CPSC 329 Software Development Fall 2008

CPSC 329 Course Policies

You are expected to be familiar with the course policies stated below. Ignorance of a policy is not an excuse for violating a policy or being surprised when it is applied to you, and will not exempt you from its penalties.

Email/Web Policy

You are expected to regularly check your HWS email and the course web page. Announcements, assignments, handouts, and other information relevant to the class as a whole will be posted on the course web page. Email will be used in the case of a particularly time-sensitive announcement (e.g. an announcement about a homework which is due in the next class meeting) or for matters which are only relevant to a few people in the class.

Assignments and Evaluation

Readings: You will quickly notice that the two Head First books are not typical textbooks - and while the reading assignments may seem like a lot of pages, the pages are not the typical densely-packed textbook pages. You will get the most out of the readings if you do them interactively - when the text presents a question or exercise, think about how you'd answer it before continuing on. Differences between your answer and the book's can be discussed in class.

Reading Reflections: Class periods will generally be more discussion-oriented than lecture-oriented so it is important to come to class prepared by having done (and thought about) the reading. To encourage this, reading assignments will often be paired with a few reflection questions. Answers to these questions are due by 10:30 am on the day for which the reading is assigned.

Labs: Many lab periods will have lab exercises to complete. In many cases you should be able to finish most or all of the exercises during the lab period if you come to lab prepared by having read the handout; anything not completed during the lab period must be finished as homework. Lab assignments will generally be due one week after the lab in which they are assigned.

Homework: In the first part of the course, there will be a series of homework assignments in order to gain practice with the topics discussed. Some homework assignments will be written; others will involve programming. Homework assignments will often be discussed in class after they are due, and so will typically not be accepted late. In addition, many homeworks will build on previous assignments so it is important to complete each one.

Projects: The second part of the course will be dominated by two large projects where you will get to practice and apply your design and implementation skills. The first will be a team project; the second may be completed individually or as part of a team.

Final Exam: The final exam will be due in the registrar-scheduled time slot. More details about the exam (including whether it is a take-home or in-class exam) will be announced later in the semester.

Final Grades: Final grades in this course will be computed as follows:

  • Reading Reflections: 5%
  • Labs: 20%
  • Homework: 20%
  • Projects: 45%
  • Final Exam: 10%

Attendance: You are expected to attend and be on time for all class meetings. Late arrivals may be marked as absent. Attendance is not explicitly factored into your final grade, but note that a large number of absences often negatively affects your grade. In addition, the number of unexcused absences is taken into account when considering borderline final grades.

Participation: You are also expected to participate in class. This does not mean that you have to volunteer for everything, but you should be actively engaged in class - i.e. you are paying attention and contribute meaningfully to the class on a regular basis. You should not hesitate to ask questions about the course material, either in class or outside of class via email or office hours - if you remain confused about something, it will make the next topic that much harder.

Late Policy

Late homeworks and exams will only be accepted as outlined under "Missing Class / Make-Up Policy" and "Extensions / Rescheduling Exams" below. (Homeworks will generally not be accepted late because they will often be discussed in class after they are handed in. Exceptions will be noted when the homework is assigned.)

Late labs and projects will not be accepted more than two class periods after they are due. (e.g. an assignment due Friday will not be accepted after the following Wednesday) Late work will be penalized 5% if turned in by midnight on the due date and 10% per day or part of day thereafter. (e.g. an assignment due Friday will be penalized 30% if it is turned in on Monday) Deductions are calculated as a percentage of the total points possible on the assignment, not the number of points you earned. This policy is intended to discourage habitually late handins and to prevent one late assignment from taking away time needed to work on the next, while still recognizing that sometimes there are circumstances where one just needs a bit more time.

Late reading reflections will not be accepted. If you miss one, you can make up for it with extra credit on another assignment.

No work will be accepted after the end of the timeslot in which the final exam is scheduled.

