18-642 Course Policies
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- Instructor: Prof. Philip Koopman
- HH A-308
- Office hours: after class in the classroom, or by appointment.
- TAs (see Canvas for TA office hours):
- Computing: All students will be expected to bring a suitable
computing device to all class and recitation meetings. Generally this device
must be capable of creating brief presentations (1-2 slides) for uploading
during classroom group exercises. In some instances ability to write and
execute small programs may be C/C++ is required. Generally a device capable as
acting as a client for an ECE Linux or remote desktop Windows server will be
- E-mail: We have found that using e-mail to handle substantive
questions about course material with the course staff is both inefficient and
- Only use e-mail for purely administrative topics
- If you have a question, "doubt," or want an explanation, come to
office hours or send an e-mail to schedule an office visit if need be. We'll be
happy to spend the time to explain in person.
Send all e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Grades will be computed on a 100-point scale with the following weights
- Video Lectures: 10 points
- About half the lectures are pre-recorded and watched at your convenience
before the scheduled lecture meeting.
- You must complete watching the video via Canvas and correctly answer any
associated quiz questions on Canvas to get credit (i.e., final quiz score is
your score for that video).
- IMPORTANT: the point of the after-video quiz is to help you check
whether you really paid attention to the video. Guessing question answers until
the automated quiz software declares that you got all the answers correct is
counter-productive. Similarly, skimming the slides to cherry-pick answers is
counter-productive. If you don't know the answer, go back and review that
section of the video. If you still aren't sure why an answer is correct, ask in
class, recitation, or office hours. Taking short-cuts on the quiz can come back
to be a serious problem for you in other aspects of the course.
- No "free" missed videos.
- Homework: 10 points
- Weekly homework hand-ins related to both video and in-person lectures.
There are generally 2 to 4 homeworks due each week, with each corresponding to
one lecture topic.
- Up to 3 late penalties dropped for homeworks at end of semester. You
tell us which 3 homeworks at the end of the semester and we drop the late
penalties. Keep in mind that if one week has 3 homework assignments
corresponding to 3 lecture segments, that could consume your three "free
late" credits all in one week.
- In-Class Work: 10 points
- Weekly in-class small group work handed in during the class period. There
are generally 2 or 3 assignments each class meeting. These grades encompass
both completion of the assignment and document attendance. Do NOT submit
these assignments if you are NOT PHYSICALLY PRESENT in class when the
assignment period has completed. (This is, in part, explicitly intended to be
an attendance check; remote submission is attendance fraud.)
- Some recitation exercises will also count toward in-class work in a similar
- No class work is dropped.
- If you miss more than THREE class meetings you will NOT receive a
passing course grade. When you miss your fourth class meeting for any
reason you should drop or withdraw from the course. (Note that this means you
have missed more than 25% of the non-exam class meetings for a once-weekly
class.) Job interviews are not a sufficient excuse for missing more than three,
nor is minor illness or a personal conflict. You should not plan on missing ANY
classes, but this policy is in place due to previous year abuses. Missed
recitations do not count toward this limit. Waiver of this policy will require
a significant and dramatic circumstance accounting for multiple class misses
documented by CMU administration as well as substantial makeup work.
- Programming project assignments: 20 points
- More or less weekly project hand-ins.
- Up to 1 late penalty is dropped at the end of the semester. (You
tell us which one at the end of the semester)
- Tests: 50 points
- Two pre-scheduled in-class tests, each worth 25 points. There is no final
- There is no dropping of the lower test score.
- You are permitted one letter-size sheet, two-sided, of hand-written notes
for the test.
- Weekly Status Reports: Mandatory
- Every week we ask how many hours you spent that week and ask for a sentence
or two of feedback. It takes less than 5 minutes. We expect you to do these
every week. Penalty for not doing this is at instructor discretion to encourage
compliance. The baseline penalty is -1 point on course grade for every status
report not turned in on time. They don't take long. Just set a calendar
reminder and do these.
- Letter grades will be assigned as follows according to a straight
scale, with no "rounding up," no "curving," and no
- A=90% and above.
