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Portland Campus · School of Medicine

Princ/Prac Data Visualization

  • Spring 2021
  • 3 Credits
  • 03/29/2021 to 06/18/2021
  • Modified 02/18/2021


This course will give students a foundation in the principles of data visualization, particularly as
applied to scientific and technical data, as well as provide students with hands-on experience
using modern software tools for developing visualizations. Lecture topics will include an
overview of visual perception, color theory and practice, different types of graphs and their
purposes, visualizations for specialized forms of data including time-series and geospatial data
sets, strategies for working with multidimensional data, etc. There will also be lecture content
on ethical issues surrounding data visualization. Weekly lab sessions will introduce students to
popular data visualization tools such as R's ggplot and Shiny, Tableau, etc.

This syllabus is for BMI 525 PDX Sp21, BMI 625 PDX Sp21

Contact Information

Instructor: Steven Bedrick

Office Location (not that it matters): Gaines Hall, 21

Office Hours: By appointment

Meeting Times

Mondays & Wednesdays, 14:00 – 15:30

Note that due to the coronavirus pandemic, this term, our class sessions and labs will be held via Webex. The call-in information can be found on the main course page in Sakai. If synchronous distance learning becomes an issue for you this term (e.g. due to computer or internet access issues, childcare scheduling conflicts, etc.), please contact me as soon as possible so we can discuss alternatives.


Textbooks & Resources

Course Goals

By the end of the course, students will be:

  • Work independently with data, including wrangling, tidying, visualizing, and basic analyses.
  • Understand the strengths, weaknesses, assumptions and limitations to different visualization types.
  • Know about the types/scope of visualizations one can use.
  • Become proficient with the tools and vocabulary to create visualizations in R.
  • Develop the ability to create comprehensive data visualization reports; it should be tailored to a specific audience, clear to understand, and hits the hallmarks of excellent visualization as laid out in the report rubric.

Course Competencies, Outcomes, and Objectives



How is this year’s session of CS 631 different from all other years? In two ways:

  1. In all other years, we have met in person, but this year, we meet via video call;
  2. In all other years, we were a smaller group; this year, we have more than twenty students!

These changes mean we have to make a few changes from how we have handled assignments, but also open up some exciting possibilities. We will have several


After each lab, you will submit your completed writeup on Sakai. The labs themselves typically follow a general pattern of “follow along, and then extend on your own”. It is entirely possible just to blindly run the code in the lab notebook files; I strongly suggest that you do not do this. Instead, treat the lab instructions as a suggested path, but do make sure to explore on your own. Is one of the parts using an R function or technique that is new to you? Try changing it, and see if you can figure out how it works. The plots in the lab are meant to be starting points: change axes, labels, colors, etc.

Lab submissions will be graded pass/fail- as long as you upload something showing evidence of having worked through the lab (including completing any challenges, extra questions, etc.), you’ll pass, even if you weren’t able to get everything to work. That said, in this world of distance learning, I expect all of you to be proactive in seeking help either directly by asking about it during our lab sessions, or via the Sakai forums.


We will have several small- to medium-sized assignments through the term, which will be posted on the relevant day’s schedule page.

KWLA Essay

As we progress through the term, you will be working on a “KWLA” paper:

  • At the beginning of the term, you will write the first section (~1 page) about what you already know about data visualization…
  • … and a second section (~1 page) about what you want to learn during the class.
  • At the end of the term, you will write a longer summary (~2 pages) of what you learned …
  • … as well as how you plan to apply it in your future studies, research, and work (~2 pages).

You will keep notes for the “L” and “A” sections throughout the class.

Due dates:

  • “K”, “W” essays: Apr. 6
  • “L”, “A” (appended ot the “K”/”W” sections): Jun. 19

Note that these are not intended to be research papers. They are meant to be personal essays. If you are unclear about the difference, the Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab has a useful set of resources about different types of writing assignments. Also, please feel free to come to office hours to discuss or anything else relating to the class.

Final Project: Portfolio Site & Final Visualization

You will prepare a professional portfolio site containing the various end products of the assignments. Additionally, you will assemble an additional final visualization on the dataset of your choice, which you will include in the portfolio and present (briefly) in class during the last week. If you are enrolled at the 6xx level, your final project should also include a discussion of relevant scientific literature relating to either your visualization’s methodology or subject area.

Due date: Jun. 11, plus a short in-class presentation during the last week.


Grading Breakdown


Attendance at all sessions and labs; other participation.


