CSCI- 1951-T Syllabus

Surveying VR Data Visualization Software for Research: Immersive Collaborative Data Visualization

Course Summary

In a collaborative group effort, this course will search out, install, test, build, and critically evaluate multi-user VR software and its applicability for exploratory data visualization. A substantial portion of the class will involve evaluating existing multi-user VR software and documenting these findings in the course wiki. Software evaluation will include web research, hands-on case studies, and surveying. Students will also utilize this software to build data visualizations, or build their own multi-user VR software using existing tools and frameworks. At the end of this course, we will have a comprehensive understanding of the current state of collaborative multi-user VR software and will have documented this knowledge to aid future researchers.

After this course students will be able to:

  1. articulate VR visualization software tool goals, requirements, and capabilities;

  2. construct meaningful evaluation strategies for software libraries, frameworks, and applications; strategies include surveys, interviews, comparative use, case studies, and web research;

  3. execute tool evaluation strategies;

  4. build visualization software packages;

  5. comparatively analyze software tools based on evaluation;

  6. be familiar with a number of VR software tools and hardware;

  7. think critically about software;

  8. communicate ideas more clearly;

We will begin the semester by taking stock of candidates for software. Understanding and codifying claimed capabilities will guide the choice of a subset for closer study. Each student will pick from the subset to critically evaluate, adding the results of their evaluation to the course wiki. Moreover, each student will design a tutorial that highlights the features of the software they select. Through both the design, construction, and execution of the tutorials, we will gather deeper knowledge of the benefits and costs of the tools.

At each stage in the course, we will document our findings and analysis in a wiki. One goal for the wiki is to help VR developers to choose wisely in creating their virtual realities. A second is to identify gaps in available software and thus to nudge the development of future software to fill those gaps. At some point the wiki will go live, possibly after submission as a research paper, if appropriate.


Evaluation in the class will be as follows:

  • 15% class attendance and participation

  • 10% initial search contributions to wiki

  • 15% survey design, creation, collection, and analysis contributions

  • 20% collaborative tutorial quality

  • 10% collaborative tutorial results analysis

  • 15% weekly journal of activities and findings

  • 15% overall final wiki contributions

Time Commitment

Over 12 weeks students will spend 3 hour per week in class (42 hours total) plus an average of 10 hours per week on homework, as described above (140 hours). Total hours for the semester are 182.


While there are no formal prerequisites listed for this class, CS background at the level of 320 or 330 will be very helpful. Students should be familiar with downloading, building, and installing open-source software from the internet. Some experience with modifying open-source software will be helpful, but not essential. Familiarity with graphics libraries will also be helpful.

Academic Support

Brown University is committed to full inclusion of all students. Please inform me early in the term if you have a disability or other conditions that might require accommodations or modification of any of these course procedures. You may speak with me after class or during office hours. For more information, please contact Student and Employee Accessibility Services at 401-863-9588 or Students in need of short-term academic advice or support can contact one of the deans in the Dean of the College office.

Diversity & Inclusion

Our aim is to provide a welcoming environment to all students who take the class. Course staff have been trained in diversity and inclusion, and all members of the CS community, including faculty and staff, are expected to treat one another in a professional manner. If you feel you have not been treated in a professional manner by any of the course staff, please contact either the instructor, Ugur Cetintemel (Dept. Chair), Tom Doeppner (Vice Chair) or Laura Dobler (diversity & inclusion staff member). We take all complaints about unprofessional behavior seriously. To access student support services and resources, and to learn more about diversity and inclusion in CS, please visit this webpage.