- This is a graduate-level course, so the grade "D" will not be
- R=below 73% (failing grade)
- As stated above, any student missing MORE THAN THREE class meetings will be
assigned a grade of R regardless of other grades, and should drop/withdraw from
- Grades within each category will be normalized per assignment (e.g., 80 out
of 80 points counts as 100% for that assignment. This means that all
assignments in a category receive equal weight, except if noted otherwise. For
example, all homeworks count the same regardless of how many points are used in
the grading of any particular homework assignment.
- Homework questions will be assigned for most lecture topics (generally, 3
or 4 lecture topics per class meeting). Grouping and due dates for homeworks
are subject to adjustment by the instructor during the course of the semester
to maximize learning value, but will be announced at the time homework is
- Most homework hand-ins will be in the form of electronic files for
projectable slides (e.g., powerpoint, acrobat slide format).
- Unless otherwise specified, hand in a single slide file for each homework
top-level number in the assignment. (OK to break across multiple slides if
required; the main points are to keep font size legible at 16 point+ and start
each significantly different part of the homework on a new slide.)
- If the homework involves creating code or a picture, paste that code,
picture, etc. into slide format with legible font size, breaking it across
multiple slides if required.
- Legible screen shots pasted into a slide are fine, and are often expedient.
- The same format guidelines apply generally to in-class exercises, but
individual student names are not required for in-class slides
- Students will be handling multiple different assignments each week. You
should give reviewing the video for the upcoming lecture the highest priority,
and the next project assignment the second highest priority. If you get
"stuck" on a project you'll need to come to office hours for help, so
waiting until the last minute for a project is a bad idea.
- The mechanisms for in-class work and presentations will be explained in
class. Each student should expect to stand up in front of the class several
times during the course of the semester to do a brief presentation. The
emphasis will be on content and participation in a supportive environment, not
speaking skills. It is understood that many students will be in their first
semester in the US; we only expect spoken English skills in keeping with
graduate program admission requirements. Hand-in format will be the same as for
homeworks, but each group will only need to hand in a single combined file.
- Tests will be during class hours according to the course schedule.
- There will be no make-up tests unless an extreme circumstance is documented
by your ECE staff advisor or the Office of the Dean of Students.
- Each student may bring a single letter-size sheet of paper in the student's
own handwriting (both sides). Unauthorized use of a machine-printed or a
third-party written sheet will result in a 50% penalty on the test grade.
Making this sheet yourself is an important aspect of the studying process.
- Re-grade requests must be made in-person at TA office hours.
- The TA might request that you write an e-mail to the course staff
documenting your request as a follow-up.
- Test re-grades might require you to hand back in your complete set of test
- Late hand-in policy:
- Deadlines for assignments are as follows unless otherwise announced. The
Canvas deadline has been set to add an automatic grace period. If you miss the
Canvas grace period you are not a "little" late, you are a
"lot" late -- don't ask for a further extension because you
"just missed" the deadline; that's not the case.
- Video lectures: 4:30 PM on the day of the class for that week (one hour
before class; get something to eat before class). In some cases in-class
exercises will be based on video lecture contents.
- In-class exercises: 9:30 PM on the day of class. (You should turn them in
when we ask for them in class, but you can update if you like until end of
- Weekly survey: evening after class. Best practice is to fill it out during
a class break or before you leave the classroom.
- Homeworks: the Wednesday evening before the NEXT week class. At around 5:00
AM we no longer consider it "evening."
- Projects: the Friday evening after the NEXT week recitation. At around 5:00
AM we no longer consider it "evening." If a different date is
announced, it is due the evening of that day.
- Note that in many cases Canvas will show a date after the official due date
because the deadline has been set in the early morning. An excuse of
"Canvas said it was due the next day" is not valid for being late.
- For in-class work and exams: Late work is not accepted (i.e., 100% late
- For Video Lectures, Homeworks, and Programming Projects: 10 percentage
points per day late with maximum penalty of 50%
- Missing the deadline=10% penalty. More than 24 hours=20% penalty. Etc.
After 5 days late 50% penalty through last day of class.
- Note that in-class exercises will sometimes depend upon video lecture
content, so we recommend you give these the highest priority if you have
- A "dropped" late penalty means that any points deducted for being
late are added back in to the assignment grade. For example, if you score 70
out of 80 points and are just under two days late, you will have a 14 point (70
* 20%) deducted: 70-14=56. If you select that assignment as a "free
drop", the score will be restored to 56+14=70, as if no late penalty had
been deducted. Note that all assignments have the same weight, so it is
generally advantageous to drop late penalties that are the highest percentage
of total assignment points (i.e., in this case, presumably 14/80 is higher than
other late penalty ratios) if all assignments have similar non-penalty grades.
