CPSC 444 Artificial Intelligence Spring 2017

CPSC 444 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.

On this page:


You are expected to regularly check your HWS email and the course web page (especially the course schedule). 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: Readings are often the first introduction to material. Readings are to be completed for the class period where they are listed on the course schedule.

Homework: Homeworks are a chance to practice, try out, and/or further explore material from class. Homework will be assigned throughout the course and may include some programming, though significant programming efforts will be found only in the projects. Deadlines will range from the next class period for short exercises to a week for longer problems.

Projects: Five more substantial assignments will cover five major topics in the course (reactive agents and simple decision making, problem solving via search, planning, genetic algorithms, and machine learning). These will generally involve programming.

Exams: There will be two midterm exams and a final exam. The midterms will be hour long written exams (note that they will be in the evening - dates and times posted on the course schedule). The nature of the final exam will be announced closer to the date, but you should assume that you will need to be present during the registrar-scheduled timeslot for this course.

Final Grades: Final grades will be computed as follows:

  • Homework: 15%
  • Projects: 50% (10% each)
  • Exams: 35% (midterms 10% each, final 15%)

Participation: You are 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.

Coding Standards

Following reasonable conventions is important for readability of your code. While adherence to coding standards will not be explictly graded on, it is strongly recommended that you continue a habit of writing readable programs. You are encouraged to follow the recommended course coding standards though any consistent conventions are fine.


You are expected to attend and be on time for all class meetings. Attendance is especially important in this course because there is no textbook to help you catch up on missed material.

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, 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. Any absence for which no reason is provided is automatically considered to be unexcused.

Making Up Work

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

Every effort should be made to hand assignments in on time, even if you are absent from class that day. If a last-minute emergency prevents you from handing in completed work on time, the assignment will be accepted late without penalty only if arrangements are made as soon as possible to get the assignment handed in. If you need more time to complete the assignment, then you need an extension (see below).

Late Policy, Extensions, and Rescheduling Exams

Homework will not generally be accepted late. Exceptions are expected to be rare, but may be granted in special circumstances.

Projects may be turned in late - they will be penalized 5% if turned in by midnight on the due date and 10% per day or part of day thereafter up to a maximum deduction of 40% - but this should be a rare occurrence as deadlines are often tight (being late on one project takes away time from the next) and a habit of late handins will have a significant impact on your grade.

Extensions will only be granted for the kinds of things that count as excused absences, and generally only if a significant portion of the time allocated for the assignment is affected. Note that leaving early for a vacation, being busy, or having a bunch of assignments due at the same time are not considered reasons for extensions. Save often and make backups of your files - computer failures do occur and are generally not grounds for an extension.

Midterm exam dates and times are on the course schedule. If you have a conflict with an evening exam due to a regularly-scheduled Colleges-related thing (such as practice, work, or another class) and cannot resolve the conflict so that you can be present for the exam as scheduled or if you will miss an exam due to an excused absence, contact me as soon as possible to arrange an alternative.

The final exam can only be rescheduled for reasons allowed by Colleges policy (i.e. three exams on the same day).

Arrangements for extensions or rescheduled exams must be made sufficiently in advance of the date in question - contact me as soon as you know you'll need an extension or will miss an exam rather than waiting until the last minute! Last-minute requests may be denied. Also, it is your responsibility to make sure there are actual arrangements (a specific new deadline or date) - simply sending an email notification about an upcoming absence does not constitute "arrangements".

Extensions will not be granted retroactively - if a last-minute emergency causes you to miss an exam or prevents you from handing an assignment in on time, the make-up policy applies (see "Making Up Work" above). Note that the "extension" in this case will only be for long enough to get the already-completed assignment handed in; if you need more time to complete the assignment, it will be considered late.

No work will be accepted after the end of the Registrar-scheduled final exam time slot.

Working Together and Academic Integrity

The HWS Principle of Academic Integrity governs all of the work completed in this course. Specifically:

  • Exams are to be completed solely by the student whose name is on the paper. Only resources allowed in the exam instructions may be used, and the only person you may discuss them with is the instructor.

  • All other assignments are individual assignments unless otherwise specified. This means that what you turn in must be your own work. Discussing ideas with and getting help from the instructor and other students in the course is fine but working together with someone else to produce a solution which you both hand in is not. Make sure that you can explain everything in your solution and how it was arrived at. The same rules apply for group assignments, except that group members may work together to produce a single solution (but it is not acceptable to work with anyone outside the group).

To emphasize: "Your own work" (or "your group's own work") means that the ideas and the effort to mold those ideas into a working solution are your own (or your group's). 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. This includes both computer files and paper copies. Decompiling or reverse-engineering someone else's code (including provided code) is also prohibited. All of this should be obvious: using someone else's program "as a guide" to completing your own is plagiarism.

