MACS265 - Innovation Illinois: From Accessible Design to Supercomputing Cultures

Location: Online
Lectures: Tuesday 11:00am - 12:50pm 
Labs: Thursday 11:00am - 12:50pm
Instructor Team: 
MACS265 Teaching Team, (please use this email for course correspondence + cc Adrian)
Adrian Wong,
Anita Say Chan,
Jorge Rojas-Alvarez,
Mitchell Oliver,

Course Description

What are the social foundations to innovation practices? How do they emerge? Who’s behind them? What makes them transformative? Innovation Illinois introduces the histories of the varied, world-changing interdisciplinary innovations from the University of Illinois that bridged students and researchers in engineering, humanities, sciences and the arts. We will explore how local histories of Illinois innovations help us understand today’s innovation trends and processes, from contemporary accessibility design and wheelchair sports and kneeling buses, to computer-composed music, online education, public media, and the first massively-used Internet browser.
For the duration of the course, we’ll work with various perspectives from different parts of our campus to imagine, research, and develop—via paper, multimedia, and code-based prototypes–future innovation ideas. We’ll be introduced to and get to experiment with mixed media resources and prototyping methods, spanning on- and off-line archives, digital editing, low and high-fidelity prototyping, and online data collection. We’ll also “visit” campus sites and speak to key figures related to Illinois’ world-changing interdisciplinary innovation histories and collaborations. Our work will culminate in a research project that surveys interdisciplinary practice on our campus, and explores innovation as a phenomenon that necessarily emerges from creative innovation cultures that cross the arts, humanities, social sciences, and computer science.

Projects will use a variety of primary sources, from interviews and news media to data collected online and materials drawn from the University Archives. Your work throughout the course will build oral and written communication skills, skills in interdisciplinary team collaboration, accessibility in user interfaces, critique, and skills in mixed methods for research and design. By the conclusion of the course, students will be able to recognize and narrate various “Illinois firsts” that will inform their design and innovation practice well after they leave the campus. You will further have the chance to explore a means to extend an Illinois’ legacy with design exercises that address accessibility and inclusivity.

All readings and media resources for the course are available through the Readings/Schedule page.

Student Project and Paper
Students will develop a research project that explores innovation’s multi-disciplinarity and surveys creative innovation practices across Illinois. Students will develop surveys that gather feedback on what inspires, supports and fosters innovation practices in diverse settings across the UIUC campus – and will gather resources from archives to develop insights on relevant past innovation practices. Students will meet with the course instructors to consult on project ideas. All projects will incorporate materials/draw analysis from the University Archives, coverage from The Daily Illini or Illinois news resources, online data, and data from an interview conducted with either a UIUC alum or key campus contact/leader from UIUC’s past or present. Interviewees can include:

  • An alum from organizations we’ve covered in class, such as Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) or the Black Student Association (BSA)
  • An alum who is a friend or family member
  • A representative/contact from any of our site visits: a DRES coach, a University and Student Life Archivist, an Alice Campbell Hall Exhibit Curator, etc.
  • A contact from a key report or document found in the archives (who might have been part of a student or campus organization)
  • A contact from a key report or document from an organization relevant to your topic area
  • A contact from a contemporary campus actor who represents “innovation” practice related to your topic

Students will also design an outreach and communications strategy as part of the project deliverable. This should map a multi-pronged plan that can gather 10 or more individual responses for the survey. Your outreach plan should be included with your final paper’s submission as an appendix.

Students will present their work in class with a visual presentation (8-10 minutes, with additional time for questions) at the end of the semester. You’re welcome to use a standard slideshow format. If you’re inclined toward multimedia contexts, you may also create something unique with instructor approval (examples include: use of creative visualization techniques, videos, podcasts, archives, apps, etc.). Email your slides or visual presentation to the teaching team by 9:00am on the last day of class (we will not meet during the exam period).

Students will write a research paper (8-10 pages, double-spaced, 12-point Times, 1-inch margins) that summarizes insights from the survey process and results on your Subject Area, drawing on readings from the syllabus and resources from the class and assignments to put your findings in dialogue with past innovation practices, and any other appropriate secondary resources. (i.e. Wikipedia doesn’t count, but feel free to ask for help finding good sources).
Final papers should present a bibliography of sources, properly incorporated and cited (APA or MLA, using in-line citations, Purdue OWL is highly recommended). Include three sources from the syllabus and at least five additional sources (3+ of which should be primary).
Students will be educated and trained in the responsible conduct of research, including informed consent. Students will have the option to archive their final papers in the Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship (IDEALS).