- Network problems, computer problems, and so on are a normal and expected
fact of life. Students should avoid doing their assignments at the last minute.
We already have "free late" policies in place to handle the normal
emergencies that occur in life. Documenting excuses that are a usual part of
student life do not give you additional free late penalties. These include
minor illness (cold without significant fever that causes admission to the CMU
infirmary), equipment failures, travel, job interviews, and heavy loads imposed
by other courses. Make sure you spend your "free lates" wisely!
- This course has a zero-tolerance policy for cheating and academic integrity
violations. A first offense will result in failing the course. No
kidding; no exceptions. We've found that less strict policies simply encourage
students prone to cut corners to do so until they are caught, wasting course
staff time on policing and degrading the learning experience for everyone.
- Assignments (homework & programming assignments) are expected to be the
student's own work. However:
- Students may talk to other students about general background information
and to understand course material. Students may do research on the Web to find
information for the course, and in many cases homework assignments require such
research. These discussions must not cross the line at which the actual handed
in material is plagiarized or derived from other students or uncredited
- Students may use published material (including Web material) as a
starting point for assignments so long as ALL of the
following criteria are met:
- They make substantive changes or additions to the starting
point, with those changes demonstrating mastery of the assignment
topic rather than being mere cosmetic changes. For example, merely changing
variable names is not a substantive change.
- They use sources that are not created in response to the assignment made by
this course (e.g., sources are not previous answers for this course and were
not created in response to "does anyone have an answer to this homework
problem" style postings)
- They provide a specific citation to the source that can be checked by a TA
(e.g., a URL or book author/title/date).
- For questions that ask for a summary of a topic and similar questions, the
student must summarize in their own words, and not use quotations from the
sources consulted. However, the sources consulted must be cited. Wikipedia and
similar non-authoritative sources are not acceptable citations when asked to
research or summarize a concept unless specifically authorized by the homework
question. However, Wikipedia can be used informally to initially explore the
concept so long as the final summary is based on authoritative source material.
(Wikipedia often has references that can be helpful, but you need to track down
the source, not just rely upon the Wikipedia summary which might be incorrect.)
- Students may not use written materials from other
students in the class as starting points for their assignments. This includes
the following (and any other relevant scenarios):
- Do NOT use previous year solutions, even if only as a "starting
point," or you are trying to just get ideas, etc.
- Do NOT use another current-year student solution, even if only as a
"starting point," or you are trying to just get ideas, etc.
- Do NOT use on-line solution repository information, even if only as a
"starting point," or you are trying to just get ideas, etc. (this
constitutes material created for this or a similar course as opposed to
generally available material).
- Do NOT accept step-by-step instructions from another student (even if
verbally, even if only as a "starting point," etc.) that are likely
to result in a similar solution to that other student's solution. If two
solutions have unmistakeable similarities that are not a necessary part of all
correct answers to the question and that are not directly attributable to
having used the same source material, that's cheating whether or not you
attempted to evade the use of a written starting point from another student or
- Do NOT sit next to another student and talk each other through solving
problems as you go, nor communally ask a TA for detailed guidance as you work
on solving a problem. This can lead to nearly identical solutions to open-ended
problems. It can be impossible for course staff to distinguish this from
copying, so this advice is for your protection.
- In-class group assignments should be the collaborative effort of members
assigned to the group. They should otherwise follow the "student own
work" policies stated above.
- If in doubt about whether you are following this course's policy or the
CMU academic integrity
policy properly or have questions, ask the course staff/instructor. If in
doubt about being in doubt, ask us. Plagiarism (including uncited or prohibited
sources that for example are detected by plagiarism detection tools) or other
academic integrity violations according to the university policy will result in
a failing "R" grade for both the giver and the receiver of
plagiarized material or prohibited collaboration.
