Course Policies

Course Description

This is a production-intensive course in the theory and applied involvement with Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), especially Web-available APIs for exchanging and mashing up content and data. The course begins with a consideration of the classical sense of APIs: as interfaces into programming languages and libraries, including a consideration of the quality and navigability of documentation. An understanding and command of those APIs will be necessary to more fully explore and manipulate data APIs later in the course. The course concludes with the groundwork necessary to construct, document, and share an API with the outside world, using lightweight data serialization formats (e.g., JSON) and RESTful distributed architecture. Students will have the opportunity to focus on a specific use of APIs, such as visualization, “scraping” for the purposes of creating datasets for research, or building custom and novel visual interfaces for interacting with a particular dataset or service (e.g., Throughout the course, students will encounter issues of licensing, API request limits, and other legal and ethical issues surrounding terms of service (TOS) and documentation.

Course Goals

  • Develop familiarity with the key principles of Application Programming Interfaces, for both programming languages and data/software services, and as both a consumer and producer of APIs
  • Develop critical reading skills for navigating and comprehending the documentation for APIs
  • Learn to locate, read, and act in accordance with Web API providers’ terms of service
  • Understand and employ lightweight data serialization formats (e.g., JSON) on both the client- and server-side
  • Understand and implement web standards from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Ecma, ISO, and other standards-issuing groups
  • Understand and apply progressive enhancement and responsive design in any user-facing web design and development
  • Develop an agile approach to digital development, supplemented by the use of a version control system (Git)
  • Apply course concepts and adjust/extend course projects to fit your own academic and professional interests

Books and Technologies

Required Books

My policy for assigning books: they are all required in the edition indicated; the total retail pricetag for the entire course should be less than $100 (this one is $52 on the high end, assuming you opt for the electronic editions); and each book should be worthy of a place on your bookshelf or electronic device of choice long after the class has ended. My aim is to help you build your professional library, while also being sensitive to your bank account.

  • Haverbeke, M. Eloquent JavaScript 2nd ed.. No Starch Press, $31.95 (eBook)
  • Wilson, J. R. Node.js 8 The Right Way. Pragmatic Bookshelf, $19.95 (beta eBook)

Required Materials and Technologies

  • A blank, bound paper sketchbook of 100 pages or more
  • An email account that you check regularly
  • A browser- or cloud-based bookmarking scheme to aid your information management
  • A Basecamp account (invite will arrive via email); Basecamp, not Blackboard, will be where we coordinate our work and communication in- and outside of class.
  • A GitHub account (see note about anonymity in the course technology policy below)
  • The domain of your name (e.g., belongs to the instructor) or, if privacy is a concern, the domain for your public alias
  • A personal computer, ideally Unix-based (Linux, BSD, OS X), with the following software installed:
    • A plain-text editor capable of syntax highlighting; set up to use UTF-8/Unicode character encoding and Unix-style line endings (LF), entabbed with spaces (two spaces per tab). I recommend
    • Firefox Developer Edition (free)
    • Git (free)
    • Node.js (free)

Grading Policy: COM 333

  • Project 1: 15pts
  • Project 2: 15pts
  • Project 3: 25pts
  • Participation: 45pts
  • TOTAL: 100pts

A = 90+ pts; B = 80-89pts; C = 70-79pts; D = 60-69pts; E =< 59 pts

Grading Criteria

  • A - Student has turned in all required components of a project, the work is exceptional in quality, and reflects the student’s dedication to adjusting the project to his or her own interests.
  • B - Student has turned in all required components of a project, and the work is exceptional for undergraduate work.
  • C - Student has turned in all required components of a project and submitted work that is acceptable as undergraduate level.
  • D - Student has turned in all required components of a project, but the work is below undergraduate level.
  • E - Student has not turned in all required components of a project.

