keith J. Grant
Manning, 2018
ISBN: 9781617293450
We’ll use this book to help us push our knowledge of CSS to the next level.

These are the required textbooks for all students in this course. They should be available at the Durham Book Exchange and elsewhere. They may also be available within the library’s Safari database at no charge, though I would recommend that you purchase your own copies for future reference. We will be reading all four, in the order listed above. As such, you may delay your purchase of those toward the end of the list for a couple of weeks. However, don’t wait too long as the bookstore will likely return unsold books to the distributor at some point during the semester.

Optional materials

Cover of The Unusually Useful Web Book by June Cohen

The Unusually Useful Web Book Everything We’ve Learned About Why Sites Succeed

June Cohen
New Riders
ISBN: 0735712069
This book is an excellent resource for exploring the process of Web design from conceptualization through implementation and into maintenance. It will likely be a useful resource when working on your team projects.

It is not necessary for all students to purchase this book. However, each team will probably want access to at least one copy. Although I have not ordered it at either of the bookstores in Durham, it should be readily available online and at most well-stocked bookstores. It may also be available within the library’s Safari database. I will leave it to each team to decide how they wish to handle the issue of gaining access to this book.

Course description

An intermediate level exploration of the theory and practice of Web design. Students learn the fundamentals of design theory applicable to the World Wide Web and examine tools and techniques for applying that knowledge to their projects. Additional topics include information architecture, usability, accessibility, optimization, typography, and market visibility. Working knowledge of HTML and CSS required. Prereq: IT 403.

Prerequisites

Students entering IT502 must have successfully completed IT403, Intro to Internet Technologies. Students will be expected to have a working knowledge of both HTML and CSS. Students who feel they have the prerequisite knowledge of these technologies but have not successfully completed IT403 must obtain the instructor’s permission to take IT502.

Course overview

Professional Web designers require a tremendous array of skills in order to be successful. Aside from the obvious technical expertise, they must know how to work effectively as part of a team, teach themselves new skills, and share their ideas and knowledge with others.

The fundamental mission of IT502 is to help students develop and refine these skills. Rather than focusing exclusively on building technical expertise, we will endeavor to accumulate greater expertise as we develop the other skills mentioned above. As such, IT502 will diverge from the “traditional” course format. Rather than sitting idly as the instructor lectures, doing homework exercises from a textbook, and taking exams written by the instructor, students in IT502 will be actively involved in nearly all aspects of the course.

Since professional Web designers need to work both independently and as members of teams, IT502 will require both types of work from students. Teams will be formed very early in the semester and will work together throughout the semester to complete a significant team project, as well as various other tasks. Of course, each student will be required to pull their own weight on their team, and this will inevitably involve the delegation of certain responsibilities to be completed independently.

Since Web designers frequently must refine and expand their own knowledge and expertise independently, IT502 will also require a fair amount of independent reading and a substantial individual project. Each student will be required to explore and master some aspect of Web design and present a summary of that knowledge to the class. With each student mastering a different skill, this project will also serve to develop a range of expertise within each team. And with each student presenting their new found knowledge to the class, the entire class will benefit from exposure to a wide range of material.

The end result will be a small number of highly weighted grades on work-intensive projects (surprisingly like the life of a professional Web designer!) The trick, therefore, will be to schedule one’s time in as efficient a manner as possible without succumbing to the ever-present lure of procrastination and work with your teammates to ensure that they do the same.

Objectives and outcomes

Students successfully completing IT502 should be able to:

In achieving these outcomes for the course, students will further their education relative to the following student outcomes for the IT program:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the web and related delivery systems;
  2. Think abstractly and problem solve effectively;
  3. Participate effectively in the development of a project plan;
  4. Function effectively as a member of a team;
  5. Communicate in both written and oral form on technical topics with a range of both technical and nontechnical individuals; and
  6. Understand the role of best practices in the profession.

Expectations and policies

Grading

Your grade in this course will depend upon several aspects of your work. The weightings are as follows:

Please note that participation is factored directly into your grade. Please see the participation section below for details.

Details of all the other grading opportunities may be found within the course web site using the links above.

Participation

There are two important measures of participation that will influence your success in this course. You must participate in class meetings and contribute to your team’s efforts. Although a lack of participation in either area will have an implicit detrimental effect on your grade, the grading is set up to explicitly penalize a lack of participation as well.

See the weightings above to learn precisely how participation will impact your overall grade.

Each student begins the semester with the full 10% participation portion of the grade, represented as 10 participation points, and must work to maintain them throughout the semester.

