Syllabus/Class Policies

Instructor: Dr. Michael Weeks
Computer Science Department

There may be additional readings besides the textbook(s), including (but not limited to) articles. Also, you are expected to read along in the textbook whether or not you are told to read specific pages.

If you do not have the prerequisites (or equivalents from another university) shown on your GSU records, you may be dropped from class at any time. It is your responsibility to make sure that this does not happen. Any exceptions to the prerequisites, granted by the computer sceince department's undergraduate academic advisor or the department chair, must be in writing.

The Final Exam will be given in the classroom. See the calendar for day and time. Also see the official GSU webpage for information about the Final Exam. If this information is different from what is given in the class calendar, inform the professor immediately.

Regular completion of all assignments, especially outside reading and the accomplishment of assignments, is critical to succeed in this course. The professor recommends spending about 20 mintues the night before each class reviewing the material from your notebook. Make sure to thoroughly explain your answers in writing.


Plagiarism is using someone else's work as your own. For example, if you copy someone else's words (or figures) from a website, and paste them into your document, this is plagiarism. Students caught doing this may be expelled from the University, and/or given a failing grade. No copying and pasting from the Internet or any other source is allowed. Plagiarism is determined solely by the professor, and cases of plagiarism will be handled at the professor's discretion. That is, the professor will decide, on a case-by-case basis, the penalty(ies) of plagiarised work. Penalties include giving the student(s) an F for the semester, lowering the student(s) overall grade by a letter grade, and giving a 0 on the assignment.

Like quoting what someone says in an essay, you should attribute the source of any code in your programs, too. That is, if you include a line (or more) of someone else's code in your work, you should document where it came from in the comments before and after the code.

Students must work individually on quizzes and exams without any assistance from persons or things. Any student found to be cheating on an examination will receive a score of 0 for that exam, and possibly be given an F in the class. It is the student's responsibility to protect work from copying. No outside help is permitted. If a book or paper is used, it must be referenced and not copied. Plagiarized work is determined solely by the professor and is graded solely at the professor's discretion.

Most assignments are intended to be completed individually. When an assignment is for a group, the assignment will clearly state this.

Office hours and the office location are given above. To schedule an appointment outside of these hours, contact the instructor with 3 suggested dates and times when you can meet, and be prepared to meet at one of those times. Office hours may be canceled occasionally because of meetings, seminars, talks, conferences, etc. Office hours for the Teaching Assistant will be given in class.

What are office hours?
Office hours are times that an instructor (or TA) sets aside to be available, so that you can come by and discuss things. The times change every semester. Office hours are held only during the regular semester (i.e. not during the week of final exams, and not between semesters). You do not need to make an appointment (the exceptions are noted below). I typically only cancel office hours when I'm out of town, and I'll let you know this in advance, in class. You do not need to ask me "will you be in your office for the next office hours?" since the answer is "yes" unless already noted otherwise. If you ask me that question, I will think that you do not understand office hours, that you don't pay attention in class, or that you've been let down by other instructors.

Sometimes during office hours, no one comes to see me, so I'll spend the time working on something. I leave the door open, or at least partially open, to indicate that I'm there. If the door is closed, you can knock on it; this usually means that I'm talking with someone about a private matter. Other times during office hours, there are students waiting for me when I arrive, and keep me busy until the end. I never know what to expect. If I am talking to a student about subject material, and I see other students outside the door who are in the same class, I may invite them in.

Some professors may list their office hours as "by appointment only", which is an exception. Some may list hours and include "or by appointment". I may answer questions immediately after class, assuming that I am available, and that the classroom is available, though you should not expect this. Also, this works for some things and not others. I may refuse to answer a question asked right after class if it is something the entire class needs to hear, and have you ask me at the start of the next class. Questions about material should be asked during class (or on a class discussion webpage), since you are likely not the only one with that question. If you have a personal issue that will take time to address, you need to see me during office hours.

Unless otherwise specified in class, work will be due on the date given on the class web-page, on the assignment itself, or in the attached calendar. Late work will be accepted by the instructor at the instructor's discretion. A late penalty of 10% will be applied for work turned in late, within 7 calendar days of the original due date, with the exception of "checked grading", explained below. After this, late work will not be accepted. Additional points may be deducted for errors. Late copies of any work due during the last 3 classes will not be accepted so that the grades can be turned in on time. Any exceptions to this will be solely at the instructor's discretion.

Work is NOT accepted via e-mail, unless the instructions specifically say otherwise. All assignments must be turned in to the professor; that is, you cannot turn your work in to the teaching assistant. Doing so may result in your work receiving a 0 score. Remember that you can leave papers in the professor's mail box in the department. If it is time-sensitive, such as late work, kindly ask one of the staff members to time-stamp it for you.

Attendance is vital to success in this class. Roll will be taken during class, and a late student will be counted as absent. If a student is marked absent 2 or more classes in a row then he (or she) may be dropped from this class. Anyone missing approximately 10% of the classes without notifying the professor in advance and obtaining the professor's concurrence may be withdrawn from the course or receive a lower (possibly failing, e.g. WF or F) course grade at the discretion of the professor; anyone receiving V.A. benefits will be reported to the Dean's Office in these circumstances. Students are responsible for all material covered or assigned in class whether or not it is in the text. See the current GSU Catalog for university guidelines.

If a student is not present when an assignment is given back, or when a handout is given to the class, then he/she is responsible for obtaining this item by visiting during office hours. Students are responsible for all material covered in class or in assigned reading. If you miss a class, be sure to get a copy of the notes from a fellow classmate.