Completion of all lab activities

Written Assignments (inc. KWLA essay)

As described

Final Project

As described

Course & Instructor Evaluations


Basic course structure

Mondays: Lecture
Wednesdays: Lab


When & Where? Mondays & Wednesdays, 14:00 – 15:30 via Webex
Starts: March 30
Ends: June 12


  1. Introductory Sessions, Getting started (March 30 / April 1)
  2. Vision & Perception (April 6 / 8)
  3. Color (April 13 / 15)
  4. Digging in to graphs (April 20 / 22)
  5. Tables & Fonts (April 27 / 29)
  6. SciComm & Websites (May 4 /6)
  7. Interactivity (May 11/ 13)
  8. Maps (May 18 / 20)
  9. Guest Lecture! (May 25 / 27)
  10. Ethics (June 1 / 3)
  11. Final Presentations (June 8 / 10)

Course Policies and Resources

Attendance & Participation

Attendance is required. If you need to miss a class, I will need advance notice except in cases of emergencies.

In addition to attending each class session, I expect all students to actively participate in the discussions. This can be in the form of asking a question, responding to another student’s question (or one from the instructor!), raising an issue, etc.

If synchronous distance learning becomes an issue for you this term (e.g. due to computer or internet access issues, childcare scheduling conflicts, etc.), please contact me as soon as possible so we can discuss alternatives.

Plagiarism & Attribution

We expect and require that all submissions be the student’s own, original work. Any and all text, code, etc. that you include from any other source must be properly cited, including quotation and paraphrasing. The Purdue University Online Writing Lab has an excellent set of online resources regarding citation and attribution, as well as a useful resource specifically on avoiding plagiarism. If you are unsure about whether something must be cited, the answer is probably “yes”; when in doubt, please ask.

Note that the School of Medicine has a policy regarding ethical and professional conduct for graduate students that specifically addresses plagiarism (sections 4.b and 4.c). We expect all students to be aware of and familiar with this policy. If you have any questions about this policy, please ask.

On a more personal note: in my experience, students who engage in plagiarism typically do so because they feel that they have no other choice. A deadline is looming, they are overwhelmed by some aspect of the assignment, a personal crisis comes up that keeps them from being able to finish, etc., and they feel like using somebody else’s work, or reusing some of their own work from another class, is the best option available. I can 100% guarantee that this is not the case: you have other options, and choosing plagiarism will not result in a good outcome.

  • Regarding options, I promise that whatever situation you are in can be fixed, and I will help— as long as you come to me before you copy somebody else’s work.
  • Regarding outcomes, it is important for you to know that we automatically run plagiarism-detection software on every submission, and I have found it to be spookily good at tracking down chunks of text from even the most obscure places. If you plagiarize, you will be caught.

When we catch you, the consequences will depend on the precise circumstances, but will at a minimum involve a score of zero points for the assignment in question, and often involve a failing grade on the course.

So: don’t wait for me to catch you: ask for help early and often.

School Policies and Resources

Graduate Studies Guidelines:

Students are responsible for following all OHSU School of Medicine, Graduate Studies, and program/department guidelines & policies. For more information, please visit here. For program/department guidelines & policies, please inquiry with the program/department director and/or coordinator.

School of Medicine Conduct Policy (housed under the graduate studies guidelines section)

Students are responsible for their own academic work. Students are expected to have read and practice principles of academic honesty, as presented in the Graduate Studies Student Handbook.

The School of Medicine reserves the privilege of retaining only those students who, in the judgement of the faculty, satisfy the requirements of scholarship and clinical performance necessary to maintain the highest standards. The Student Handbook has information about academic standards and probation and dismissal policies.

Grading Criteria, Academic Standards, & Release of Final Grades:

Graduate Studies in the OHSU School of Medicine is committed to providing grades to students in a timely manner. Course instructors will provide students with information in writing at the beginning of each course that describes the grading policies and procedures including but not limited to evaluation criteria, expected time needed to grade individual student examinations and type of feedback they will provide.

All coursework applied towards degree requirements must meet the minimum cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0.

Refer to the School of Medicine Graduate Studies Forms & Policies for withdraw, incomplete, and in-progress grading standards. Final course grades will be posted with the OHSU Registrar the Monday following the last day of the term. On those occasions when a grade has not been submitted by the deadline, the following procedure shall be followed:

  1. The Department*/Program** Coordinator will immediately contact the Instructor requesting the missing grade, with a copy to the Program Director and Registrar.
  2. If the grade is still overdue by the end of next week, the Department*/Program** Coordinator will email the Department Chair directly, with a copy to the Instructor and Program Director requesting resolution of the missing grade.
  3. If, after an additional week the grade is still outstanding, the student or Department*/Program** Coordinator may petition the Office of Graduate Studies for final resolution.

*For courses that are run by a specific department.

**For the conjoined courses (course number is preceded by CON) that are run by Graduate Studies.

Graduate Studies Inclement Weather Procedures

Inclement weather procedures can be found here. In the case of inclement weather, the faculty member will email or place a voice-mail greeting on her/his office telephone number by 6:00am on the day of the clinical or class to give instructions to students about the class schedule.

