Storytelling with social media and data visualization, Spring 2024

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Welcome letter/syllabus:  JOUR 206, CRN: 34214

Storytelling with social media and data visualization, Spring 2024

Instructor: Jeff Nachtigal

Contact information:  Email:

Course Calendar
March 18 – May 17, 2024 (8 weeks, all online)

The first day of the course is Monday March 18.  Beginning in the second week, each week "opens" on Tuesday: all weekly assignments and specific due dates will be posted on the JOUR206 Canvas page each Tuesday. I will send an announcement at the start of each week to let you know the current week's module is open.

Instructor contact expectations

The best and fastest way to reach me is via Canvas' Inbox. I respond to your emails within 24 hours during weekdays. During busy times of the semester, the response time may increase to 48 hours. On weekends, I will do my best to get back to you as soon as I read your email, at the latest on Monday morning.  

I am more than happy to meet with you on Zoom, or a phone call.  Please email me and suggest a day time to meet that works best for you. My best days to meet you are Thursday and Friday between 9am and 5pm. But I am flexible for other times. 

Course Description

Thanks for considering this course: every year it changes, because every year social media and data change. Never in history has it been so easy to reach out and connect with someone on the other side of the world — or around the block — using the miraculous tool that is social media! And there are many pitfalls people fall into with social media.

This course will be a fast, fun 8 weeks!

Social media

We'll use social media to:

  • We will:  Tell stories for social media that people want to watch and read and like. 
  • Record videos that look and sound good on TikTok, Instagram, and other platforms! 
  • Publish images, video, and information, and stories that matter!
  • Unpack the terms “fake news,” “misinformation,” and “disinformation," and discuss how social media has evolved - for you, for the people you connect with, and for people searching for information. 
  • Learn to be news media literate — what's real? What's fake? It's good to know how it all works! 

Data visualization:  $1 million

Numbers are an amazing storytelling tool!  (You just read a data visualization in the title to this section!) 

  • We'll play with numbers and consider how they are great vehicles for delivering information
  • Numbers and data are free!  We'll take a look at how to find them, and use them to tell stories! 
  • Turning numbers into shapes, pictures and visualizations changes them from digits to stories - and it isn't hard to do! 
  • What's your favorite ice cream? There's a database that shows what flavor people love most! And second, and third, and fourth... and we can SHOW these numbers in fun, visual ways that make people want to look at your story!  
  • We'll use the free software to play around with visualizing data.

Class opens / Accessing Canvas

Prior to the start of class on March 18, 2024, you will receive an email from me (to your address) to remind you this course will be starting. This course takes place in Canvas, where you'll find all the course materials and communication tools.

You can access your Canvas dashboard and all your online courses clicking on the Canvas link at the top of Cuesta College's home pageLinks to an external site..

Do not bookmark / favorite the canvas site after your login, or you will get an error message next time you try to log in. You must access the canvas log in directly.

If you are not familiar with logging into canvas, please refer to the Canvas Quick Reference Guide.Links to an external site. Once logged into Canvas you will be directed on where to get started. Be sure to read all the direction on the course home page.  

If you are having difficulty logging into Canvas after March 18, 2024 and need assistance please send me a Canvas email me or technical support at this email address:

Online Learning

This is an all-online, asynchronouos course. What's an asynchronous course? This kind of course means we don't meet in person. The course takes place in Canvas. I do hold student office hours when you can meet me on Zoom to talk, and we can schedule additional Zoom meetings to talk. Each week in this course there will be discussion posts, reading, quizzes, and assignments. 

Is an online course right for you?

I want you to succeed, and I will do everything I can to make this happen, and you should know it be your responsibility to stay on track completing assignments and communicating with the class every week. This class includes a discussion forum, a quiz, and an assignment each week.

The State of California’s Online Education Initiative (OEI) offers a broad set of Online Student Readiness Tutorials (video and articles) to help you understand and what you need to do to succeed in an online courseLinks to an external site..

Regular Effective Contact policy

We will communicate in in this course: Weekly discussion forums; a student-to-student discussion board; weekly announcements about the course; my feedback on your assignments; email, phone or messaging to individuals; and individually scheduled Zoom meetings.

Student Learning outcomes

Upon completing the course successfully, students will be able to:

  • Describe the role and impact of big data for journalism and communications professions, and the impact of data storytelling for public use
  • Demonstrate how to search for, access, and clean and prepare data sets for use in data visualization
  • Design and produce effective data visualizations utilizing sound design principles, including size, color and appropriate style for specific types of data for journalism
  • Describe the role of social media's effect and relationship with news journalism
  • Demonstrate how to effectively use social media platforms to find sources, report, and publish stories

Required Textbooks/Equipment

  • Access to a computer that can run software and access the Internet and social media accounts.

  • A TikTok account (we’ll connect using hashtag: #spring24_34214), Set up a new account to use in this course, if you want. 

  • An Instagram account (we’ll connect using hashtag: #spring24_34214). Set up a new account to use in this course, if you want. 

  • Data visualization software:  We'll use a free student license to learn how to build data visualizations.

Technical Support

For technical support inquiries email:

If you are having issues with Canvas, you should contact the Canvas Support Hotline at (877) 921-7680, or click on the help button on the Canvas Navigation to report a problem.

Visit Cuesta's Frequently asked questions pageLinks to an external site. about technical issues.

I'm happy to help troubleshoot the issue, too — send me a Canvas Inbox message (Click on the "Inbox" icon on the table of contents to the left).


This course is designed using an accessible Learning Management System, and course materials have been created with ADA compliance in mind.

If you have a disability and might need accommodations in this class such as extended time on exams or other resources, you should let me know as soon as possible, and you should contact Cuesta College's Disabled Student Programs & ServicesLinks to an external site. (DSPS), which can discuss options to help you succeed.

  1. Make contact with DSPS in person, in Building N3000Links to an external site., Room N3024
  2. Call DSPS:  (805) 591-6215, (805) 591-6216 TDD
  3. Email DSPS:
  4. Visit the DSPS web siteLinks to an external site. to schedule and appointment or speak with a counselor online.


College & Course Policies

Academic Honesty Policy: Violating copyright in this course is prohibited, and will be cause for immediate drop. In addition to my course policy, please note all students attending San Luis Obispo County Community College District at any district site and when representing Cuesta College in any off-campus activity, assume an obligation to conduct themselves in an acceptable manner compatible with the Student Code of conduct.

Add / Drop Policy

  • Please email me if you want to join this course. I will send you an add code if there is space available.

  • Please log in to JOUR 206 in Canvas on the FIRST DAY of the course (March 18, 2024) and complete the first Discussion post with your bio and background by the third day of this course. Failure to complete the first assignment (or contact me with extenuating circumstances) by the end of the first week of the course may result in you being dropped.

Waitlist Policy

Please contact me for an add code if you are interested in adding this course. I will admit students on the third day of the course, if there is space available.  

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