CS 112 Syllabus - Fall 2016

1 Course Basics

1.2 Course Outcomes

  1. An ability to use procedural programming language concepts including expressions, decision statements, simple data types, Boolean logic, input/output, loop constructs, and procedures.
  2. An ability to combine programming techniques to solve problems of varying degrees of difficulty.
  3. An ability to refine computer programs through testing and debugging to ensure proper operation.
  4. An ability to find and understand programming language documentation to learn new information needed to solve programming problems.

1.3 Prerequisite:

C or better in MATH 104, 105, or 113, or sufficient score on the math placement test. Corequisite: CS Majors must also be enrolled in CS 101 this semester.

1.4 Contact Information

Professor office Sections
Mark Snyder ENGR 5346 -003, -006
msnyde14@gmu.edu 703.993.5624  
Yutao Zhong ENGR 5337 -004, -005
yzhong@gmu.edu 703.993.1773  

1.5 Text: Zyante

  • Required - Zyante online text.
    1. Sign up at zybooks.com.
    2. Enter zyBook code: GMUCS112Fall2016
    3. Subscribe (indicate your lecture section when prompted)

1.6 Piazza

  • All correspondence will go through Piazza You can send private messages to the instructors (professors, GTAs, UTAs all) as well as post public questions visible to all students, collaborate on responses, and tag everything by topic.
    • Unless you have a confidential matter to discuss directly with an individual professor, please do not email us directly, use a private piazza post or visit in person. Project help questions sent via email are extremely low priority, as they were sent to the wrong place.
  • Course discussions will take place on Piazza. Go sign up now so you don't miss announcements.
  • Documents such as GTA/UTA contacts, schedules, and lecture slides will be on piazza only.

1.7 Blackboard

  • Grades will be posted to Blackboard.
  • All assignments will be submitted (per published deadlines) via Blackboard.

1.8 In-Class Participation

  • TopHat.com
    • Required for class participation - TopHat registration ($24 for 4-month subscription). This is a clicker-alternative, where we will pose questions throughout the semester. You need to sign up with the corresponding Join code for your section, which will be announced by the start of class.
    • any web-enabled device can be used for this - a smartphone, a laptop, iPad, etc. There are super cheap tablets that cost about the same as a clicker, but then you can actually use it after our class!
    • Note that attempting to answer questions from home is not permitted. Any or all of your class participation score may be forfeited if we catch you doing so.
    • Join Codes: you will need to use the specific join code for your section of the course (the lecture section, not the lab section). They are:
      Section Professor Meets JOIN CODE
      003 Snyder TR 10:30am 530437
      004 Zhong TR noon 318561
      005 Zhong TR 9am 140786
      006 Snyder TR 3pm 029281

1.9 Optional Reading

  • Quite Optional - The Practice of Computing Using Python, second edition. William Punch and Richard Enbody. This is for students who want extra reading resources. You might be able to view a copy at Fenwick Library.
  • An eText version is available.

2 Grading

The course will have two tests and a final. Much of the effort during the semester will be completing projects, as well as regular assessments in lab (exercises, quizzes, and programming tasks).

In general, all grades should be available about one week after the deadline. We will often have Sunday project deadlines (plus 48 hours of late work accepted), so you would usually get a grade posted by the following Wednesday.

2.1 Semester Grade Composition

Category Percent Final Grade Notes
Projects 40% drop 1 lowest
Labs 10% drop 2 lowest
TopHat Q's 2% (participation. +1% EC for correctness)
Zyante readings 3% (drop 3 lowest-completion subsections)
Tests (10% each) 20% (10% each test)
Final Exam 25% (must pass final to pass class)

2.2 Calculating Semester Grades

  • Given the percentages above and the allowed dropped lowest grades, you should always be able to calculate your semester grade at any point in the semester.
  • There will be no make-up or extra-credit assignments at the end of the semester; your grade should be a measure of your semester-long progress.

Grades will be assessed on the following scale:

Grade Score Grade Score Grade Score Grade Score
A+ 98 % B+ 88% C+ 78% D 60%
A 92 % B 82% C 72% F 0%
A- 90 % B- 80% C- 70%    

2.3 Projects

Programming projects will be a primary focus of your experience, progress, and grade - each one should take multiple sessions of coding, with questions asked in between. This is the practice you need to learn, master, and internalize various concepts of the course. Don't be surprised if you're spending 5-20 hours on each one.

All project grades will be averaged together evenly.

2.3.1 Deadlines, Tokens

  • Each project has a posted deadline.
  • No late work is accepted 48 hours after the posted deadline.
  • Each student starts the semester with three One-Late-Day tokens.
  • Late projects either automatically consume a late-day token when available, or incur a 25% late penalty (
  • projects can be turned in at most 48 hours late, no exceptions.
  • each student gets three One-Late-Day tokens, which are automatically used by submissions that are between 0-48 hours late. you still must turn in work within 48 hours of the original deadline, even if you use tokens! (note that you can't use three tokens on a single project - pace yourself!)
  • each 24-hour period entered after the posted deadline either automatically spends a One-Late-Day token if you still have any remaining, or it lowers the maximum score by 25% (not quite the same as a 25% penalty).
  • the last project might not be allowed to be turned in late, to facilitate end-of-semester grading.
  • tokens are only allowed on projects; they can't be used on labs.
  • unused late-tokens will be worth a small bounty at the semester's end (0.25% of the semester grade).