Note that computer labs may not be available at all hours or over college holidays, so be sure to take this into account if you are relying on those facilities. Furthermore, labs tend to get very busy right before deadlines, especially at the end of the semester. "I couldn't get my work done because I couldn't find a computer!" is not a valid excuse.

Missing Class / Make-Up Policy

Excused absences include absences due to sports competitions, official Colleges activities such as musical performances or debate competitions, academically-related events such as attending a conference, religious observances, serious illness, or personal or family emergencies. A reason must be provided in order for such an absence to be counted as an excused absence.

Missing class for other reasons - such as being too busy, oversleeping, or leaving early for a vacation - is considered to be an unexcused absence.

Students are responsible for acquiring any notes, handouts, assignments, and other material missed as the result of an absence, whether excused or unexcused. This should be done promptly to avoid falling behind.

Making up work (missed exam or assignment deadline) will only be allowed in the case of an excused absence, and only when it was not possible to have made arrangements in advance. Making up an exam requires documentation from an appropriate person (dean, doctor, etc) to validate the reason for the absence. Arrangements for making up work must be made as soon as possible after the due date missed.

Extensions / Rescheduling Exams

Rescheduling of exams and extensions on assignments will only be allowed in compelling circumstances (e.g. an excused absence on exam day, or a series of excused absences covering a significant portion of time before the due date). In particular, note that leaving early for a vacation is generally not a compelling reason, nor is being busy or having a bunch of assignments due at the same time.

Arrangements for rescheduled exams or extensions must be made sufficiently in advance of the date in question - waiting until the day before a team trip which has been scheduled for weeks is not "advance arrangements". In addition, it is the student's responsibility to ensure that there are actual arrangements in place - simply sending an email notification about an upcoming absence does not constitute "arrangements".

If arrangements cannot be made in advance (e.g. due to a last-minute emergency), the policy for make-up work applies.

Collaboration Policy

The Principle of Academic Integrity (see the HWS Catalogue, p. 33) governs all of the work completed in this course. Specifically:

You are generally allowed to discuss the course material and assignments with other students and to use other materials (such as reference books or websites) as technical references, but anything you turn in for a grade must be your work - your ideas and your effort. In addition, you must:

  • acknowledge, in the assignment write-up, who you discussed the assignment with or got help from and in what capacity (include all sources - other students, tutors, the instructor, websites, etc)
  • fully understand the help you receive (you should be able to explain your solution to someone else)
  • write up the assignment independently and in your own words (this helps ensure that you really do understand the solution)

For team or group assignments, the policy applies to the group: work submitted must be the ideas and effort of the group, and discussions with or help from people or sources outside the group must be acknowledged.

Exams are to be completed solely by the student whose name is on the paper. The only person you may discuss the exam with is the instructor, and you may use only those materials authorized in the instructions.

Be careful when using other materials for help on assignments - it is OK to look for examples of concepts, but not to look for solutions to assignments. See "Plagiarism in Programs and on Problem Sets" below for more information.

Also be careful of collaborating too much with others - it is worth reiterating that what you turn in must be your own work. (You also do yourself a disservice if you rely too much on others, and it is then more likely that you don't fully understand the material.)

Copying part or all of someone else's solution is expressly prohibited, and it is never acceptable to be in possession of someone else's program or solution before you have handed in your own. Decompiling or reverse-engineering someone else's code (including provided code) is also prohibited.

Failure to acknowledge help received will generally result in a warning the first time, and point deductions for subsequent offenses. Submitting work which is unreasonably similar to another person's work and/or not being able to explain any part of your solution will result in a minimum penalty of a 0 on the assignment. A second such offense is grounds for failure in the course. Plagiarism offenses may also be referred to the Committee on Standards.

There are no exceptions to this policy; ignorance of the policy and desperation ("It was the night before it was due and there wasn't anyone else to ask!") are specifically not excuses for violating the policy. If you are having trouble with the course material, come to the instructor! - it is never advantageous to "borrow" someone else's solution, and the time spent trying to disguise this "borrowing" is far better spent getting help.

