Syllabus summer 2017 Georgetown



Wednesdays, 5:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. | Summer 2017

Instructor: Greg Linch

Downtown campus, room C231

  • Office hours are by appointment only


Merely using the web and digital tools is no longer enough for today’s media professionals. Journalists and communicators alike need to have a strong foundational and practical understanding of how websites and web applications are built and how to troubleshoot when problems arise. This class does not aim to make you full-time coders (though maybe you’ll want to be after this class!) or require any previous web development experience, but we do want you to come away with some coding skills. You’ll also be able to collaborate more effectively with web developers and to continue learning on your own.

Students will learn about the various areas of web development and the fundamental technologies used to code and design web pages by diving into HTML and CSS, plus some JavaScript/jQuery and PHP. Students will set up and customize their own self-hosted website using WordPress. Readings, hands-on demonstrations, self-learning tutorials and assignments will be the basis for instruction.


By the end of the semester, students should be able to:

  • Identify the fundamental concepts and technologies underpinning modern web development, what role they play and how they work together
  • Develop, deploy and maintain a dynamic website
  • Use online tutorials and technical documentation to gain web development skills
  • Synthesize technical knowledge to communicate ideas to non-technical people and non-technical ideas to technical people


There is no required text for this course. Instead, the instructor will assign selected readings throughout the semester. Students will be expected to read materials before class, write an analysis post each week (unless otherwise noted) and discuss in class.



Access to a computer (preferably a laptop) where you can install free software programs**:

For the final project, you must also purchase (if you don’t already have) later in the semester:

  • A domain (e.g. your name if it’s a portfolio site)
  • Web hosting (e.g. basic tier with FTP access and the ability to manually install software)

Free accounts are required for:

  • GitHub
  • Codecademy
    • Note: You are not required to get a paid account or do the projects.

**Notes on required software:

  • These three programs must be downloaded and installed before the first class to be sure you can hit the ground running.
  • If you have problems installing that you can’t resolve by searching online, please contact the instructor as soon as possible.
  • After you install them, you don’t have to start using them before class starts, but you’re encouraged to explore what they do and why we’ll be using them.
  • Important: Don’t change any MAMP or XAMPP settings unless instructed.


As outlined by the university, missing more than two classes will result in a final grade reduction of one level (for example, an A will be converted to an A-). Absences for classes, beyond the initial two, will result in further reduction of the final grade. If you are absent for more than four classes, you will be in danger of failing this course.

If, for whatever reason, you are unable to attend class, please obtain notes and assignments from other students for the material you missed. Please show up to class on time. If you repeatedly show up tardy, it will have a negative impact on your grade — and you’ll look bad in front of your fellow students.


All mobile devices must be silenced before class starts.

Students are expected to complete all the readings, self-directed learning and analysis posts before each class so they’re ready to learn additional concepts and to apply skills to the hands-on work in class. These are all due before the next class to allow everyone to read each other’s posts and to allow the instructor to best tailor the next lesson accordingly.

Whether you’re using a lab computer or a personal laptop, computers in class will only be used for coursework. Your full focus and attention are required for this class. It is easy to miss important ideas or not fully grasp concepts if you are distracted. We’re going to cover lots of technical topics during long class periods, so you don’t want to miss anything.

Email is the primary means of communication outside of class for any questions. Phone calls should be arranged by email. If you have issues setting up the software we’ll be using, try to troubleshoot on your own at first, but also don’t wait until the last minute to contact the instructor in case you need assistance. For coding issues, figuring out why something doesn’t work — and how to fix it —  is a key concept of the class. You should exhaust all options for finding a solution (Google, StackOverflow, online tutorials and blog posts) before asking for help.

Class participation is an integral part of this class and accounts for 10 percent of your grade. That includes showing up and participating in class discussions, sharing your take on the weekly assignments and contributing thoughtful insights to the conversation. Engage in the class! You will get more out of it and so will the class.

Class discussions should be respectful and considerate of others’ views and opinions. Everyone should feel comfortable asking questions and sharing their thoughts freely.

Instructional continuity: In the event of a weather emergency (or any other widespread emergency) that would close the Georgetown Downtown building, we will plan to meet virtually through online videoconferencing tools. More information will be provided on how this will work later in the semester.


*** NOTE: Unless otherwise specified, all assignments are due Sunday by 9 p.m. before the next class.

Late work will result in one full letter grade lower for each day after the deadline. If you have an emergency and will miss a deadline, you must request an extension from the instructor as soon as possible. If the request is approved, a new deadline will be given.

Self-learning: Read texts, watch videos or complete tutorials as assigned. For Codecademy lessons, you are required to email the instructor a screenshot of the “syllabus” view of the relevant course(s) and lesson(s) by the deadline. Due: Mondays by 10 p.m.

