CS112 (SPARC) - Introduction to Computer Programming

Professor Contact Information

Dr. Kinga Dobolyi
Office: Engineering Building, room 4440
Email: kdobolyi@gmu.edu (preferred)
Phone: 703–993–4198
Office Hours: Thursdays 1:30pm—2:00pm, 3:00pm—4:30pm, 5:45pm—6:45pm, or by appointment. Please email the professor at least 48 hours in advance when seeking an appointment.

Course Outcomes

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


C or better in MATH 104 or MATH 105 or specified score on math placement test, or MATH 113 with a C or better. Prerequisite enforced by registration system.

TA Contact Information

You may visit any TA, not just the one assigned to you.


Required: CS112 class workbook: available on Amazon
Optional: free Python wiki: available wiki (simpler than a python textbook, but contains more syntax than we will cover)
Optional: The Practice of Computing Using Python by William Punch & Richard Enbody © 2011 (an eText version is available). This is optional; we will not refer to any specific chapters or material from the textbook this semester. There are also plenty of free online resources for Python that you can google (like the wiki above).

Class Structure

This class will be very different from your prior high school classes and other university classes in several ways:

  1. This class is self-paced, and therefore we will spend very little time lecturing in the classroom (if any). Instead, you will explore online videos, slides and readings before coming to class, and we will practice programming together in class. (This is called the flipped classroom model.)
  2. We will have two types of programming assignments: practice and assessment. You can work on practice assignments at any time, and do as many as you want. We encourage you to work with your classmates or anyone else that can help, and use online resources that you can find. Practice assignments will not count towards your grade, but will prepare you for assessments. When you are ready, you will schedule an assessment for your lab section, to be taken in lab. These will be done individually on a lab computer, and you must score at least a 70% to pass each one. You are allowed to try each assessment up to five times, though you may not repeat an assessment for a higher score once you've passed it.
  3. This class is self-paced in the sense that you can take assessments whenever you are ready. You can complete several assessments in the same week, or use several weeks to complete and assessment. If it takes longer than the semester to complete all the assessments, that is okay (although you cannot begin CS 211/222 until completing all CS 112 assessments); in such cases you will receive an IP (In Progress) grade on your transcipt until you finish all assessments. You must complete all assessments by the Incomplete deadline in the subsequent semester, otherwise your IP will automatically be converted into an F.
  4. You must attend class to work on practice assignments until you have completed all assessments. Attendance (while you still need to pass assessments) will be taken and is worth 10% of your overall grade. As a minimum, you must attend 25 of the 28 class meetings to earn this 10%; an exception is that if you complete all assessments before the end of the semester, you are automatically marked as attending all remaining class meetings.

Discussion Board Use

All students will be enrolled in the discussion forum for CS 112 on Piazza. You will receive a free invitation to this resource via your Mason email. We will all use the discussion board throughout the semester to ask and answer questions and to disseminate information. We will make every effort to answer questions within 24 hours, but usually sooner (often two hours during adult working hours). The instructor reserves the right to make any post public, should it benefit the class.

Practice Assignments

We offer several practice assignments to prepare for each assessment. Practice assignments should be done collaboratively; you can and should work on these assignments during class meetings (where the instructor and TA will be available), at home, or with your classmates at any place and anytime. Although we will track how many practice assignments you are working on and will complete, they will not be graded. If you are struggling with assessments, your best solution is to work more practice assignments.

Assessment Assignments

Labs will be offered weekly, and used for automated, online student assessments. Please request an appointment for an assessment in lab. Students must attempt at least one assessment a week (until you've passed all assessments). To encourage students to complete the course in a timely fashion, students will have up to 10% of their grade in the class reduced for missing to take an assessment every week.

All students must sign up for an assessment slot every week (until you've passed all assessments); if there is room, you will be allowed to take additional assessments each week on a first-come, first-served basis. Out of fairness to other students, you must show up for an assessment slot you schedule; failing to do so will count as failing that assessment (this way we can prevent a handful of students using up all assessment slots without showing up to take them). You may schedule one assessment per week, but you may take more assessments each week, assuming slots are available. In addition, you may take as many assessments in an assessment slot as you like; if for some reason you already know python/programming and you want to finish this course in a week or two, this is entirely possible. We budget 45 minutes for each assessment, but you're free to do them faster, and if there are free assessment slots later in the day (you won't know these until the day-of, however), then you can stay later and take another assessment(s).

Assessments will be graded in terms of percentage passing tests/questions. You must score at least a 70% to pass the assessment, and you have up to five chances to pass each assessment. Only the highest scoring assessment will count towards your final grade, and you may not make additional attempts after passing an assessment. All grading is automated so you will receive the score the computer tells you, or you will submit a scantron. We will not grade any assignments by hand, however, we reserve the right to reduce the grade on an assessment if we find evidence of soft-cheating (such as coding so that your answer only passes certain inputs) or hard-cheating (such as copying off your neighbor during an assessment).


Your final grade will be determined as follows:

        10% for class attendance
        up to -10% of your final grade for NOT attempting an assessment each week
        70% for the assessments
        20% for the final exam

Practice assignments do not count towards your grade, and the class has no exams besides the final.

Final course grades are calculated as follows:

A+ (>= 98.0%) A (>= 92.0%) A– (>= 90.0%)
B+ (>= 88.0%) B (>= 82.0%) B– (>= 80.0%)
C+ (>= 78.0%) C (>= 72.0%) C– (>= 70.0%)
D (>= 60.0%)
F (< 60.0%)

Please note that you must pass all assessments within five attempts in order to pass the course; failing any assessment will automatically result in a failing grade (F) in the course. You must also pass the final exam with a 60% or higher to pass the course.

Honor Code

As with all Mason courses, CS 112 is governed by the GMU Honor Code. Practice assignments may be done collaboratively with any resources, so there are no honor code restrictions. However, graded assessments carry with them an implicit statement that it is the sole work of the student.

Office Hours

Office hours are times that I commit to being in my office, door open, first come, first served. You do not need an appointment, and no appointments are made. If office hours are very busy, I will limit the amount of time I spend with each student to try and see all students for at least a little bit. If you cannot make my office hours, then I will suggest you visit the office hours of any of our TAs (unless it is a specific question a TA would be unable to answer, such as a course policy question not answered on the syllabus).

Email Use

I occasionally send important announcements to your Mason email account, so please read it regularly. I also use Piazza to send important announcements through email.

General class questions that might be useful or interesting to other students should be posted to the discussion board, not sent through email.

Learning Disabilities

If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see the instructor and contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS). All academic accommodations must be arranged through ODS.

Other Useful Campus Resources

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): (703) 993-2380
Writing Center: A114 Robinson Hall; (703) 993-1200
Ask a Librarian through the University Libraries


Tentative Class schedule


Please see the course homepage at http://www.cs.gmu.edu/~kdobolyi/sparc/ for a list of topics and assignments,