2.3.2 Broken Code == Bad Scores

After the first two projects, any code turned in that does not run (immediately crashes due to errors), specifically on Python 3.4, will receive at most 50%. No exceptions. At this point, if the grader is able to quickly fix your code, you might get some points back. If the grader cannot immediately spot and fix the issue, you'll be fortunate to get any points at all.

  • Turning in code that runs is a big deal!

2.3.3 Turning it in on BlackBoard

You can submit your work an unlimited number of times to BlackBoard, and by default only the last version will be graded. You can also download your submitted attempts, and verify that you turned in a working copy.

  • Turning in the wrong files will likely result in a zero.
  • Catastrophic computer failure will not be cause for an extension. Use a backup service such as DropBox (or any cloud service), emailing yourself, storing to a USB drive, whatever it takes. Every semester multiple students' computers die, are stolen, or otherwise 'lose' projects. Don't be the student who forgot to (frequently) back up your work!

2.4 Lab Assessments

  • All lab assessment grades will be averaged together. Lab assessments will be weekly exercises, tasks, or quizzes, to be completed during lab. Time in lab will often be available to seek assistance on projects when you've completed the lab task.
  • Any missed lab assessment is simply missed, regardless of the reason why (travel, illness, work, traffic, receiving a major award, getting married, saving the universe, etc.)
  • We will drop the lowest two grades from this category.
  • If you choose to miss some early on, and later on have to miss for some understandable reason, that is too bad. Try to save the drops so you can actually throw out a bad grade, and not just hide a lazy zero. Pretending you don't have them is your best approach.

2.5 Tests and Final Exam

  • these tests will focus on performing programming.
  • all students must have their GMU identification available on testing days
  • the final exam is cumulative. If you perform better on the final exam than a previous test, we will replace the test grade with the final grade.
  • if you miss the final, there is nothing we can do for you. Don't miss the final!
  • the final will not be given early. You are starting the course with knowledge of the schedule.
  • You must pass the final exam to pass the course. This is a departmental policy for CS 112. You also need to have a passing percentage grade, of course, but failure on the final exam indicates a systemic lack of true progress. Generally, students who fail the final exam do not have a passing grade in the course anyways. ("passing" the final exam means scoring 60% or better.)
  • there will only be a curve if specific questions end up being too ambiguous or otherwise obviously unfair.

2.6 Contested Grades

  • If you feel points have been incorrectly deducted, contact the grader. For all projects and lab work, that is either your GTA who leads the lab section, or another GTA who signed their name on the grading comments. For the tests and final exam, that is your professor.
  • If you have not initiated contact within a week of receiving the grade (on BlackBoard), it is too late. We cannot entertain a swarm of contested grades at the eleventh hour to try to maximize end-of-semester grades. Keep up with your grades throughout the semester.
  • We strive to grade each student's work fairly and uniformly, often through specific test cases, which are often automated as part of the grading process. All GTAs coordinate together with a shared scoring breakdown and regularly communicate with each other before, during, and after the grading process to keep it fair.

3 The Honor Code

  • The honor code at George Mason is an important part of our academic culture. A degree from this institution should be a direct measure of your own progress and abilities, and as such at all times we must ensure that all work that should be your own is your own.
  • Note that the CS department doesn't have any "extra" policy for the honor code on top of the university's. The documents shared below help you to understand how it applies to programming and CS but they don't actually restrict it at all.
  • We take the honor code quite seriously. Any attempts at copying or sharing code, algorithms, or other violations of the honor code simply will not be tolerated. This includes using code found on the internet.
  • There are definitely opportunities to study, work, and learn together throughout this course - Zyante questions, exercises, and more. Mostly you will need to work independently for any sort of "test" and for projects.
  • As seductively simple as it may seem to just copy and paste work from a friend, or even to just work on the project on your own machines next to each other, remember that it is just as easy to compare your work automatically and electronically, and discover the similarities in text and structure. We use automated software to flag suspicious cases, and then review them by hand to find the cases that must be submitted to the Office of Academic Integrity. Repeat to yourself: it's not worth trying to cheat. We will catch it, and sadly but surely, we will turn it in.
  • The penalty for cheating will always be far worse than a zero grade, to ensure it's not worth taking the chance. Confirmed cases of cheating almost always translate into course failure.

3.1 Some Specifics and Links

  • All students will abide by GMU's Honor Code.
  • All work must be your own. If you are caught cheating, you and every other involved student must be turned in to the honor court.
  • See the CS Honor Code Policies to understand better what constitutes cheating in the CS setting. It clarifies some scenarios that are unique to our sorts of assignments.
  • See the CS Statement on Academic Integrity for more information.
  • Understanding the Honor Code: here are Dr. Snyder's own thoughts about the purpose of the honor code in a computer science course.

4 Learning Disabilities

  • Students with a learning disability or other condition (documented with GMU's Office of Disability Services) that may impact academic performance should speak with the professor ASAP to discuss appropriate accommodations. We are quite happy to assist as is appropriate, but it must be documented ahead of time. Bringing the accommodation paperwork with you to a scheduled assessment is far too late! Even if you don't know if you plan on utilizing the accommodations ahead of time, it's in your best interest to prepare ahead of time.