Plagiarism in Programs and on Problem Sets

As with papers, verbatim copying of programs and problem solutions constitutes plagiarism. Also as with papers, plagiarism is not limited to verbatim copying - copying the significant ideas and structure of someone else's program/problem solution also constitutes plagiarism.

But aren't all programs which solve the same task/solutions to the same problem pretty much the same, so won't my program/solution look like everyone else's even if I worked by myself?
It is true that programming languages are simpler and more structured than human languages like English, and so two independently-written programs solving the same problem will be more similar than two independently-written papers on the same topic. However, "more similar" doesn't mean "the same" - there is still flexibility in many aspects of the program, and each programmer will express themselves somewhat differently. It is clear when two programs were derived from the same source, and I routinely run a plagiarism-detection tool on all handins.
Problem sets are similar - there is enough room for variation in most solutions for it to be clear when solutions were derived from the same source.

Programming/problem solving techniques are often explained via examples - what's the difference between using an example and "copying the significant ideas and structure"?
Nothing - the whole point of examples is to provide the significant ideas and structure of the solution, with the idea that the details would be modified for the particular situation.

OK, then, so I can't use any examples because that constitutes plagiarism?!
No, not exactly. What is and isn't allowed is a matter of degree. Let's first define "example" and "solution":

  • An example illustrates a technical point or problem-solving strategy, applied to a different problem instance than the one you are trying to solve. An example can't be used as-is to solve your specific problem, but can be adapted to address some aspect of the problem. For example, an example demonstrating the proper syntax for a while loop is OK to use when writing a program which involves a while loop (as long as the point of the problem isn't to write exactly the while loop given in the example).
  • A solution gives a significant amount of the answer to your particular problem (or an extremely similar problem). Quantity is relevant here - you may view something as just an example (because it doesn't solve your exact problem), but if a single source covers most of what you need to do, it may well be what I consider a "solution".

Using "examples" (as defined above) is generally OK but using "solutions" is not.

There's a fuzzy middle ground here, and I'm still not sure exactly what is OK and what isn't.
Then ASK! - before you get into whatever situation you are wondering about. A few additional guidelines which may help:

  • Any materials provided as part of the course (examples in the textbook, from class, and directly posted on the webpage) are acceptable to use/adapt (unless specifically forbidden, such as on exams).
  • Any solutions written by another student (either this term or in previous terms) are not acceptable to use as "inspiration" or a guide when you are working on the same assignment. (Looking at someone else's work later, after the assignment has been handed in, is fine.)
  • Use caution with materials from other sources - think "examples, not solutions" and ask if you have any questions. In fact, ask even if you are sure something is allowed. (Specifically looking through other materials to find solutions to problems you've been assigned is not acceptable.)
  • Use common sense - the purpose of assignments is for you to practice and gain understanding of the material, and for you to demonstrate what you have mastered. If you are mostly just tweaking something written by someone else - even if you spend a lot of time renaming variables and inserting comments - then that is plagiarism.

Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL)

Hobart and William Smith Colleges encourage students to seek the academic collaboration and resources that will enable them to demonstrate their best work. Students who would like to enhance their study skills, writing skills, or have other academic inquiries should contact the CTL. You may visit the CTL web site to learn more about the services and programs that are available. (http://www.hws.edu/academics/ctl/index.aspx)

If you are a student with a disability for which you may need accommodations, you are required to register with the Coordinator of Disability Services at the CTL and provide documentation of the disability. Services and accommodations will not be provided until this process is complete. The web site for information pertaining to registration with the CTL and documenting disabilities is: http://www.hws.edu/studentlife/stuaffairs_disabilities.aspx.

Extra Time on Exams or Other Accommodations

If there's something about the course that would serve you better (e.g. course material in other formats), let me know!

If you need extra time on exams or other accommodations, see the section on CTL above. You must provide me with documentation in advance in order to receive accommodations.

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