Course Policies

Online Communities & Crowds
Northwestern University
Comm Studies 378
Fall, 2014

The policies below outline fundamental groundrules for the class. If you have questions or concerns about any of them, please contact me.


Attendance in class is expected of all participants. If you need to miss class for any reason, please contact me ahead of time (email is best). Multiple unexplained absences will likely result in a lower grade or (in extreme circumstances) a failing grade. In the event of an absence, you are responsible for obtaining class notes, handouts, assignments, etc.

In-class Use of Digital Devices with Screens

I ask that you refrain from using your laptops, tablets, phones, and pretty much any (digital) device with a screen during the class meetings that are not labs. Note that this is not a requirement. You may, if you need or choose to do so, bring and use any device in the classroom. However, I may (privately) let you know if I feel that your in-class device usage is negatively impacting your participation in the course.

The goal of this policy is to help you stay focused and avoid distractions for yourself and your peers in the classroom. This turns out to be difficult in the presence of powerful computing devices with brightly glowing screens and fast connections to the Internet. For more on the rationale behind this policy, please read Clay Shirk's thoughtful discussion of his approach to this issue.

Deadlines & Extensions

Deadlines for all assignments are non-negotiable. Any assignment you submit after the deadline may be penalized or returned (un-graded) at my discretion. That said, I understand that emergencies happen. Unanticipated obstacles arise. If you absolutely cannot meet a deadline, please contact me. Keep in mind that I will be more sympathetic to your situation if you do this before the deadline instead of afterwards.

Email protocol

I receive too much email. Anytime you contact me or Sneha about any questions or concerns you may have related to the course, please include [OCC] in the subject line of your message. This will help both of us filter and locate class-related messages so that we can stay on top of them more effectively. If, for some reason, I do not respond to your message within 48 hours, please do not take it personally and feel free to re-send the message. Believe it or not, this will also help!

Confidentiality of Peers' Work

Throughout the course, you will receive, read, and comment on classmates’ work. These assignments are for class use only. You may not share them with anybody outside of class without explicit written permission from the work’s author pertaining to the specific piece.

Confidentiality of In-Class Discussions

It is essential to the success of this class that all participants feel comfortable sharing their questions, thoughts, ideas, confusions, and experiences during class discussions. Therefore, you may not create any audio or video recordings during class time nor share verbatim comments with those not in class nor are you allowed to share using other methods — e.g., social media — comments linked to people’s identities unless you get appropriate permissions ahead of time. If you want to share general impressions or specifics of in-class discussions with those not in class, ask for permission first.

Academic Integrity

You are responsible for reading and abiding by the Northwestern University Principles Regarding Academic Integrity. Make sure to document all of your work and acknowledge the ideas and work of others. Possible sanctions, as per the university guidelines, include reduced or failing grade, a defined period of probation or suspension, exclusion from the university and notation on the official record. You must not, in any way, misrepresent your work or be party to another student's failure to maintain academic integrity. Do not ever copy other people's words without quotation marks (do not do this even if you are "just" taking notes) and always use proper citation. Do not ever refer to other people's work without attribution. DO NOT cheat, plagiarize or disregard the University Principles Regarding Academic Integrity in any way, it is NOT worth it! When in doubt, err on the side of giving more credit to the original source rather than less. Please feel free to ask me questions about this and any related matters!

Students with Disabilities

Any student requesting accommodations related to a disability or other condition is required to register with AccessibleNU (847-467-5530) and provide professors with an accommodation notification from AccessibleNU, preferably within the first two weeks of class. All information will remain confidential. For more information, visit the AccessibleNU.

Sexual Harassment

All participants in this class are bound by the Northwestern University sexual harassment policy. Please note, that the core of the policy states, "no member of the Northwestern community may sexually harass any other member of the community." Please review the policy and speak to me if you have any questions or concerns.


Incompletes are sensible in theory, but usually turn out to be a total pain for everybody involved and I strongly discourage them. If you wish to request an incomplete for the class, you should explain your reasons to me in writing at least two weeks before the end of the quarter and propose a timeline for completing the course. Please note that I may decline your request.


If you have questions or concerns about any grade you receive, please contact me. If you wish to dispute a grade, please provide a written explanation of your rationale along with any supporting documentation you think is necessary.