Policies for CSC 2/454

Tentative plans call for six programming assignments, in a variety of languages (probably some subset of Ada, C, C++, C#, Java, OCaml, Perl, Python, Ruby, and Scheme).  Expect the workload to be heavy.  You will probably write at least as much code in this class as you did in 173, and what you write will be much more subtle.  Don’t procrastinate!  Also be sure to read all on-line documentation carefully. 

For some assignments you will have the option of working in pairs.  You can also work alone if you prefer.  In most cases the partners in a pair will receive the same grade, but I reserve the right to assign different grades if I have reason to believe that partners did significantly different amounts of work.  Team membership will be self-selected, and can vary from assignment to assignment. 

Grading standards are documented on a separate web page.

Grades will be uploaded periodically to Blackboard, the University’s on-line course management system.  Please check your grades periodically to make sure that everything has been entered correctly. 

Extra Credit

There will be opportunities for extra credit on many of the assignments and exams.  Extra credit will be considered after making the first cut at letter grades for the course.  If you’re near the top of your grade bracket, or the amount of extra work you’ve done is particularly large, you can expect it to push you up a grade.  Three students (out of 63) benefitted from this in 2015; three (out of 31) in 2013. 

Attendance and Class Participation

Class attendance is mandatory.  Please arrive on time.  I expect to start at 10:25 sharp, and late arrivals disturb the folks who are already there. 

My goal is to spend class time answering questions and explaining material in ways that complement the text.  In other words, lecture should complement the text, not rehash it.  This means, of course, that  reading is mandatory, and must be completed before the corresponding lecture.  If no one has questions or suggested discussion topics, I will call on you—so be prepared!

As a general rule, if there’s something you don’t understand, make me stop and explain it.  There are probably a dozen people sitting around you who didn’t understand it either, but don’t have the nerve to say so.  Likewise, if I’m belaboring something that everyone understands, prod me to move on. 

My lecture notes are available on-line, but please note that they come with no guarantee.  In particular, I reserve the right on exams to ask about anything I’ve covered in class, even if it isn’t in the book or lecture notes. 


We will be running workshops in CSC 254, much as in 171-2-3: talented upper-level students who have taken the class before will host peer-led, small group, team learning sessions at a time of mutual convenience.  Participation in workshops is mandatory: experience suggests it makes a huge difference in what students get out of the course—and correspondingly in the grades that they receive. 

No Late Assignments

It is my strict policy not to accept late assignments.  Exceptions will be made only under the most dire of circumstances.  Note, however, that I am extremely generous with partial credit, so turn in what you have.

Every semester I have students who let a due date pass.  When I ask them what happened they say “Oh, I didn’t finish, so I didn’t turn anything in.”  Then I have to give them a zero.  If they had turned in even some reasonable preliminary thoughts on how they might have done the assignment—without a single line of code—they often could have received as much as 30% of the total points.  This can easily make the difference between letter grades at the end of the semester. 

So if it looks like you aren’t going to make a due date, don’t keep debugging down to the wire.  Stop an hour early and take the time to organize what you have and put together a write-up that presents it in the best possible light.  Your transcript will love you for it. 

Academic Honesty

Student conduct in CSC 2/454 is governed by the College Academic Honesty Policy, the Undergraduate Laboratory Policies of the Computer Science Department, and the University's Acceptable Use Policy for Information Technology.  I helped to write two of these policies personally.  I believe in them strongly, and will enforce them aggressively. 

The following are details specific to CSC 2/454. 

Exams and quizes in CSC 2/454 must be strictly individual work. 

Collaboration on programming assignments among team members is of course expected.  Collaboration on assignments across teams is encouraged at the level of ideas.  Feel free to ask each other questions, brainstorm on algorithms, or work together at a whiteboard.  You may not claim work as your own, however, unless you transform the ideas into substance by yourself.  Among other things, this means that you must leave any brainstorming sessions with no written or electronic notes—only what you carry in your head. 

If you use the work of others (e.g., you download a function from the web at the last minute so that you can get the rest of your project working), then (1) either you must have the author’s explicit permission or the material must be publicly available, and (2) you must label what you copied, clearly and prominently, when you hand it in.  Note that you will get points only for the parts of your assignment that you wrote yourself. 

To minimize the temptation to steal code, all students are expected to protect any directories or on-line repositories in which they do their work. 

For purposes of this class, academic dishonesty is defined as

Note that grades in CSC 2/454 are assigned on the basis of individual merit (there is no fixed curve), so there is no benefit—even a dishonest one—to be gained by sabotaging the work of others.

I work under the assumption that students are honest.  I will not go looking for exceptions.  If I discover one, however, I will come down on it very hard.  Over the past few years, I have submitted about a dozen cases to the College Board on Academic Honesty.  All resulted in major penalties for the students involved.

Last Change:  27 September 2016 / Michael Scott's email address