Each student is allowed one (1) unexcused absence from mandatory class meetings for the semester (not including the dates of quizzes or the exam) without penalty. Once this allowance has been exhausted, however, each subsequent unexcused absence from a mandatory class meeting will cost one participation point (to a maximum of 10). Class meetings are the regularly scheduled meetings of the entire class and may include lectures, presentations or other activities. All class meetings are mandatory unless explicitly announced otherwise.

Class meetings start promptly at the scheduled time, and attendance will be taken at the start of each meeting. If you arrive after a class meeting has begun (or leave prior to its end), you run the risk that I will record your participation for that meeting as partial. For every two partial participations, you will lose one participation point.

Simply being present at a class meeting is a good start towards maintaining your participation grade, but I do reserve the right to deduct participation points when I notice that individual students are not fully engaged in the activities taking place during class. For example, excessive talking with neighboring classmates, obsessively focusing upon one’s laptop, phone, tablet, or other gadgets rather than the class itself, and various other disruptive or distracting behaviors may result in you losing participation points even though you have been physically present in class.

It is also possible to lose participation points by not contributing fully to your team’s efforts. See the team project for complete details.

The loss of participation points can be avoided by establishing valid excuses for absences from class meetings and team responsibilities. In the case of excused absences from class meetings, I will be the one that determines the validity of each excuse. All requests for excused absences from class meetings must be submitted to me by e-mail. Submitting such a request in advance of the class meeting in question will generally improve your chances of being excused. In the case of excused absences from team responsibilities, the other members of your team will decide the validity of your excuse. See the team policies for complete details. Please note that there is a difference between an excuse and an explanation.

Late submissions

There will be a variety of deadlines that will need to be met throughout the semester. As in the real world of professional Web design, some of them will be essential to success, and others will be less critical.

Failure to meet any deadline will have a detrimental effect on your grade. However, failures to meet essential deadlines will weigh more heavily on your grade than failures to meet less critical deadlines. Whenever possible, I will make it clear which deadlines are essential. In some cases, missing a critical deadline will mean that you are not allowed to submit the work or give the scheduled presentation.

Penalties will be at my discretion, but the more time that elapses between the deadline and the submission the greater the penalty is likely to be. No submissions will be accepted more than 72 hours after the deadline without prior permission.

You are responsible for getting your submission to me somehow (or, in the case of online submissions, notifying me that it is complete and ready for grading). I will determine the penalty based upon when I learn that the submission is complete. Please plan accordingly.

Online submissions will be assumed complete at the stated deadline. If you are not going to have it done by the deadline, you must notify me by e-mail prior to the deadline. Then, you are responsible for notifying me again by e-mail as soon as the assignment is complete and ready for grading. If you fail to notify me that an assignment will not be complete at the deadline, I reserve the right to either grade it as it stands at the deadline or not grade it at all.

All of the above is negotiable if you have a valid excuse. However, it is your responsibility to get special allowances from me by e-mail. Even if we discuss such allowances face to face, they will not be considered official until you get me to confirm them in writing. As a general rule of thumb, the sooner you contact me about a difficulty, the more flexibility and forgiveness I am likely to have. And, remember, I will be the one to decide the validity of your excuse, and I will do so in consideration of fairness to your classmates as well as you.

Missed tests

The reading quizzes and the exam will be announced so that you can plan and study accordingly. Makeups may be allowed at my discretion but only if you contact me before the test is administered. Be sure to get confirmation of your makeup from me by e-mail to make it official!

Pregrading

As a rule, since I cannot guarantee that I would have the time to extend the service to all students, I do not “pregrade” the work of any student. Generally, I am not asked directly to pregrade work. Instead, I am asked to do so indirectly. For example, I am often asked by students if I will look over their work before a deadline to see if there’s anything wrong. Assuming I then report my findings to the student (which is typically what they have in mind!), this is the very definition of “pregrading.” As such, I will not honor such requests.

However, I will do my best to answer all specific questions as quickly and as accurately as possible. If you have a specific question, please feel free to ask it. In fact, you should feel free to ask any and all questions that may arise. However, if I interpret your question as a variation on a request to “pregrade” your work, I will likely refer you to this section of the syllabus for further explanation.

Academic honesty

The intent of this course is to model for you the Web design process in as realistic a way as an academic environment will allow. Much of that process is collaborative, and therefore much of your work in this course will be collaborative. However, even in the collaborative professional arena, it is unacceptable to take credit for work which is not your own or to which you did not adequately contribute. Taking false credit in this way typically has a variety of detrimental effects on one’s professional career and reputation, and you can expect it to have similar detrimental effects on your academic pursuits.