For classes with team projects: Be aware that if you miss class, you will be hurting your team partner(s) as well as yourself. You may be removed from your team for excessive absences, including meetings held by your team outside of the classroom.

If you are disruptive during class, you may be counted as absent that day, or you may be asked to leave, or both. Do not come to class unless you plan to take it seriously. You may also be marked as absent if you are not paying attention.

Disruptive classroom behavior will not be tolerated. Examples include (but are not limited to): sleeping, playing games, reading materials not-related to the class, viewing web-sites that are not related to the class, working on homework for another class, texting (or other use of your cell phone), walking in late, talking to each other, and noise generated by an electronic device such as a pager/cell phone. Basically, any rude, obnoxious, or distracting behavior falls under this category. See the student catalogs for more information. You may be withdrawn from the class or receive a lower (possibly failing, e.g. WF or F) course grade at the discretion of the professor due to disruptive behavior.

Electronic devices (such as cell phones) should be turned off before class begins. "Vibrate mode" does not count. If you cannot turn off your phone, you should leave it at home. If your phone rings (or vibrates or does anything disruptive), YOU will be held responsible.

Pop quizzes may be given to the class, at the instructor's discretion, therefore it is important to attend all classes. These pop quizzes (if any are given) will factor into the quiz/test grade, as worth 10% of a test. If you get below an 80% score on a pop quiz, it indicates that you need to dedicate more time to studying the material.

Food and Drinks are not allowed at any time in the classroom and/or computer lab. Before leaving the classroom and/or lab students should make sure to log off from the computers and leave the area neat. Students found misusing or abusing the computer systems may lose access to the computer systems and/or be subjected to any other any other necessary action to preserve, conserve, and maintain the room and the equipment.

Your time in the classroom should be spent only on class-related activities. For example, you should not check your e-mail during class, nor read books unrelated to the topic, nor work on homework from another class. You may be asked to leave otherwise.

There are some things that are best discussed in person. Even a simple "yes/no" question may really need a "yes, but" or "no, and" explanation in the answer. If you do send me an e-mail, please make sure your name appears somewhere in the e-mail, say which class you are in, and keep the content as direct and to-the-point as possible. I cannot answer every e-mail that I get, so don't expect a response. If you must ask me question, come see me during office hours.

I have established "class discussion pages", and I check these regularly. The advantage of the class discussion page is that only students can post to it, and that ALL students can see the response. I encourage you to use this system. Do not e-mail me a question that should be posted on the class discussion page. Due to the huge volume of e-mail that I receive, I give the class discussion page a higher priority. Also, I encourage you to answer the questions that your fellow students post.

When I have GTAs, graders, or GLAs working for me, I do not expect them to answer work-related e-mails outside of business hours or during the weekend. If you send one of them a question on Friday afternoon, you should not expect a response before Monday morning.

I have my spam filter set up to give precendence to e-mails with the class number in the subject, or when the sender's e-mail address is a GSU student account.

If I send you an e-mail, do send a response indicating that you received it. It can be a simple response like "OK", "thanks", or "I got it". I may send an e-mail with "FYI" in the subject or in the first lines, which stands for "for your information", it means (at least to me) that I do not expect you to send me a response. If you are unsure, like if you get an "FYI" e-mail from an employer, sending a response is a good idea.

If you have a religious holiday, recognized by the GSU administration, that prevents you from working on a certain day, notify the professor during the first week of class.

Any exceptions to these policies will be solely at the professor's discretion. For consideration of an exception (e.g. missing a test due to hospitalization), be prepared to provide documentation (e.g. a note from a MD physician). Remember that just because you provide documentation does not mean that you will be granted an exception. If you know about a problem in advance, notify the professor as soon as possible.

If you want an exception due to special circumstances, such as you (have missed/will miss) (class/an assignment/quiz/test/whatever), you should give me a letter describing your situation and what you need from me, and attach supporting documentation. It should be a "stand-alone" letter, with enough details that I do not have to make any guesses. Details include your name, your e-mail address, the date you wrote the letter, the days you are writing about, what class you are in, the meeting time of the class, what it is that you missed, why you missed it, what you plan to do about it or are asking me to do, etc. After I receive the hard-copy of the letter and supporting documents, I will make a decision about the way to proceed. Remember that you are asking for an exception. You are essentially asking me to treat you differently than other students in the class, so your reason should be clear and compelling.

It is my policy that grades for all 1xxx - 3xxx courses be computed such that the student's performance on any/all work done outside of class and submitted for a grade cannot raise the student's final course score, but can lower it.

These are the steps that will be followed:

  1. Compute the average of the exams [= EX_AVG]
  2. Compute the average of all grades [= TOT_AVG]
  3. Determine minimum of EX_AVG and TOT_AVG = FIN_AVG
  4. Convert FIN_AVG to a letter grade (see grade ranges above)

Some assignments may be graded on a simple "check" system: we verify that you did the work; that it contains proper explanations, assumptions, and comments; that it appears to be correct; that it is legible, neat, stapled, and otherwise presentable; that it includes proper identifying information (like your name, the assignment, the due date, etc.); and that it is on time. Assignments called programming challenges will be typically graded on this scale. Note that "appears to be correct" is up to the grader to determine.

"Checked grading" will be typically a check (full credit), a check-minus (7/10th credit), an X (half credit), or a zero (no credit). In rare cases, there might be a check-plus (full credit plus bonus points). The grader may assign other grades as he/she sees fit, such as a percentage, but this is up to the grader and may be overruled by the instructor.

To be clear, these "programming challenges" and other assignments scored with "checked grading" deviate from the normal policy on late work. A late programming challenge will result in a lower grade, e.g. from a check to a check minus, from a check minus to an X, or from an X to a 0.