Grading Policy: COM 533

  • Project 1: 15pts
  • Project 2: 15pts
  • Project 3: 25pts
  • Project 4: 15pts
  • Participation: 30pts
  • TOTAL: 100pts

A = 90+ pts; B= 80-89pts; C=70-79pts; E =< 69 pts

Grading Criteria

  • A - Student has turned in all required components of a project, the work is exceptional in quality, and reflects the student's dedication to adjusting the project to his or her own interests.
  • B - Student has turned in all required components of a project and submitted work that is acceptable as graduate level.
  • C - Student has turned in all required components of a project, but the work is below graduate level.
  • E - Student has not turned in all required components of a project.

Assignment Submission

All major projects for this course will be submitted via email to the instructor, at Draft work will be posted to Basecamp for feedback from the instructor and others in the class. Emails should never include email attachments, but rather URLs pointing to your project’s Git repository or, when you seeking help for a specific problem, a particular file or commit on GitHub. Examples will be demonstrated in class.

Late Work

I do not accept late work. No exceptions. All work must be submitted before the date and time specified in each project description. Weekly reading discussion posts are due before the start of the first class meeting each week.


Your active participation in class and in Basecamp discussions and chats is required both for your own success in the class, and for the success of the class as a whole. I do not give reading quizzes, but I assign a lot of reading. And I expect you to be prepared to discuss that reading, especially on Basecamp.

Course Technology Policy

Technology is an essential part of learning and day-to-day living. It is therefore essential to this class. You are just as responsible for learning to command various technologies as for any other course content. Difficulty with technology is never an acceptable excuse for being unprepared for class or late with assignments.

If you are having trouble with technology or any other material covered in this course, it is your professional responsibility to do research beyond the resources and guidance provided in class and find supplemental materials that work for you. I also encourage all students to meet with me during my office hours or at another arranged time. I prefer that you contact me via Basecamp Ping, email, or GChat well in advance of assignment and project deadlines.

Note that coming to class with broken or malfunctioning work is far better than showing up with nothing but an excuse like “I just didn’t get it.” For most of the semester, it is expected that you’ll show up with broken work. When you’re learning, effort is more important than perfection. Just be sure to put in the effort early, and not the night before a project is due.

Also, I have asked you to sign up for a GitHub account for this class. Note that GitHub accounts are public, as are most social-type accounts. To protect your privacy you are certainly allowed to use a pseudonym/alias for GitHub and any other account. You may also push to repositories that you keep private, so long as you add the instructor as a collaborator, for grading purposes. At the same time, you might want to think about the high value of establishing GitHub and other accounts under your own name or professional alias. Public accounts where you conduct yourself professionally might well be an asset to your online presence, improving the search results that future schools or employers turn up when they look for you on Google and elsewhere.

Academic Integrity

As with any course at IIT, you are expected to uphold the Code of Academic Honesty as described in the IIT Student Handbook). All work for this course must be your own original effort, including print and digital page design and computer code. Summarizations and quotations of text, as well as any use of open-source code libraries and images not of your own making, should be clearly cited as legally and ethically warranted and rhetorically appropriate. Access, storage, dissemination, and other use of data from third-party sources must conform to the source’s terms of service, licensing, and other relevant legal and ethical restrictions.

If you are at all uncertain as to whether you are submitting work that in whole or in part may violate the Code of Academic Honesty, please contact me immediately and before the work is due. The consequences of academic dishonesty are severe. Any student who violates the Code of Academic Honesty will be subject to expulsion from this course with a failing grade, and I will report the student to the Chair of the Department of Humanities, who may take additional disciplinary action, including reporting violations to the relevant offices of Undergraduate or Graduate Academic Affairs.

Special Needs Statement

I place a very high value on developing courses that are welcoming and accessible to all students. I will make additional reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities. In order to receive accommodations, students must obtain a letter of accommodation from the Center for Disability Resources. The Center for Disability Resources is located in IIT Tower, 3424 S. State Street - 1C3-2 (on the first floor). Contact the Center by telephone at 312-567-5744, by TDD at 312-567-5135, or via email at

Students who have any difficulty (either permanent or temporary) that might affect their ability to perform in class should contact me privately, either in person or electronically, at the start of the semester or as a documented difficulty arises. Methods, materials, or deadlines will be adapted as necessary to ensure equitable participation for all students.