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Monash University

FIT3020 Information visualisation - Semester 1, 2015

With the increasing amount of data available, it is important to be able to represent large collections from a wide range of domains in forms that more readily convey embedded information. The human sense of vision is a powerful tool for pattern recognition - this sense can be harnessed via multimedia interactive presentations. This unit will examine the fundamental principles of information visualisation and the range of tools and methods which are available to represent large data sets. These techniques can be applied across a wide range of fields including geographical, medical, statistical and scientific visualisation. The unit will examine in detail the visualisation of geospatial data in GIS (Geographic Information Systems).

Mode of Delivery

Caulfield (Day)

Workload Requirements

Minimum total expected workload equals 12 hours per week comprising:

(a.) Contact hours for on-campus students:

  • Two hours of lectures
  • One 2-hour laboratory

(b.) Additional requirements (all students):

  • A minimum of 8 hours independent study per week for completing lab and project work, private study and revision.

See also Unit timetable information

Unit Relationships


Completion of 12 points at level 2 from FIT

Chief Examiner

Campus Lecturer


Derrick Martin

Consultation hours: Wednesday 10-2

Your feedback to Us

Monash is committed to excellence in education and regularly seeks feedback from students, employers and staff. One of the key formal ways students have to provide feedback is through the Student Evaluation of Teaching and Units (SETU) survey. The University’s student evaluation policy requires that every unit is evaluated each year. Students are strongly encouraged to complete the surveys. The feedback is anonymous and provides the Faculty with evidence of aspects that students are satisfied and areas for improvement.

For more information on Monash’s educational strategy, see:

www.monash.edu.au/about/monash-directions/ and on student evaluations, see: www.policy.monash.edu/policy-bank/academic/education/quality/student-evaluation-policy.html

Previous Student Evaluations of this Unit

Previous feedback highlighted that the nature of the overall content as well as assignments was a strength of the unit. Students in the previous offering suggested tightening the the lab/tutorial classes to be more focused and explicit, rather than broader and exploratory in nature. As a consequence lab/tutorial exercises have been modified to provide more opportunity for explicit and tangible visualisation example outcomes.

If you wish to view how previous students rated this unit, please go to

Academic Overview

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:
  • describe the concepts of human visual perception and its impact on cognition;
  • describe the properties of data and be able to select the most appropriate analysis and visualisation techniques for conveying meaning with specific data sets;
  • create information and geospatial visualisations using a range of techniques, such as the use of pattern, space, colour and interactivity;
  • analyse information visualisation examples and constructively critique them based on the visualisation techniques discussed;
  • analyse contexts such as business, education, social sciences and physical sciences by describing the data sets used and the visualisation challenges associated with them.

Unit Schedule

Week Activities Assessment
0   No formal assessment or activities are undertaken in week 0
1 Information Visualisation Introduction: A History of Information Visualisation & Information Visualisation Primer Weekly Contribution to Discussions are ongoing. Comments are expected to be made weekly.
2 Types of Data: Quantitative, Qualitative & Links Between Data Sets  
3 Information Visualisation Techniques 1: Types of Visualisations  
4 Information Visualisation Techniques 2: Aesthetics & Colour  
5 Information Visualisation Techniques 3: Narratives, Micro/Macro Readings & Misleading with Data  
6 Information Visualisation Techniques 4: Designing Static & Dynamic Visualisations Assignment 1 - Info Vis Analysis Report due Week 6 Tutorial
7 The Current Info Vis Landscape & Reading Visualisations Assignment 2 - Initial Visualisation Major Project Proposal due Week 7 Tutorial
8 Information Visualisation Contexts 1: Business  
9 Information Visualisation Contexts 2: Education & Social Sciences  
10 Information Visualisation Contexts 3: Scientific  
11 Information Visualisation Contexts 4: Maps & GIS Assignment 2 - Info Vis Major Project due Week 11 Tutorial
12 Revision & In Class Presentations of Visualisation Projects Assignment 2 - Presentation of Info Vis Major Project in Week 12 Tutorial
  SWOT VAC No formal assessment is undertaken SWOT VAC
  Examination period LINK to Assessment Policy: http://policy.monash.edu.au/policy-bank/

*Unit Schedule details will be maintained and communicated to you via your learning system.

Teaching Approach

Lecture and tutorials or problem classes
This teaching and learning approach provides facilitated learning, practical exploration and peer learning. Both lectures and tutorial classes will rely heavily on student participation in the discussion of information visualisation principles and case studies.

Assessment Summary

Examination (2 hours): 40%; In-semester assessment: 60%

Assessment Task Value Due Date
Assignment 1 - Information Visualisation Domains and Applications 20% Report due Week 6 Tutorial
Assignment 2 - Information Visualisation Prototype Application 30% (proposal 5%, application submission 20% and presentation 5%) Proposal due Week 7 Tutorial, Major Project submission Week 11 Tutorial, and Presentation to class in Week 12 Tutorial
Weekly Contribution to Discussion 10% (overall for the whole semester) Ongoing. Comments are expected to be made weekly.
Examination 1 40% To be advised

Assessment Requirements

Assessment Policy

Assessment Tasks


  • Assessment task 1
    Assignment 1 - Information Visualisation Domains and Applications
    In this assignment you are to write a research report of 2000 words, accompanied with referenced images, on an information visualisation application domain area of your choice. Examples will be provided in the formal assignment brief.