Special circumstances and student wellness:
- If we're doing something in the course that is causing you problems or just
rubbing you the wrong way, please let us know. You can send us anonymous e-mail
if you prefer. While we can't make everyone happy all of the time, we take all
comments and suggestions seriously. In the past, we've altered course policies
many times in response to student suggestions on how to improve things.
- None of the course policies are intended to impair the ability of a student
to successfully complete the course if attempting to do so in good faith. If
you encounter a situation in which you need special accommodation please
contact the course staff to see what can be worked out.
- If you have other special needs such as observance of a religious holiday
or an unavoidable conflict with a test date in another class, please discuss
this with the instructor during the first week of class.
- If you have an accommodations letter from the Disability Resources office
you must present that to the course instructor the first week of class or
within one week of the initial identification of the need for accommodation so
that appropriate arrangements can be made. If an "extra time" test is
to be arranged it is the student's responsibility to set up a time to do
that with the Disability Resources office and inform the course staff so that
we can route the test to the appropriate testing proctor.
- Take care of yourself. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle
this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting
enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your
goals and cope with stress.
- If you are falling behind in the course or feel overwhelmed or just have
questions about to best handle your workload, come to the instructor office
hours (or schedule an appointment at another time). You might be surprised at
the help we can offer if you're trying in good faith to do the course but are
- All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. There are many
helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college
experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather
than later is almost always helpful.
- If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life
events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to
seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help:
call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at
Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help
getting connected to the support that can help.
Use of student-written code and other work products:
The goal of this policy is to give us concrete, representative examples to
talk about, and to minimize the temptation for students to copy code instead of
learning via the process of developing their own software.
During the course of the semester we plan to use student-submitted code and
other submitted material for homeworks and/or projects in a variety of ways.
This may include:
- Showing a piece of code or a homework assignment during lecture,
discussion, or recitation as a specific example of good (or bad) practice.
- Using a piece of student-submitted code as part of a homework or project
assignment in this semester or a future semester.
- Modifying a piece of student-submitted code for use.
- Other uses of student-submitted code in support of educational goals both
within the university and any subsequent use of the course material beyond the
In general we will NOT give credit to the student who originated the
code or homework answer on the assumption that they would rather not be
identified, since most uses of such code will be to point out opportunities for
improvement. We will make our best effort to scrub identification of the code
author before releasing code. If you would like to be given credit for a
particular piece of code let us know and we'll be happy to do that.
We note that much of the code you'll be writing is based on code we've
provided to you as a starting point to begin with. You are welcome to use the
course code and your improvements in non-public projects. However, we request
that you do not make the code public so as to avoid tempting future-year
students to plagiarize your assignments. (Being so tempted is not a valid
excuse to cheat.) We will be keeping records, and we will be checking student
submissions for plagiarism.
By participating in this course you grant us a non-revocable license to use
any code you write, homework you submit, and group assignments you complete for
the course in ways consistent with this policy. If you object to this policy or
have other concerns please let the course staff know the first week of class,
and in any event before you submit an assignment for grading. If a special
circumstance arises please contact the course staff immediately for resolution.
- See Course FAQ for information on course description
and frequently asked questions
- See Main Course Page for course schedule and other
- No additional resources are required for this course beyond tools and
materials provided via the web site and CMU computing facilities with one
exception: you need access to your own computer or high-end tablet during class
to complete and submit the in-class projects during class meeting times.
- If your activity interrupts the ability of the instructor to speak, impairs
the ability of other students to pay attention, or is otherwise distracting,
then it is prohibited in the classroom.
- Food and beverages may be brought to class, but please do not bring
anything noisy (e.g., a bag of potato chips) must be removed from its packaging
before lecture starts. Messy, smelly, or otherwise intrusive food that
disrupts class or soils the classroom may not be brought to class. Clean up
after yourself, or we'll lose the privilege to bring food.
- Mobile devices must not intrude on the classroom. This includes unrelated
use of laptops, cell phones, or other devices during lecture or discussions.
- Students are NOT permitted to record, stream, video
conference, or otherwise capture the classroom or office hours for any purpose,
even for personal use. The course materials are copyright by the instructor and
are not to be posted on-line or redistributed in any manner without express
written permission of the instructor.
- No calculators or electronic devices of any kind are permitted during
tests. The course staff may require removal of outdoor apparrel and other
measures as required to mitigate the risk of cheating on tests at their sole