CMU 15-112: Syllabus
15-112 will be taught in person this semester. This is a transitional
semester for all of CMU, and most of you (and most of us) have been
remote for well over a year. Bear in mind the following:
|Unless otherwise stated, all times in all course-related documents and correspondence will be in Pittsburgh time (ET). Note that Autolab in particular may show times in your local time, but our course website uses Pittsburgh-time.|
Previous versions of 15-112/15-110/15-100:
S21, F20, S20, F19, S19, F18, S18, F17, S17, F16, S16, F15, S15, F14, S14, F13, S13, F12, S12, F11, S11, F10, S10, F09, S09, F08, S08, F07
N21, M20, N19, M19, N18, M18, M12, APEA-09, APEA-08
|Description||A technical introduction to the fundamentals of programming with an emphasis on producing clear, robust, and reasonably efficient code using top-down design, informal analysis, and effective testing and debugging. Starting from first principles, we will cover a large subset of the Python programming language, including its standard libraries and programming paradigms. We will also target numerous deployment scenarios, including standalone programs, shell scripts, and web-based applications. This course assumes no prior programming experience. Even so, it is a fast-paced and rigorous preparation for 15-122. Students seeking a more gentle introduction to computer science should consider first taking 15-110. NOTE: students must achieve a C or better in order to use this course to satisfy the pre-requisite for any subsequent Computer Science course.|
At the end of the course, students should be able to:
|See the topic list and schedule here (includes schedule, notes, video mini-lectures, homeworks, quizzes, and tests).|
Note: Some office hours may be virtual this semester.
Check Piazza regularly for updates on various events. You can find the latest link for virtual events
112 Zoom link spreadsheet (via the Forms link).
Instructor Open Office Hours:
David and Mike will also provide several hours per week each for short private meetings. These will generally be 10-15 minutes long, though longer meetings may be arranged as needed at faculty discretion. To request one of these meetings, email David or Mike.
TA Office Hours:
Piazza Virtual Office Hours:
15-112 can be an intense course, but it becomes much more manageable if you use the course resources well.
These resources include:
Required Textbook: None! But you may find these extra resources helpful:
|Every required software package we use is available for free on the web. This includes:|
|Participation with earnest effort in this course is required and consists of the following activities:
Responsiveness is required. You need to monitor your andrew email and respond to course-related emails promptly, preferably the same day and in any case within two days.
Also, you must read all Piazza posts carefully. You are responsible for knowing this information, including any changes or additions to policies, deadlines, etc.
Important Note: failure to satisfy these course requirements will result in deductions in your semester grade, up to and including course failure, at the sole discretion of the course faculty.
Midsemester and Semester grades will be assigned using a standard scale, as will each homework, quiz, midterm, term project, and final, as such:
A: 90 - 100
B: 80 - 89
C: 70 - 79
D: 60 - 69
R: 0 - 59
Note that graduate students will be assigned +'s and -'s according to the following scale (generalized across letter grades):
The course instructors may choose to change the scales at their discretion. You are guaranteed that your letter grade will never be lowered as a result of changing scales.
Semester Grade Cap Policy
In all cases, your semester grade is capped at 15 points above the highest score you receive on the course's proctored events -- that is, on your semester quiz average, on midterm1, midterm2, or on the final exam. For example, if your raw semester average is 83, but your highest proctored score is a 57, then your semester score is capped at 72 and you would receive a C as your semester grade. Note: The grade cap policy very rarely impacts any students, but exists to ensure baseline fluency.
Alternate Minimum Grading (AMG) Policy
This AMG policy is available to everybody, but is designed specifically for those students who struggle in the first part of the course and then through sustained hard work and dedication manage to elevate their performance in the latter part of the course to a level that merits passing with a C, even if their Standard Grade might be lower than that.
In addition to Standard Grading as described above, we will separately compute your grade using an Alternate Minimum Grading (AMG). Students do not sign up for AMG. Every student will be considered both for Standard Grading and AMG, and their semester grade will be the higher of the two (where the highest grade via AMG is a C).
