INFO 281-11
Seminar in Contemporary Issues
Topic: Crisis/Disaster Health Informatics
Fall 2019 Syllabus

Dr. Christine Hagar
Office Hours:
Virtually via e-mail

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning August 21, 6 am PDT unless you are taking an intensive or a one-unit or two-unit class that starts on a different day. In that case, the class will open on the first day that the class meets. 

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

This course explores the interconnectedness of information, people, and technologies in a crisis/disaster (e.g. hurricanes, earthquakes, pandemics) and the intersecting trajectories of social, technical and information perspectives in crises/disasters. In particular, it examines how information is generated, accessed, organized, coordinated, and disseminated during a crisis/disaster. The course also examines the multiple roles that information professionals and libraries can play in crisis/disaster preparedness and response.

The first half of the course focuses on crisis/disaster information topics in general. The second half of the course focuses on crisis/disaster health information: for example, health information sources accessed in crises/disasters; information dissemination during pandemics; health information provided by national and international organizations, and the challenges of providing health information in humanitarian crises. Students reflect on lessons learned from past crises/disasters and on strategies to manage future crises/disasters. This course equips students with the knowledge and skills to enable them to be key players in crisis/disaster preparedness and response.

Course Requirements


  • Participation & Engagement (Supports CLO1, CLO2, CLO3, CLO4, CLO5)
    Students are required to make thoughtful contributions to discussion questions and to respond to their classmates' contributions (20 points - 4 discussions, 5 points each).
  • Reflective Blog (Supports CLO1, CLO2, CLO3, CLO4, CLO5)
    Students will write 4 blog posts - these may include comments and reflections on: the weekly topics, an information perspective on a current crisis/disaster, opinion pieces/blogs/articles written by crisis/disaster commentators (10 points - 4 posts, 2.5 points each).
  • Crisis Informatics Information Resource (CIIR) (Supports CLO6)
    Students will create a Crisis Informatics Information Resource (CIIR) on a crisis/disaster of their choice using ProQuest RefWorks. The CIIR may be related to the topic of the final paper (15 points).
  • Pandemic Movie Response (Supports CLO2, CLO3, CLO4, CLO5)
    Students are required to give an information perspective response to a movie concerning a global pandemic. Students will need to gain access to the movie (15 points).
  • Final Paper (Supports CLO1, CLO2, CLO3, CLO4, CLO5
    Students will develop a final paper proposal on a topic of their choice, write the paper (12 pages), and create a presentation to share with the class (final paper 25 points, proposal 5 points, presentation 10 points).

Further information about the assignments is given on the Canvas course website.

Course Calendar

Date Topic and assignment due dates
Unit 1
Aug 21- Sept 1

Introductions, syllabus, course requirements

Submit Your Introduction to the Discussion Forum

Unit 2
Sept 2
Defining crisis informatics

Crisis life cycle: preparation, response, and recovery
Unit 3
Sept 9

Information needs and information seeking in crises/disasters

Blog Post #1 Due September 15

Unit 4
Sept 16

Information systems used in crisis/disaster management

Using social media in crises/disasters

Discussion #1 Due September 22

Unit 5
Sept 23

Big data and crisis mapping

Digital volunteering

Unit 6
Sept 30

Using traditional technologies in crisis/disaster response

Human-centered responses to crises/disasters

Blog Post #2 Due October 6

Unit 7
Oct 7

Roles for libraries and archives in crises/disasters

Discussion #2 Due October 13

Unit 8
Oct 14

Trust and information in crises/disasters

Discussion #3 Due October 20

Unit 9
Oct 21

Disaster Health Information Outreach Network

Crisis Informatics Information Resource (CIIR) Due October 27

Blog Post #3 Due October 27

Unit 10
Oct 28

Public health information

Information dissemination during pandemics

Final Paper Proposal Due November 3

Discussion #4 Due November 3

Unit 11
Nov 4

Health information in humanitarian crises/disasters

Pandemic Movie Response Due November 10

Unit 12
Nov 11

Case studies

Crisis/disaster preparedness and response for special populations (e.g. disabled, visually impaired)

Blog Post #4 Due November 17

Unit 13
Nov 18

Writing Week
Unit 14
Nov 25


Final Paper Due December 1

Unit 15
Dec 2

Wrap-up and course reflections 

Final Paper Presentation Due December 8

Grading and assignment due dates

Participation & Engagement 20 pts
Reflective Blog  10 pts
Crisis Informatics Information Resource (CIIR) 15 pts
Pandemic Movie Response      15 pts
Final Paper Proposal       5 pts
Final Paper  25 pts
Final Paper Presentation 10 pts


All assignments must be submitted by midnight (Pacific Time) on the day the assignment is due. Late assignments will be reduced by 20% of point value per day late. Please contact Dr. Hagar if a medical, family or personal emergency prevents you from submitting an assignment on time.

Course Workload Expectations

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Prerequisites

INFO 281 has no prequisite requirements.

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Explain the importance of information in crisis/disaster response.
  2. Recognize the inter-connectedness of information, people and technology in a crisis/disaster.
  3. Analyze information needs and information seeking behaviors of different actors in a crisis/disaster.
  4. Compare and evaluate technologies and human-centered approaches that support communities in a crisis/disaster.
  5. Identify the factors that impact the integration and coordination of information in a crisis/disaster.
  6. Create a crisis/disaster information resource.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 281 supports the following core competencies:

  1. H Demonstrate proficiency in identifying, using, and evaluating current and emerging information and communication technologies.
  2. J Describe the fundamental concepts of information-seeking behaviors and how they should be considered when connecting individuals or groups with accurate, relevant and appropriate information.
  3. O (For students entering from Spring 2015 onwards) Understand global perspectives on effective information practices that are supportive of cultural, economic, educational, or social well-being.


Required Textbooks:

  • Hagar, C. (Ed.). (2012). Crisis information management: Communication and technologies. Chandos Publishing. Available through Amazon: 1843346478arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Grading Scale

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100 A
94 to 96 A minus
91 to 93 B plus
88 to 90 B
85 to 87 B minus
82 to 84 C plus
79 to 81 C
76 to 78 C minus
73 to 75 D plus
70 to 72 D
67 to 69 D minus
Below 67 F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation. You must repeat the class if you wish to stay in the program. If - on the second attempt - you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

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