Analysis/update posts (~300-400 words, 11 total): For assigned readings and self-learning, write reactions and highlight what you found most interesting or had questions about on the course blog. These posts should be a mix of synthesis to show your understanding of the material as well as like a journal of your progress (here’s what I did, here’s what I’m going to do, here’s what hurdles exist, etc.). These are generally due a day after the assignment is due so you have time to reflect on what you learned. Due: Mondays by 10 p.m., unless otherwise specified

Midterm: Project explainer or developer profile (~800 words): Pick a project related to your course of study to deconstruct what, how and why it was built, plus lessons learned or what it might mean in the larger context of the field. Alternatively, you may profile a developer working in news, PR or – perhaps more interestingly – outside of news and PR whose work might be relevant to those fields. The project should not be something you or your company worked on and the developer should not be a friend. Be sure they know this will be published on the class site. Due: Sunday, June 25 at 9 p.m.

Development environments: Having local and production development environments are essential to your final project. You need to set up a local environment for testing on your computer and a production environment on a hosting service for the public-facing site. The local environment will use MAMP for Mac or XAMPP for Windows. The production version will use a hosting account and domain you’ve purchased. For the hosting, you must be able to install WordPress manually, use FTP and create a MySQL database. Due: Sunday, July 10 at 10 p.m.

Final project site: Create a customized project using the WordPress site created for the production environment. This will be preceded by a project pitch detailing your plans, including what customizations and features you’ll be adding.  For example, you might do some combination of creating a child theme, building a new plugin, using an API, etc. If your pitch is late, it will affect your final project grade. Pitch due: July 2 at 9 p.m. Project due: Sunday, Aug. 6 at 9 p.m.

Final project critiques: Evaluate your peers’ project sites with constructive feedback. This are due soon after the demos so everyone has a chance to incorporate feedback over the weekend. Due: Thursday, Aug. 10 at 10 p.m.

Surveys: Fill out this survey before the first session ( and any others sent out during the course based on specified deadlines. These surveys will help the instructor know where everyone stands and if any adjustments in content or pacing are needed.


Your course grade will be based on the following:

In-class participation/surveys: 10%
Self-directed learning/code assignments/Codecademy: 15%
Analysis/update posts: 15%
Development environments: 5%
Midterm – Project explainer or developer profile: 15%
Final project site: 30%
Final project critiques: 10%
Total: 100%

Graduate course grades include A, A-, B+, B, B-, C and F. There are no grades of C+, C- or D.

A 100-93

A- 92.99-90

B+ 89.99-88

B 87.99-83

B- 82.99-80

C 79.99-70

F 69.99-0

The instructor will provide a warning by mid-semester to any student who appears to be on track for a poor final grade.


Georgetown offers a variety of support systems for students that can be accessed on main campus or at the downtown location:

  • MPS Writing Resource Program


  • Academic Resource Center

202-687-8354 |

  • Counseling and Psychiatric Services



Students with documented disabilities have the right to specific accommodations that do not fundamentally alter the nature of the course. Students with disabilities should contact the Academic Resource Center (Leavey Center, Suite 335; 202-687-8354;; before the start of classes to allow time to review the documentation and make recommendations for appropriate accommodations. If accommodations are recommended, you will be given a letter from ARC to share with your professors. You are personally responsible for completing this process officially and in a timely manner. Neither accommodations nor exceptions to policies can be permitted to students who have not completed this process in advance.


All students are expected to maintain the highest standards of academic and personal integrity in pursuit of their education at Georgetown. Academic dishonesty in any form is a serious offense, and students found in violation are subject to academic penalties that include, but are not limited to, failure of the course, termination from the program, and revocation of degrees already conferred. All students are held to the Honor Code. The Honor Code pledge follows:

In the pursuit of the high ideals and rigorous standards of academic life, I commit myself to respect and uphold the Georgetown University Honor System: To be honest in any academic endeavor, and To conduct myself honorably, as a responsible member of the Georgetown community, as we live and work together.


Stealing someone else’s work is a terminal offense in journalism, and it will wreck your career in academia, too. Students are expected to work with integrity and honesty in all their assignments. The Georgetown University Honor System defines plagiarism as “the act of passing off as one’s own the ideas or writings of another.” More guidance is available through the Gervase Programs at If you have any doubts about plagiarism, paraphrasing and the need to credit, check out

The syllabus may change to accommodate discussion of emerging topics. Also, the schedules of guest speakers may require some shifting of our agenda. The instructor will make every effort to provide as much advance notice as possible for any alterations.


Pre-course assignments

  • Required: Write analysis post that includes why these ideas matter, what you found most interesting and your main takeaways from topics discussed
    • Include a link to your GitHub profile in the post

Week 1 – May 24

Overview of class and how the web works

  • Overview of the class
  • Review of survey results
  • Discussion of pre-course reading materials
  • How does the Internet work? How does the web work? What’s the difference?
    • Internet protocols
    • Client-server model
    • What are front-end, back-end, full-stack?
  • Overview of tools we’ll use

Assignments for week 1

Week 2 – May 31

Browser and front-end basics

  • View source/Inspect element
  • Document-Object Model (DOM)
  • HTML revisited
  • CSS overview
  • Responsive web design discussion
  • Git and GitHub discussion