Graduate Studies Copyright Information

Every reasonable effort has been made to protect the copyright requirements of materials used in this course. Class participants are warned not to copy, audio, or videotape in violation of copyright laws. Journal articles will be kept on reserve at the library or online for student access. Copyright law does allow for making one personal copy of each article from the original article. This limit also applies to electronic sources.

DMICE Communication Policy

  1. If the syllabus directs the student to contact the TA before contacting the instructor, the student should do so. Otherwise, the student should contact the instructor and allow 2 business days (not including weekends) for a response.
  2. If the student does not receive a response from the instructor within 2 business days, s/he should contact the TA (if there is one). When contacting the TA s/he should cc the instructor and Diane Doctor at [email protected].
  3. If a student does not receive a response from the TA within 1 business day (not including weekends), s/he should contact Diane Doctor at [email protected] and cc the instructor and the TA.
  4. If Diane does not reply within 1 business day (not including weekends), the student should contact Andrea Ilg at [email protected].
  5. Students having difficulties with Sakai should contact the Sakai Help Desk at [email protected] or at (877) 972-5249. Sakai help is available M-F from 8am to 10-pm and weekends from Noon to 5pm. Do not contact the instructor.

When Problems Arise

It is critical to contact the appropriate person when problems arise:

  • For basic Sakai problems and course issues (e.g., cannot log in, after-hours technical assistance, Course Materials or Forum not available/accessible during regular business hours/days), contact the Sakai Help Desk: Toll-Free - (877) 972-5249; email - [email protected]. Sakai help is available M-F from 8 am to 9 pm and weekends from Noon to 5pm.

  • For questions about course content (e.g., do not understand a topic or disagree with homework quiz answer), contact the Teaching Assistant, who will be announced at the beginning of the course: go to the Email Tab after logging into the course and choose “Associate” role to send message to the TA or post a question in the Forums.

Examination Policy

It is OHSU policy that any exam offered online and worth more than 10% of the final course grade must be virtually proctored. In this course, we will be using the services of Examity, a remote proctoring services company. You will be required to schedule your exam three (3) weeks ahead of time. There is no cost to the student. More information will be provided to you regarding setup, scheduling, and requirements in the Course Materials.

Policy number: 02-70-050

Turn It In

In an effort to uphold the principles and practice of academic honesty, faculty members at OHSU may use originality checking systems such as Turnitin to compare a student’s submitted work against multiple sources. To protect student privacy in this process, it will be necessary to remove all personal information, i.e. student name, email address, student u-number, or any other personal information, from documents BEFORE submission.

Sakai and TLC Help Desk

You will learn through the Sakai learning management software at The online component includes reading material, lectures (including streaming presentations and handouts), project material, learning assignments, and online discussions.  If you have any technical questions or if you need help logging in, please contact the Sakai Help Desk, which is open Mon – Fri, 8 am – 9 pm and weekends 12 pm – 5 pm, Pacific Time.

Contact Information:

(Toll-free) 877-972-5249


(Email) [email protected]

Online Etiquette

Please use professional etiquette when communicating with peers and the instructor. This means avoiding aggressive or offensive language, showing respect for others’ opinions and positions, and conducting yourself as if you were face to face with them. Please pay special attention to etiquette in class forums and when using email. If you notice someone violating this policy, please make the instructor and TA aware of the problem.

Respect for all App.

OHSU’s Respect for All app helps students, faculty, and staff educate themselves about sexual misconduct and harassment as well as their reporting responsibilities. To download the app, open the link below in Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari or Opera. It does not work in Internet Explorer.

School Competencies

OHSU Competencies

List of OHSU Graduation Core Competencies
  • Professional Knowledge and Skills
  • Professionalism
  • Information Literacy
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Community Engagement, Social Justice and Equity
  • Patient Centered Care
To access a descriptive list of OHSU Graducation Core Competencies:  OHSU Graduation Core Competencies

Institutional Policies and Resources

Statement Regarding Students with Disabilities:

OHSU is committed to inclusive and accessible learning environments in compliance with federal and state law. If you have a disability or think you may have a disability (mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts) contact the Office for Student Access at (503) 494-0082 or OHSU Student Access to have a confidential conversation about academic accommodations. Information is also available at Student Access Website. Because accommodations may take time to implement and cannot be applied retroactively, it is important to have this discussion as soon as possible.