To some extent, this will make your ethical decisions in this course more realistic as well. In a more “traditional” course, I could tell you unequivocally, “Do your own work at all times,” and we’d be clear on what I expect of you. However, in this course, there will be some work on which you are expected to collaborate with others, and other work which you are expected to do on your own. If you are assigned work to be done with your team, you may safely assume that it is meant to be collaborative. You, of course, need to do your part, but you need not worry about submitting work which is not wholly your own.

However, you will be expected to treat other coursework, such as the quizzes, the exam and the individual project, as more traditional academic tasks and do your own work on them. Specifically, all work which you submit and/or display as your own original work must in fact be your own original work. If any portion of the work which you do for this course is an exact replica or derivation of the original work of another, it is your responsibility to obtain the creator’s permission to utilize his or her work and indicate the extent of the creator’s contribution to your work.

Unfortunately, experience has demonstrated that a handful of students find this simple statement ambiguous. Therefore, I have composed a Code of Conduct for my classes. Please be sure you read and fully understand this document.

It is also your responsibility to familiarize yourself with the University’s Code of Ethics regarding the use of campus computing facilities and adhere to it.

Likewise, you will be expected to act as a good citizen within the networked society you are able to access as a UNH student. Use your common sense and good taste and remember that you will be held accountable for all network activity originating from your account.

Potential penalties for failing to abide by these rules can range from zero scores on coursework, to failure of the course, to loss of University computing privileges, to (in extreme cases) legal action.

Letter grades

Although I may use various grading strategies throughout the process, projects will be assigned letter grades upon completion. The exact criteria for grading will vary somewhat with the requirements of each piece of work, but in general you can expect letter grades to mean the following:

A
indicates that you have submitted excellent work that in some notable way goes above and beyond the expectations stated in the project description.
B
indicates that you have submitted good work that meets the expectations stated in the corresponding description without notably exceeding them.
C
indicates that you have submitted acceptable work that falls somewhat short of the expectations stated in the corresponding description.
D
indicates that you have submitted poorly executed work that falls notably short of the expectations stated in the corresponding description.
F
indicates that you have submitted extremely poorly executed work that is grossly deficient in one or more notable respects.
0
indicates that you failed to submit any work at all.

Final grades

For those who are interested or concerned with how I determine the final letter grades at the end of the semester, this section lays it out in complete detail. However, for those with only a passing curiosity, I’ll start with the following brief overview:

Those interested in a more detailed explanation of my grading philosophy should read the rest of this section.

Throughout the semester, you will receive grades for the work that you submit. As the semester progresses, these grades will be posted on the Grades page. At the end of the semester, I will use these grades to determine the actual letter grade you earn for the semester.

Although you will undoubtedly hear me describe it several times in class, the method which I use to accomplish the assignment of letter grades seems to cause students a great deal of confusion. Therefore, in the interest of full disclosure, I will lay out the entire process here and hope that this helps to eliminate some of the surprises.

First, however, I need to dispel some common misconceptions:

So, in short, when I assign final letter grades, I do so by considering the grades you have earned throughout the semester; no more, no less.

The first step is to calculate a numeric average for each student in the section. This average is calculated by applying the weightings described above to the recorded grades for the semester.

Next, I sort the section roster into descending order based upon the students’ semester averages and calculate the average of these averages to give me the section average.

Using the section average, I decide where to place the dividing line between those students who will receive a B- and those who will receive a C+. In general, I will use the class average as this dividing line.

Once the dividing line is established between B- and C+, I look at the students whose averages place them at the top of the ranking and decide what grade I feel they have earned. Generally, this will be an A, but it may be an A- or even a B+ if I feel circumstances warrant.

Then, I look at the students whose averages place them at the bottom of the ranking and decide what grade I feel they have earned. The hardest decision I must make for these students is whether or not to assign an F. According to the University grading guidelines an F is intended to indicate academic performance so deficient in quality as to be unacceptable for credit. Therefore, when deciding whether or not a particular grade should be an F, I must ask myself the question:

Do the objective measures I have of this student’s performance (that is, their numerical grades) demonstrate a level of mastery of the course material that I feel justifies their receiving credit for the course?

And if the answer to that question is no, then I am obligated to assign a grade of F. While it is never pleasant to assign a failing grade, as an educator I have a responsibility to a larger community that takes precedence over individual situations, and when I assign grades I must fulfill that responsibility.

If the answer to the question is yes, then I must decide what level of passing grade the student has earned. Generally, this will be something in the D range for those students who pass at the bottom of the ranking.

Having established these three milestones at the top, bottom, and middle of the ranking, I work through the list looking for logical places to establish the other dividing lines. Whenever possible, I try to establish these dividing lines in places where they will not separate students whose performance differs negligibly.