Your AMG grade is the smaller of your final exam grade and your tp3 (term project) grade, capped at 70. Or, in Python, like so:
amgGrade = min(final, tp3, 70)AMG eligibility depends on demonstrating sustained effort. To qualify for AMG you must meet the course requirements in the previous section. Also:
Solo homeworks are generally due Saturday at 8pm Pittsburgh-time. Homeworks are entirely solo. See the "Academic Integrity" section below for more details. That said, you always have access to extensive help provided by the TA's and course faculty. (Note: we will not grade you on style until we have covered the style guide in class. We do not normally grade style on quiz and exam problems, though you should practice good style anyway, just in case.)
It is absolutely critical that you read all instructions for every assignment! While similar, these instructions will change from week to week. If you lose points for not following instructions, you cannot get them back by telling us you didn't see them. We'll point you right back here.
"Bonus" or "Extra Credit" questions are meant to be very challenging. These questions are typically worth very few points, and should be attempted only for the sake of challenging yourself further.
Programming assignments will be graded based on style (modularity, effective use of data abstraction, readability, commenting, etc.) and functionality (correctness and efficiency of the program on all possible test inputs). Your code should be properly annotated with comments that are well-placed, concise, and informative. Your assignments will be graded by TA's, by automated graders, and at times by the course faculty.
The Term Project will be the last major course activity of the semester. You will design and build a program of your choosing with the guidance of a mentor TA. More information can be found in the Term Project Assignment writeup.
Quizzes will be given most weeks, generally in lecture on Tuesday. Quizzes generally focus on material from the previous week and the previous homework, though any prior material may appear as well. Re-taking quizzes: We are going to experiment with a re-take option. If you do not receive at least a 70 on a quiz, you may complete a re-take quiz at the designated re-take proctoring session that same week. The questions will be different, but the quiz will cover the same broad topics. Your re-take score will replace your old quiz score (whether or not it is higher or lower) and it will be capped at a 70. If you did poorly on the original quiz and put in the effort to practice the concepts you missed, re-taking can yield a higher grade, and you will also have a stronger foundation for the newer material. However, since the score is capped at 70, and it's probably not worth the risk if your score is between 65 and 70 unless you are very confident in the material (also, your time may be better spent staying current with the new material). Note: If you miss a quiz, you may not do its re-take (barring excused absences of course).
There will be 2 midterm exams, weighted as indicated above, given in class as noted in the course schedule.
There will be a final exam, weighted as indicated above, during the university-assigned final exam period at the end of the semester. It will cover all material present in 112 during this semester.
Quizzes and exams
(and possibly other activities) will be computer-proctored and generally administered in-lecture.
Assessments will include specific procedures for you to follow. Note:
We begin by choosing to trust each of you individually. Do not be one of the few who loses that trust. If you cheat, expect to be caught, and expect significant consequences. Use common sense and understand these rules.
These rules are meant to convey the spirit of our academic integrity expectations. For example, when we say "do not copy" we always mean visually, verbally, electronically, or in any other way, even if you copy and modify it. We additionally expect you to uphold CMU's more general academic integrity standards. Attempting to exploit technicalities simply reduces our assurance that you fully learned from the mistake. If you are unsure of something, you only need to ask us beforehand. If you do this and strive to understand the intent of this policy and exercise common sense, you have nothing to worry about.
Generally, examples of academic integrity violations include but are not limited to:
Unless otherwise noted, all homework exercises are solo, meaning that you must not collaborate with anyone in any way. Note that 'anyone' includes but is not limited to other past, present, or future students, friends, parents, siblings, etc. Remember: you always have access to extensive help provided by the TA's and course faculty. We strongly encourage you to use this support!
The term project writeup will allow for certain kinds of productive collaboration. Still, you will only be graded on your truly original contributions. Missing, inaccurate, or misleading citations on any assignment or deliverable may result in an academic integrity violation, regardless of intent.
Assessments (Quizzes and Exams):
Examples of cheating on assessments (Quizzes and Exams) include but are not limited to:
If you are repeating 112, your prior work in this course is treated just as anyone else's work. Consulting or copying your prior homework answers or term project solutions will only hurt your learning, and will be treated as a cheating violation.