Assignments for week 2

Week 3 – June 7

Scripting basics

  • The DOM revisited
  • Client-side scripting vs server-side scripting
  • Intro to programming concepts with JavaScript

Assignments for week 3

  • Complete: Codecademy Learn JavaScript course lessons 1-5
    • Email screenshot of “syllabus” view to instructor
  • Work on midterm: Developer profile or technical project explainer
  • Analysis/update post

Week 4 – June 14

Scripting revisited

  • Review JavaScript
  • Intro to jQuery

Assignments for week

  • Complete: Codecademy jQuery course lessons 1-4
    • Email screenshot of “syllabus” view to instructor
  • Gallery assignment
    • Create a gallery using HTML and jQuery, then use CSS to add styles
    • Include captions that also change with each photo
    • Add to GitHub and send repo link to instructor
  • Work on midterm: Developer profile or technical project explainer
  • Analysis/update post
    • Include a brief pitch/preview of your midterm (the person or the project) and how you found them

Week 5 – June 21

Databases, servers, different code environments

  • Intro to server-side scripting
  • Intro to databases for web applications
  • Intro to web servers and server stack

Assignments for week 5

  • Complete: Midterm: Developer profile or technical project explainer
  • Analysis/update post

Week 6 – June 28

Diving into WordPress development, part 1

  • Explanation of development, staging and production environments
  • Intro to WordPress
  • Intro to PHP
  • Intro to WordPress themes and plugins

Assignments for week 6

  • Complete: Codecademy PHP courses 1, 2, 4, 5 (skip 3)
    • Email screenshot of “syllabus” view to instructor
  • Pitch post: what your site will be conceptually (personal, portfolio, niche interest, side business, etc), why you choose this and who the audience is (tag: final-pitch, separate from analysis post). Due July 2 by 9 p.m.
  • Bring your laptop to class on July 5 for local development environment configuration
  • Analysis/update post about learning PHP and more about WordPress (tag: week6)

Week 7 – July 5

Diving into WordPress development, part 2

  • How to set up self-hosted WordPress on your local machine
  • Codex/documentation  overview
  • Themes, child themes and plugins explained
  • Post formats, custom post types, custom fields explained — oh, my!

Assignments for week 7

  • Complete: Finish setting up local dev environment. Due July 9 by 10 p.m.
  • Read WordPress documentation entry excerpts to better understand customization options. Focus on fundamentals, key concepts and general steps.
  • Update pitch post: finish the pitch post you started by including what track you’re planning to do (front-end, back-end, full-stack) and what customizations you’ll include. View 2013 class pitch posts to see the required format and details. Due July 10 by 9 p.m.
  • Add PHP to the old HTML homepage you created. Due July 10 by 9 p.m.
  • Analysis/update post

Week 8 – July 12

Project management

  • What is agile? What is waterfall?
  • What is user-centered design?
  • How to manage technical projects
  • Steps/checklist
  • Using GitHub for projects
    • Issues
    • Pull requests
    • readme/wikis

Assignments for week 8

Week 9 – July 19

Final project questions, how to use FTP and guest speaker

  • Discuss projects and what customizations everyone is planning
  • How to update your live site using FTP
  • Guest speaker: Andy Nacin, a lead developer of WordPress
  • Project questions? Ask them!

Assignments for week 9

Week 10 – July 26

APIs and final project workshop

  • Discuss APIs
  • Work on your final projects
  • Ask the instructor questions
  • Ask your peers questions

Assignments for week 10

  • Work on final project: Due Sunday, Aug. 6 by 9 p.m.
  • Analysis/update post

Week 11 – Aug. 2

Final project Q&A and intro to command line

  • Intro to command line (CLI)
  • Final project updates and Q&A

Assignments for week 11

  • Work on final project: Due Sunday, Aug. 6 by 9 p.m.
  • Analysis/update post

Week 12 – Aug. 9

Final project demos

  • Share projects
  • Take notes for feedback to provide as GitHub issues and, when necessary, anonymous
  • Discussion

Assignments for week 12

  • Write a critique with constructive feedback for each site and send to instructor by Thursday, Aug. 10 by 10 p.m. for anything you’re not comfortable adding as a GitHub issue. The instructor will then compile the critiques, remove names and send by Friday night.
  • Make adjustments to your project based on feedback over the weekend. Send update message to instructor when initial changes (e.g. errors, bugs) are finished/fixed by Sunday, Aug. 13 by 9 p.m. 
  • Analysis/update post reflecting on final project and big-picture class thoughts and feedback by Monday at 10 p.m.

Week 13 – Aug. 16

Leveling up your skills and guest speaker

  • An overview of other web dev tools and what they are best used for
  • Guest speaker: Emily Chow, a design editor at The Washington Post

Assignment for week 13

  • “What’s next?” post: You’ve heard more about what more there is to learn, besides diving deeper into what we’ve started using in class. Now it’s time to create a plan for advancing your skills after the class. Devise a self-learning plan to use after the course ends, including goals and timetable, then post it to the class blog (tag: whats-next) Due: Sunday, Aug. 20 by 10 p.m.