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21W785 Communicating in Cyberspace

Spring 2007

Instructor:  Ed Barrett

Office: 14N-336; x3-6475

TA:  Jeremy Smith (



This class gives you the chance to propose, design, build and assess a semester-long digital communications project.  Students work in collaborative development teams and share their expertise within their team and with other teams. Guest speakers visit frequently to discuss a range of topics related to the rhetoric of digital communication, visual design, technical implementation and IP issues.  Teams document project development throughout the semester with oral and written reports.


Classroom:  All class meeting are held in 1-379.




In this class you have the opportunity to develop skills for:


   Collaborating with a team of peers on large-scale digital projects

   Planning and managing a successful group project

   Graphic design

   Writing for the Web

   Programming for the Web

   Usability testing

   Crafting successful proposals and reports


            Complete syllabus and requirements, formats for oral and written reports (with examples), and suggested readings and reference works can be found at:




Grade Breakdown


Written Reports: (50%)

      Statement of Project (1-2 pages)

      Proposal (10-15 pages)

      Usability Documents (User Profiles, Scenarios, Task Breakdown) (2-3 pages)

      Progress Report, design logs (2-3 pages)


Oral Reports: (50%)

      Initial Statement of Project (brief, 3 minutes max.)

      Oral Proposal (20 minutes)

      Progress Report (5 minutes)

      Presentations to Usability Team (in-class)

      Final Presentations (25 minutes)


Attendance is required for all class meetings.


Students receive 12 units of credit upon completing 21W.785 that will count towards fulfilling part of their HASS requirement. 21W.785 is also a CI-H subject.




Students organize themselves into groups of three or four, with each student adopting one or more roles. Roles can include the following, in no particular order:




      Multimedia designer (graphics, sound, video)

      Project manager

      Information architect






Class Schedule





T, 2/6—Introduction to class; student introductions; project ideas/roles. 

Assignment:  continue team formation.

R, 2/8—Debby Levinson (Nimble Partners, Inc.) on project development process and examples; use of metaphor in design.

Assignment:  1-page memo describing your teams project (include motivation, audience, objectives), due 2/13.


T, 2/13—Hagan Rivers (Two Rivers Consulting) on large-scale project development; consulting.   1-page project memo on team project due.

Assignment:  prepare elevator speech for next class; include storyboards or wireframes;  discuss models influencing your project.

R, 2/15—Elevator speeches; Jeremy Smith (TA) on project development in Microsoft, tech questions related to your project.

Assignment:  brief technical description of your project, due next class.



R, 2/22—Joanna Proulx, UI design and effects on usability  Project tech description due.

Assignment:  formal oral presentations of project proposals begin on T, 3/6




T, 2/27— IS&T team on user-centered design; elements of oral and written proposals reviewed.

R, 3/1—Project development time; no formal class meeting


T, 3/6—Oral proposals

R, 3/8—Oral proposals

Assignment: written proposal due Tuesday, 3/13.


T, 3/13—Written proposals due.  Elements of paper prototyping.

Assignment: paper prototype testing next class.

R, 3/15—In-class paper prototyping workshop.


T, 3/20—In-class collaborative tech session; code sharing.

R, 3/22—Private conferences








T, 4/3—ATIC Lab tour; ADA compliance and effect on information architecture

R, 4/5—Mike Jung, MIT Intellectual Property Counsel, on IP issues


T, 4/10—Informal project design reviews/progress reports

R, 4/12—Development time

Assignment:  your project should be substantially complete for usability tests beginning week after next.



R, 4/19—IS&T team on usability testing protocols.

Assignment:  usability tests begin next week in N42: project development substantially complete by this time; arrange for tester; complete documents IS&T team has requested.


T, 4/24—Usability tests in N42

R, 4/26—Usability tests in N42




T, 5/1—Accessibility testing, ATIC Lab

R, 5/3— Accessibility testing, ATIC Lab

Assignment:  final project presentations begin next week.  Final written report due Friday, 5/18.


T, 5/8—Final presentations

R, 5/10—Final presentations


T, 5/15—Final presentations

R, 5/17—Final presentations

Final written report due Friday, 5/18 in 14N-336.