Programs are naturally structured, which makes them very easy to compare. Here is a short video demonstrating one of several automated detection methods we use on every assignment. In short: if you copy (or even reference code), including work from prior semesters, we will be able to tell.
Course penalties are decided by the course faculty, and vary based on the severity of the offense. Offenses can be severe even if the assignment/assessment is worth very few points (for example, cheating during a quiz). Possible penalties include:
Penalties may also be accompanied by a report to the Dean of Student Affairs and/or the Office of Community Standards and Integrity. This can lead to additional university-level penalties, such as being suspended or expelled. University policy states that you may not drop the course if you have an academic integrity violation (except in rare/unusual cases where you have faculty approval). If you are in the precollege program, committing an academic integrity violation nullifies the program's grade forgiveness policy.
To end this section on a more positive note, you should know that we put a high premium on honesty. If you get into an Academic Integrity situation, then the sooner and more completely you tell the entire truth, by far the better it is for you and for everyone else involved. The bottom line: If you regret a lapse in judgment, it is always better to let us know right away, to come clean and be honest and truthful. You will feel better about it, as will we, and it will probably result in a better outcome for you as well.
See the Forms spreadsheet for this semester's
Extension Request Form.
That said, in general, due to the scale of the class, we cannot give individual extensions on assignments or assessments.
However, there are a few exceptions:
In general, all solo homework is due at the assigned date and time. Without an approved extension as described above, any late submissions
to Autolab will receive 0 points.
However, we understand that life can sometimes get in the way. Therefore, we provide 2 Grace Days for homework assignments. These can be used to submit solo homeworks up to 24 hours late with no penalty.
You may only use one grace day per homework.
You do not submit a request to use a Grace Day -- you simply submit
your homework after the posted deadline, and autolab automatically
counts that as a Grace Day if one is available for you.
We strongly urge you not to use these grace days immediately; try to save them for unforeseen events. Note that grace days may only be used on solo homeworks, and may not be used on quizzes, the term project, or exams, or anything else.
Important note: if you are out of grace days, then any late submissions to Autolab will receive 0 points.
Additionally, no late/make-up quizzes or exams will be administered, except in the cases covered under the Extensions policy. Approved missed quizzes will be excused; approved missed exams will be taken at the earliest possible date as approved by course faculty.
|Regrade Requests:||We occasionally make mistakes while grading (we're only human!). If you believe that you found a mistake which you would like us to correct, please submit a regrade request using the form in the Forms page. Regrades must be requested within two weeks of the time when the contested grade was released. Note: regrade requests will result in the entire problem being regraded, not just the possibly-incorrectly-graded part.|
|Formatting Errors:||Misformatted homework in general cannot be graded by our autograder, and as such may receive penalties, which can range from -5% to not being accepted at all. Therefore, be sure to submit your homework early (you can submit repeatedly, we only grade the last submission) to be sure you do not have obvious formatting errors. It is also your responsibility to check that you successfully submitted the file you intended. You can easily check your Autolab grade and feedback a few seconds after submitting. (Note: Any manually-graded problems will not have a score immediately.)|
|Recording:||Students may not record audio or video of lectures or recitations
or any other faculty-led or TA-led course events (online or in-person)
without explicit permission in writing from the instructor or the TA
in the instructor's absence. Exceptions will be granted in accordance with
university guidelines for accessibility concerns, but even then such recordings
may not be shared publicly or privately.
We plan to record certain large group events, and these will be available to currently-enrolled students until the end of the semester.
Camera policy: We request that you to keep your camera on during all zoom events, as this will provide the best learning experience for you and your classmates. We suggest you use a virtual background if you are uncomfortable with your environment being visible to others. You may alternatively use a face-tracking virtual avatar if you wish, like those available through loom.ai etc. That being said, if you have accessibility or equity concerns that are not solved by either of these solutions, please let us know. For 1-on-1 meetings, assessment proctoring, or group events of 5 or fewer people, we do require your camera to be on unless you have approval from the attending TA or the course faculty.
|We gladly accommodate students with disability-related needs (as approved by the Office of Disability Resources (ODR), as explained here). If you are eligible for accommodations, please ensure that the Office of Disability Resources has sent us your Summary of Accommodations Memorandum within the first week or two of class. We will contact you within a few days of receiving this form with any relevant instructions for using your accommodations in 15-112.