In general, I find that while this approach does not always result in every student getting the grade for which they had been hoping, it does result in an allocation of grades that is well-distributed and fair. And while it may not always seem that the grade you receive is fair to you as an individual, I am confident that the grades I assign using this method are fair to you in the bigger picture as a member of the section and the University community as a whole.

Classroom behavior

Classes work better for everyone if we all adhere to some simple behavioral guidelines.

Support for students with disabilities

The University is committed to providing students with documented disabilities equal access to all university programs and facilities. If you think you have a disability requiring accommodations, you must register with Student Accessibility Services (SAS). Contact SAS at (603) 862-2607 or visit them in 201 Smith Hall. If you have received Accommodation Letters for this course from SAS, please provide me with that information privately so that we can review those accommodations. Note that accommodations cannot be granted retroactively, so it is very important for you to discuss your letter with me as early in the semester as possible.

Computer access

While it is helpful to have your own personal computer on which to do the course work, it is not required. If you wish, you are entitled to use the public computer clusters on campus.

If you do have your own computer, it is your responsibility to ensure that you have the proper software installed and/or network access in order to complete the assignments. If you do not, you may find it preferable to use the public computer clusters here on campus, where everything you will need is already installed.

No matter where you choose to do your work, you should plan on getting started on it as soon as possible. All computers are governed by Murphy’s Law (some more so than others), and you should plan on them deciding not to work just when you need them the most (that is, in the last hour before an assignment is due). It is your responsibility to allow yourself enough time to get your work done despite the obstacles (both expected and unexpected) that may impede your progress. You may want to familiarize yourself with the policy governing the late submission of assignments so that you know what is at stake. Computer difficulties are more often a sign of poor planning than a valid excuse.

Syllabus subject to change

Sometimes, courses must evolve throughout the semester in order to meet the needs and interests of the class. Although most of that evolution will not require changes in this syllabus, I do reserve the right to alter this syllabus as necessary during the semester. Whenever substantive changes are made, the newly revised syllabus will be announced and made available to you. It is then your responsibility to make note of such announcements and update your understanding of course policies.

Assistance

To a certain extent, this course will be to you what you choose to make of it. Obviously, I have a responsibility as the instructor to make sure that every student accomplishes the objectives and demonstrates reasonable mastery of the material. But as the course proceeds, you will likely find both opportunities to advance yourself and loopholes through which you can duck. If you jump on every opportunity to advance yourself, you may run the risk of burning yourself out or biting off more than you can chew in one semester. On the other hand, if you seize every loophole you find as a way out, you’ll ultimately be cheating yourself out of much of what the course has to offer.

I would recommend that you look to strike a balance. Pursue the opportunities for advancement that most interest you, and if some sort of loophole presents itself at a time when you’ve got your hands full take advantage of it. To a large extent, each student has the power to focus the course on their personal strengths and avoid their personal weaknesses. Use that power to your benefit, while keeping in mind that you’ll get out of this course only what you put into it.

That having been said, you may find that you need assistance striking an effective balance.

Assistance with keeping up

If you find that the pace is too fast or the workload too much, I will do my best to help you develop strategies for keeping up. However, you must assume some responsibility as well.

First, you must make a good faith effort to help yourself. That means you must attend class and team meetings on a regular basis and seek out additional resources for assistance. If you would like advice on resources, such as web sites and books, that may help you achieve your personal goals, feel free to ask me.

Second, as a mature adult it is up to you to recognize your situation and proactively seek assistance to rectify it. I am happy to provide that assistance whenever I can, but you must take the first step of letting me know that you need it. Generally, the best way to accomplish this is to come by and see me in my office, but e-mail works to get the ball rolling.

Assistance with ranging ahead

This course offers almost limitless opportunities to challenge yourself and advance your skills to their next level. To a large extent, how much you choose to avail yourself of those opportunities will be up to you. Should you decide to challenge yourself, I will do my best to help you explore more advanced material. However, you must assume some responsibility as well.

First, you must make a good faith effort to help yourself. That means you must attend class and team meetings on a regular basis. There is a tendency among more advanced students to stop attending classes as the course progresses. If you wish to move ahead into more challenging areas, you cannot do so at the expense of your teammates or classmates. If you would like advice on resources, such as web sites and books, that may help you achieve your personal goals, feel free to ask me.

Second, if you desire my assistance in your endeavors, you are responsible for asking for it. I will help as much as I can, but I cannot help if I do not know my assistance is needed. Feel free to stop by my office or send me e-mail to let me know.