Weekly readings will be posted to the Schedule page of this site. Students will be given author access and will be able to post assignments. I encourage you to create a pseudonym for your work, though your pseudonym can be the same as your legal name if you wish. Please tag all assignments according to their assigned week. If you have any questions or technical issues, please feel free to reach out to Adrian,, and cc the teaching team,  

  • Participation: 20%
    • The class is designed to be lively, engaging and fun! You will be a vital part of this experience. As far as technologically possible, you will be expected to engage in class discussion with your video on (10%). Starting week 2, each Tuesday class will begin with a 1-3 question reading quiz (5%), which will serve as a launching point for class discussion. At the end of each Tuesday class, you will be given a few minutes to write a reflection of the day’s key takeaways (5%).
  • Weekly blogs: 20%
    • Weekly blogs as reading response and lab exercises/reflections (min. 500 words) should be posted at least 24 hrs before each Tuesday’s class, using your pseudonym and tagged appropriately. You will be asked to read and respond to at least one of your peers’ blog at least one hour before the start of Tuesday’s class. Your reading response will either engage with a specific question given to you in advance; or it will identify arguments, common themes, oppositions, provocations and issues worthy of further discussion in class. Use of visuals and quotations are terrific(!), but should not be used as filler or in place of analysis. Because each week’s readings align closely with the theme of that week’s class, “makeups” are of limited learning value and will only be accepted on a case by case basis.
  • Annotated Bibliography: 20%
    • Students will develop an annotated bibliography throughout the course. This will be an invaluable resource to you when preparing for the final presentation and writing the final paper. A template for an annotated bibliography and rubric will be provided during the first week of the course. If you have any questions at all about the annotated bibliography, please reach out. This assignment is designed to support your critical reading skills and can be used for all your future classes and scholarship.
  • Project proposal: 10%
  • Final presentation: 15%
  • Final paper: 15%

Attendance Policy
Attendance will be recorded for each class, so please be on time. Unexcused late arrivals and early departures may count as absences and diminish your grade for class participation. If you must be absent, it is your responsibility to inform me beforehand or submit a valid excuse immediately upon returning to class. Excuses for absences during the course will not be accepted at the end of the semester. Accumulating three unexcused absences will automatically lower your grade by half a letter grade (ie. A- to B+). Accumulating five unexcused absences will result in a full letter grade lowering (A- to B-). More than 8 absences will result in an automatic failure.

Please let the instructors know as soon as possible if you have a letter from DRES or need other accommodations. Should you ever need anything during the semester don’t hesitate to ask.

Tech Policy
Please let the instructors know ASAP if you have any challenges to participating in this class in any way, either using zoom or posting your assignments to the website. We will work with you to the best of our ability to make sure that the technological aspects of your experience are as smooth as possible. If at any point you face a technological challenge, please reach out.

Academic Integrity
UIUC Student Code of Policies and Regulations specifies that students must refrain from violations of academic integrity (cheating, plagiarism, fabrication and other forms of obstruction); from behavior that may lead to suspicion of such violations; and from behavior that helps others commit such violations. You can read the Code at:

Emergency Procedures
Meeting requirements of the Campus Emergency Operations Plan, this course has a two-fold emergency plan.

Plan A for Incident-Specific Emergencies: One cell phone (your instructor’s) in our classroom will remain on during lecture so that we are able to receive emergency calls or texts from the Illini-Alert system.  All other cell phones should remain turned off. In the event of an incident-specific emergency, instructions will be relayed to us by cell phone and you are asked to remain calm, stay with your instructor, and be prepared to follow emergency instructions as they are relayed to you.

Plan B for More General Emergencies: You will be asked to move to a safe place either indoors (for instance, remaining in the basement in the case of a tornado) or outdoors (for instance, to the quad in the case of a fire, or gas or chemical leak). Remain with your instructor until a class register has been called, all students are accounted for, and class can either be resumed or dismissed. Students with physical disabilities who require assistance in leaving the room should consult with instructors at the start of the semester so that we can make the necessary advance arrangements to ensure your safety.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Statement: Any student who has suppressed their directory information pursuant to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) should self-identify to the instructor to ensure protection of the privacy of their attendance in this course.
See for more information on FERPA.

Sexual Misconduct Policy and Reporting Statement: The University of Illinois is committed to combating sexual misconduct. Faculty and staff members are required to report any instances of sexual misconduct to the University’s Title IX and Disability Office. In turn, an individual with the Title IX and Disability Office will provide information about rights and options, including accommodations, support services, the campus disciplinary process, and law enforcement options.
A list of the designated University employees who, as counselors, confidential advisors, and medical professionals, do not have this reporting responsibility and can maintain confidentiality, can be found here:
Other information about resources and reporting is available here:

Inclusivity Statement: We are all responsible for creating a positive and safe environment that allows all students equal respect and comfort. I expect each of you to help establish and maintain an environment where you and your peers can contribute without fear of ridicule or intolerant or offensive language.
Students who have particular concerns may discuss these with me during office hours, or send an email, so that I might address those concerns.