Please note: At the guidance of the University, we can only provide disability-related accommodations which have been explicitly approved by ODR and are on the most recent Summary of Accommodations Memorandum we have received. If you require accommodations that have not been approved by ODR, you should contact them as soon as possible. Also according to University guidance, we cannot retroactively apply your accommodations if we receive them from ODR later in the semester (for example, a modification on an assignment due before we received official approval of your accommodations).
Extended Time: students who receive Office of Disability Resources (ODR) approved extended-time on assessments will be proctored either by ODR's testing center or the course staff, depending on ODR's capacity. The course faculty will email you with instructions for scheduling your assessments during Week 1, or upon receipt of your memorandum. In order to meet the logistical challenges of additional proctoring, we ask that you schedule extra-time assessments at least five days in advance. Extra-time assessments must take place on the same day as the in-class assessment unless otherwise approved by the course faculty.
Important: to use extra time, you must sign up for a proctoring time outside of lecture with ODR (or you must attend the extra-time quiz or exam time if proctored by the course staff), and not the normal-duration quiz or exam. You do have the option of attending the normal-duration quiz or exam, but then you will have to complete it in the assigned time (without extra-time). If you plan to take an extended-time quiz, you do not need to be present in lecture until the standard-time quiz is over (usually in the first 20-25 minutes)
We are here to help. If you have any questions or concerns relating to 15-112 and how we can best accommodate you during this unusual semester, please contact the course faculty and we will work together for your success.
|Auditing:||We have found that students who audit 15-112 do not tend to succeed, as they generally cannot dedicate the requisite time and focused discipline to the course. We must also strictly limit in-person events to ensure that we do not violate room capacities. Therefore, auditing will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances, and must be approved by the course instructors first. Rather than auditing, in some cases you may take the course as Pass/Fail instead. This still is not ideal basically for the same reasons, but history suggests that it is a better option in some cases (say, for graduate students who want to learn how to program but already have an over-full load of graduate courses). Note: you may not take the course Pass/Fail if you plan to use 15-112 as a prereq.|
|Waitlist:||If you are on the waitlist, we hope to get you into the class, but because of room restrictions, you may not attend in-person events without faculty approval, or once you are officially off the waitlist. (Note: If you are in a "do not meet" section, you actually will meet, and you are registered in the course, but for arcane university software reasons, we'll have to tell you when and where your recitation is through Piazza.|
It is our intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well-served by this course, that students' learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is our intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: gender, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture. Whether in education or industry, inclusive representation creates richer experiences and equips us to solve new and exciting challenges. As we begin the semester, we want you to know:
We care very much about your well-being and
happiness. Yes, CMU students (and faculty) work hard, sometimes very hard.
But we must keep our balance and always attend to our well-being and happiness.
That comes first, academics follow. Achieving a better grade is almost never a matter of putting in more time!
So be sure to get enough sleep, eat
right, exercise regularly, and attend to your well-being and happiness.
Here is a list of ideas that might help.
Also, please know that we do care about you and take your well-being seriously. We want to help you learn while minimizing stress. Meeting the learning goals of 15-112 necessitates significant effort and a fast pace, but do not fall in the trap of working endlessly, as this will only reduce your efficiency (and more importantly, your happiness and well-being). It is not necessary, expected, or something to be proud of. We can help you improve your efficiency and work less, not more. We also seek to minimize the workload as much as is possible, while still meeting the learning goals of the course.
Finally, if you are feeling overly stressed, or anxious, or unhappy about your performance or your general experience in this course: please come talk to us. We will listen. We are here for you and we will try to help.
Addendum: Here is a great summary of many CMU Student Support Services.