    Your report should provide insight into the information needs of the domain, and the data available. The report should then address the way in which the visualisation translates the information into a comprehensible form and how it achieves this using either novel or more established visualisation techniques.

    A full brief, including examples, will be provided on the unit website, as will detailed assessment criteria.
    Criteria for assessment:

    Students will be assessed on a number of criteria:

    • Quality of research
    • Analysis and synthesis of material
    • Consistency in format and presentation
    • Writing style
    • Bibliography and referencing

    Further detail on the assessment criteria is available on the assignment specification.

    Due date:
    Report due Week 6 Tutorial
  • Assessment task 2
    Assignment 2 - Information Visualisation Prototype Application
    In this assignment, you are to build an information visualisation prototype application that allows basic visual manipulation of a data set.

    A series of key objectives will be presented in the assignment brief, however the core data set and domain that is the focus of the developed information visualisation is negotiated between lecturer and student. The visualisation will be expected to meet key criteria such as interactivity, insight into data difficult to obtain without the use of info vis techniques, domain specific purpose, and innovation.

    Students will be required to present their working prototype to the class in week 12 in a short presentation of 5-10 minutes.  

    A full brief, including examples, will be provided on the unit website, as will detailed assessment criteria.
    30% (proposal 5%, application submission 20% and presentation 5%)
    Criteria for assessment:

    Students will be assessed on a number of criteria:

    • The prototype application being well suited to the chosen domain
    • Clear purpose for the visualisation
    • Good application of design principles discussed throughout the semester
    • Good and accurate use of domain data
    • Demonstration of sound HCI principles in the interaction design
    • Innovative approach to the visualisation
    Due date:
    Proposal due Week 7 Tutorial, Major Project submission Week 11 Tutorial, and Presentation to class in Week 12 Tutorial
  • Assessment task 3
    Weekly Contribution to Discussion
    All students will be expected to contribute to online discussion of information visualisation examples. Each week an example information visualisation will be presented along with a number of key discussion questions. Students will be expected to provide small insights each week to demonstrate their understanding of the relevant information visualisation techniques. Comments will be considered on criteria such as quality of insight, relating back to discussed info vis theories, and critiques of success.

    A full description will be provided on the unit website, as will detailed assessment criteria.
    10% (overall for the whole semester)
    Criteria for assessment:

    Students will be assessed on a number of criteria:

    • Application of Information Visualisation principles
    • Quality of the critical analysis conducted
    • Responding to other students comments in a constructive manner
    • Frequency of contributions

    Full details will be posted on the unit website.

    Due date:
    Ongoing. Comments are expected to be made weekly.


  • Examination 1
    2 hours
    Type (open/closed book):
    Closed book
    Electronic devices allowed in the exam:

Learning resources

Reading list

There are no mandatory text books for this unit, however the following texts provide a valuable resource to your study:

Key recommended texts:

Tufte, E. R. (1990). Envisioning information, Cheshire, Connecticut, Graphics Press

 Supplementary recommended texts:

Chen, C. (2004). Information visualization: Beyond the horizon (2nd Edition). London: Springer-Verlag. *Electronic Resource

Dykes, J., Dykes, MacEachren, A.M.  and Kraak M. J. (2005), Exploring Geovisualization, Elsevier *Electronic Resource

Suda, B. (2010), A Practical Guide to Designing with Data, Five Simple Steps

Tufte, E. R. (1997) Visual explanations : images and quantities, evidence and narrative, Cheshire, Connecticut, Graphics Press

Tufte, E. R. (2001). The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Cheshire, Connecticut, Graphics Press

Tufte, E. R. (2006) Beautiful Evidence, Cheshire, Connecticut, Graphics Press

Ware, C. (2004). Information visualization: Perception for design (2nd Edition). San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann  *Electronic Resource

Monash Library Unit Reading List (if applicable to the unit)

Feedback to you

Types of feedback you can expect to receive in this unit are:

  • Informal feedback on progress in labs/tutes
  • Graded assignments with comments
  • Solutions to tutes, labs and assignments

Extensions and penalties

Returning assignments

Assignment submission

It is a University requirement (http://www.policy.monash.edu/policy-bank/academic/education/conduct/student-academic-integrity-managing-plagiarism-collusion-procedures.html) for students to submit an assignment coversheet for each assessment item. Faculty Assignment coversheets can be found at http://www.infotech.monash.edu.au/resources/student/forms/. Please check with your Lecturer on the submission method for your assignment coversheet (e.g. attach a file to the online assignment submission, hand-in a hard copy, or use an electronic submission). Please note that it is your responsibility to retain copies of your assessments.

Online submission

If Electronic Submission has been approved for your unit, please submit your work via the learning system for this unit, which you can access via links in the my.monash portal.

Recommended Resources

While the unit does not focus on particular technologies, several technologies will be discussed and used for the creation of visualisations. Two key software resources are Google Sketchup (http://sketchup.google.com/intl/en/) and Google Earth (http://www.google.com/earth/index.html).

Other Information


Monash has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and to provide advice on how they might uphold them. You can find Monash’s Education Policies at: www.policy.monash.edu.au/policy-bank/academic/education/index.html

Faculty resources and policies

Important student resources including Faculty policies are located at http://intranet.monash.edu.au/infotech/resources/students/

Graduate Attributes Policy

Student Charter

Student services

Monash University Library

Disability Liaison Unit

Students who have a disability or medical condition are welcome to contact the Disability Liaison Unit to discuss academic support services. Disability Liaison Officers (DLOs) visit all Victorian campuses on a regular basis.

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