Potentially less obvious is the line between getting help (OK) and working with others (not OK). Working together with someone else to produce a solution which you both hand in is not OK, even if you each type it in individually and/or make some modifications afterwards. You may discuss ideas about how to get started and you may get debugging help or discuss why something doesn't seem to be working; you may not work on designing a program or writing code or pseudocode or the solution for a problem with someone else. Ask before you do something if you are unsure what is OK.

It is OK to use other materials (such as reference books or websites) as technical references or to get another perspective on the material. (If you find something particularly useful, mention it so that others can benefit as well.) However, looking for and/or copying a solution is not acceptable (even if you make some modifications). See "Plagiarism in Programs and on Problem Sets" below for more information on the difference between a reference and a solution.

The purpose of these rules is to make sure that you learn the material so you can solve the next problem instead of getting an answer that only addresses the current problem.

Submitting work which is unreasonably similar to another person's work and/or not being able to explain some 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.

From the HWS Catalogue: (available online at http://www.hws.edu/catalogue/policies.aspx)

Principle of Academic Integrity

The faculty of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, recognizing the responsibility of the individual student for his or her own education, assumes honesty and integrity in all academic work at the Colleges. This assumption is the foundation of all intellectual efforts and lies at the heart of this community. In matriculating at the Colleges, each student accepts the responsibility to carry out all academic work with complete honesty and integrity and supports the application of this principle to others.

Categories covered by this principle include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Examinations: Giving or receiving assistance during an examination or quiz violates this principle.
  • Papers: The adoption or reproduction of ideas, words, or statements of another person as one's own, without due acknowledgment, is considered plagiarism and violates this principle.
  • Library Use: Failure to sign for materials taken from the library and similar abuses of library privileges infringe upon the rights of other students to fair and equal access and violate this principle.
  • Reports and Laboratory Exercises: Giving or receiving unauthorized assistance and the fabrication of data or research results violate this principle.
  • Computer Use: Any deliberate attempt to prevent other users access to computer services, deprive them of resources, or degrade system performance violates this principle. The use of programs or files of another computer user or the use of another person's account number or password without permission also violates this principle.

Academic dishonesty is determined in every case by the evidence presented and not by intent. Questions of intent and circumstances under which an infraction occurred may be considered in determining a penalty.

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. In this course, working together with someone else to produce a solution which you both hand in also oversteps the allowed collaboration, even if you contributed to producing that solution.

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.
  • Apply the "what have you learned?" test: copying someone else's solution and then making a few changes means that perhaps you have learned a solution for the particular problem, but you haven't learned anything about the process of coming up with the solution. The process is the important part - if all you know is a particular solution, you can only ever solve that exact problem, but if you know how to figure out solutions, you can solve any problem. Using an example (as defined above) is OK because you are still involved in the process (you have to adapt the example to your particular circumstances) but using a solution is not because it shortcuts the process by going straight to the answer.

Being Successful and Getting Help

There is a steady schedule of assignments and there is not a textbook to fall back on - it is important that you review each day's material (after class is a great idea) and promptly address anything that is confusing. It is also important that you budget your time and start on assignments early so that you have time to think about problems and deal with unexpected surprises.

If you need help with any aspect of the course material, talk to me! Ask questions during class, stop by office hours, send email, or drop by or schedule a meeting.

For more general help, such as with writing, study skills, or time management, you are encouraged to check out the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL):

At Hobart and William Smith Colleges, we encourage you to learn collaboratively and to seek the resources that will enable you to succeed. The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is one of those resources: CTL programs and staff help you engage with your learning, accomplish the tasks before you, enhance your thinking and skills, and empower you to do your best. Resources at CTL are many: Teaching Fellows provide content support in 12 departments, Study Mentors help you find your time and manage your responsibilities, Writing Fellows help you think well on paper, Q Fellows support you in courses that require math, and professional staff help you assess academic needs.

Study Mentors: The CTL resource especially valuable to students either just starting college OR adjusting to the demands of their choice of Major is the Study Mentors program. Study Mentors engage directly with each student in the process of adjusting to new academic demands: they help you find the time you need to engage with both your academic and co-curricular activities, accomplish the tasks in front of you, and enhance your reading and study time. Study Mentors may be especially important for those of you who are involved in many activities; work on or off campus; are studying for Teaching Certification, graduate school exams, or prepping for fellowships; or who have one or more unusually demanding courses on your schedule. To meet with a Study Mentor, one option is to go to the TutorTrac link provided on the CTL webpage and make an appointment. You can also contact Ingrid Keenan, x3832, keenan@hws.edu, or drop in at the CTL office on the 2nd floor of the library.

Disability Accommodations

Disability Accommodations: If you are a student with a disability for which you may need academic accommodations in this course, you should self-identify, provide appropriate documentation of your disability, and register for services with Disability Services at the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). Disability related accommodations and services generally will not be provided until the registration and documentation process is complete. The guidelines for documenting disabilities can be found at the following website: http://www.hws.edu/academics/ctl/disability_services.aspx

Please direct questions about this process or Disability Services at HWS to CTL@hws.edu or x3351.

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