Welcome letter/syllabus JOUR 206

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Social Media and Data Visualization for Journalists

CRN: 34214/ JOUR 206

Instructor: Jeff Nachtigal

Contact information:  Email: jeffrey_nachtigal@cuesta.edu

Course Calendar
March 27 – May 19, 2023 (8 weeks)

The first day of the course is Tuesday, March 27.  I will open the course a week early, so you are welcome to get an early start on the first week's reading and orientation unit. But you are NOT required to start before the first day.  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 by Canvas' Inbox, or by email. 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. 

Course Description

Thanks for considering this course: every year it changes, because every year social media and data change.

This fast 8-week course will give you an introduction to strategic uses for finding and connecting with people and information using the miraculous tool that is social media!

In this course you will learn and discuss how to use social media and data (and data visualization software) to tell stories.

Social media

We'll use social media to:

  • Find information and people, and talk to people on social media, to report stories
  • Publish images, video, and information, and stories
  • Unpack the terms “fake news,” “misinformation,” and “disinformation," and discuss how social media has changed the news publishing landscape, and how people find news
  • Learn to be news media literate — in other words learn how to spot misinformation online.
  • This is NOT a course about how to find or become the biggest influencer on Snapchat or TikTok! (We're using these social platforms to tell stories...)

Data visualization

We'll use data to:

  • First, we'll look at why visual symbols are such great vehicles for delivering information and stories: on paper, online, and via social media.
  • Data is free and easily downloadable for almost any topic or subject imaginable. How do we visualize this data to tell a story?  Can we visualize data in ways that add context to an issue, and enlighten and surprise our audience?
  • We'll use the free student version of Tableau data visualization software to visualize data.

Class opens / Accessing Canvas

Prior to the start of class on March 27, 2023, you will receive an email from me (to your my.Cuesta.edu 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 27, 2023 and need assistance please send me a Canvas email me or technical support at this email address: support@my.cuesta.edu

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 a variety of ways in this course: Weekly discussion forums; a student-to-student discussion board; weekly announcements about the course; timely feedback on student assignments; email, phone or messaging to individuals; a regularly scheduled, weekly Zoom office hours, and/or 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

  • Mobile And Social Media Journalism, eBook, by Anthony Adornato, available through the Cuesta College bookstore (you're welcome to use the ebook or the print version, new or used).
  • Access to a computer that can run software and access the Internet and social media accounts.
  • A Twitter account (we’ll connect using hashtag: #spring23_34214)

  • An Instagram account (we’ll connect using hashtag: #spring23_34214)

  • Data visualization software:  We'll use a free student license to learn how to use Tableau software to explore and visualize data.

Technical Support

For technical support inquiries email:  support@my.cuesta.edu.

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: dspsinfo@cuesta.edu
  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 27, 2023) 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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