Portland State students also have similar resources available via the PSU Disability Resource Center (website ). Please contact the DRC at tel. (503) 725-4150 or email at [email protected]

Student Evaluation of Courses:

Course evaluation results are extremely important and used to help improve courses and the learning experience of future students. Responses will always remain anonymous and will only be available to instructors after grades have been posted. The results of scaled questions and comments go to both the instructor and their unit head/supervisor. Refer to Student Evaluation of Courses and Instructional Effectiveness, *Policy No. 02-50-035.

*To access the OHSU Student Evaluation of Courses and Instructional Effectiveness Policy, you must log into the OHSU O2 website.

Copyright Information:

Copyright laws and fair use policies protect the rights of those who have produced the material. The copy in this course has been provided for private study, scholarship, or research. Other uses may require permission from the copyright holder. The user of this work is responsible for adhering to copyright law of the U.S. (Title 17, U.S. Code). To help you familiarize yourself with copyright and fair use policies, the University encourages you to visit its Copyright Web Page

Sakai course web sites contain material protected by copyrights held by the instructor, other individuals or institutions. Such material is used for educational purposes in accord with copyright law and/or with permission given by the owners of the original material. You may download one copy of the materials on any single computer for non-commercial, personal, or educational purposes only, provided that you (1) do not modify it, (2) use it only for the duration of this course, and (3) include both this notice and any copyright notice originally included with the material. Beyond this use, no material from the course web site may be copied, reproduced, re-published, uploaded, posted, transmitted, or distributed in any way without the permission of the original copyright holder. The instructor assumes no responsibility for individuals who improperly use copyrighted material placed on the web site.

Syllabi Changes and Retention:

Syllabi are considered to be a learning agreement between students and the faculty of record. Information contained in syllabi, other than the minimum requirements, may be subject to change as deemed appropriate by the faculty of record in concurrence with the academic program and the Office of the Provost. Refer to the *Course Syllabi Policy, 02-50-050.

*To access the OHSU Course Syllabus Policy, you must log into the OHSU O2 website.

Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion:

OHSU is committed to creating and fostering a learning and working environment based on open communication and mutual respect. If you encounter sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, age, national origin, veteran’s status, ancestry, sex, marital status, pregnancy or parenting status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or any other protected status please contact the Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Department at 503-494-5148 or [email protected]. Inquiries about Title IX compliance or sex/gender discrimination and harassment may be directed to the OHSU Title IX Coordinator at 503-494-0258 or [email protected].

Modified Operations, Policy 01-40-010:

Portland Campus:  Marquam Hill and South Waterfront

Students should review O2 or call OHSU’s weather alert line at 503-494-9021 for the most up-to-date information on OHSU-wide modified operations which include but are not limited to delays or closures for inclement weather.

If your home institution is not on the Portland campus (Marquam Hill or South Waterfront, contact your home institution for more information.

OHSU Resources Available to Students*:

Remote Learning Resources
The Remote Learning webpage on O2 contains concise, practical resources, and strategies for students that need to quickly transition to a fully remote instructional format.

Registrar’s Office
Mackenzie Hall, Rm. 1120
503-494-7800; Email the Registrar

Student Registration Information: 
To Register for Classes

OHSU ITG Help Desk
Regular staff hours are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, but phones are answered seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Call 503 494-2222.

Teaching and Learning Center
Academic Support Counseling and Sakai Course Management System, please contact the TLC Help Desk at 877-972-5249 or email TLC Help Desk

Student Academic Support Services
For resources on improving student’s study strategies, time management, motivation, test-taking skills and more, Please access the Student Academic Support Services Sakai page. For one-on-one appointments or to arrange a workshop for students, please contact Emily Hillhouse.

Concourse Syllabus Management
For help with accessing your Concourse Syllabus:  Please contact the Sakai help Desk for all other Concourse inquiries please visit the Concourse resources website or please contact the Mark Rivera at [email protected] or call 503-494-0934

Public Safety
OHSU Public Safety-Portland Campus (Marquam Hill and South Waterfront)

Student Health & Wellness Center 
Baird Hall, Rm. 18 (Primary Care) and Rm. 6 (Behavioral Health)
503-494-8665; For urgent care after hours, 503-494-8311 and ask for the Nurse on call.
Wellness Center Information  
Wellness Center Website

If your home institution is not on the Portland campus, contact your home institution student support services for more information.

Ombudsman Office
Gaines Hall, Rm. 117
707 SW Gaines Street, Portland, OR 97239
503-494-5397; Contact OmbudsmanOmbudsman Website

Library: Biomedical Information Communication Center
BICC Library Hours of Operation

Privacy While Learning Remotely

Students may be asked to take classes remotely through videoconferencing software like WebEx. Some of these remote classes will be recorded. Any recording will capture the presenter’s audio, video, and computer screen. Student video and audio will be recorded if and when you unmute your audio and share your video during the recorded sessions. These recordings will not be shared with or accessible to the public without prior written consent. 

Additional Items