Timing is everything

Regardless of whether you are seeking assistance to help you keep up or to help you explore more advanced material, timing is everything. The longer you wait to get me involved, the less I am likely to be able to help.

Often, students who are struggling to keep up do not approach me for assistance until the last week or two of the semester. At this point, there is very little I can offer. I am not able to provide extra credit work, and obviously I cannot go back and change all the bad grades earned so far. All the help I am able to offer involves strategies for improving future grades, not altering past grades. As such, the longer you wait the more bad grades you accumulate, and the fewer future grades remain with which I can offer assistance.

Likewise, students who find that the course does not challenge them sufficiently have a tendency to wait until the end of the course to inform me of this fact. While this is generally not as critical from a grading perspective, it does mean that such students have lost an opportunity to address a perfectly correctable situation.

I’ll do whatever I can to make your experience in this course as educational as possible, but I can’t work magic at the end of the semester. If you are willing to do the work it will require to improve your situation and let me know early enough, we should be able to work together to make it happen.

Fair treatment for all

While I will do what I can to assist those students who show me that they have taken the first steps by helping themselves, I am limited to some degree in what I can do.

University regulations and policies, as well as state and federal laws, are in place to protect the rights of all students equally, and I must work within the boundaries these requirements place upon me. Therefore, I endeavor to make decisions on the basis of fairness to all, even when the result may seem somewhat unfair to an individual’s perspective.

One of the most common requests I receive that I must refuse on these grounds is the request for extra credit work. If I offer extra credit work to one student, University policy requires me to make that same extra credit work available to all students. At that point it ceases to be extra credit work, and just becomes additional coursework. As such, it simply isn’t practical for me to offer any extra credit work.

The University is committed to providing students with documented disabilities equal access to all university programs and facilities. If you think you have a disability requiring accommodations, you must register with Student Accessibility Services (SAS). Contact SAS at (603) 862-2607 or visit them in 201 Smith Hall. If you have received Accommodation Letters for this course from SAS, please provide me with that information privately so that we can review those accommodations. I would encourage you to do so as early in the semester as possible, since none of the accommodations are retroactive.

All students should also be aware that the University offers multiple academic resources to assist all students. I encourage students to take full advantage of all applicable resources to ensure academic success.

Mandatory reporting

It is important for students to note that I, like most University employees, am considered a mandatory reporter under the University’s Title IX policies. This means that I am required to report any knowledge or suspicions I have regarding sexual discrimination to the University Title IX Coordinator. This requirement applies regardless of how I came by the knowledge or suspicions and regardless of the wishes of the source of that information.

According to the University’s definition, “sexual discrimination” also encompasses both sexual harassment and sexual violence.

As both an educator and a compassionate person, this policy puts me in an awkward position. I care deeply about my students’ well-being, and I want my students to be able to seek my advice about matters of importance to them. I am not always in a position to be of direct assistance with such matters, but I will always do everything within my power to make students aware of and/or put students in contact with resources that are so positioned. However, I generally try to do so with the permission and cooperation of the student requiring assistance.

This policy deprives me (and my students) of that discretion and dictates which resources I must notify, without regard to whether I believe them to be appropriate under the circumstances.

As such, the only recourse I see is proactively educating students about this policy and my responsibilities under it. Therefore, it is vitally important for you to understand that anything you say, write, or otherwise communicate to me (either directly or indirectly) that discloses, or even suggests, that any form of sexual discrimination is taking place, has taken place, or may take place (on campus or off) will need to be reported, even if you ask me beforehand or afterwards not to do so. Having brought this fact to your attention in this course syllabus, I will hereafter assume that you are aware of the ramifications of your actions if you choose to disclose such information to me in any form and therefore that you are implicitly authorizing me (through choosing to make that disclosure) to report the information to the University Title IX coordinator, as per the University policies governing my actions.

For your own protection and that of others, it is vitally important to report situations in which someone is being, has been, or may be harmed to the appropriate authorities as quickly as possible. As such, by offering this explanation of my mandatory reporting responsibilities I do not mean in any way to discourage you from reporting any instances of sexual discrimination (including sexual harrassment or sexual violence). I simply wish to make you aware of the implications of sharing such information with me. With that awareness, you are welcome to discuss anything you wish with me. However, if you would prefer to maintain more control over the discussion, I would encourage you to consider reporting any information of concern to one of the following resources, none of which are covered by the same mandatory reporting policies that apply to me:

Schedule

A schedule of class meetings, quizzes, and other relevant events can be found on the course Web site at the URL:
http://itcourses.cs.unh.edu/502/schedule

Please note that this schedule is subject to change throughout the semester, so check it often.