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1 Logistics

1.1 Meetings

We will have just one instructional lecture during the semester. This will occur on the first day of class: Monday June 21, 10:30am on Zoom. For the remainder of the semester, instruction will be provided via pre-recorded videos and optional zoom problem-solving sessions. The asynchoronous instruction will be some mix of footage from previously semesters’ lectures, original content, and relevant (and sometimes irrelevant) third party content.

1.2 Contact Information

Instructor TAs
Name Nathan Brunelle Bios
Location Discord #OH Discord #OH
Office Hours M-F 9:00am-10:00am OH
Phone 243-3845 (none)
Email njb2b@virginia.edu Discord

For all course-related communications, Discord is preferred to email.

Our TAs are students too, with duties and work outside of their TAing. Please do not ask them for help on course content outside of the scheduled on-the-clock times they have listed as their office hours. They are also kind people; please don’t put them in the position of having to say no or (worse) being nice to you at the expense of their own schooling.

1.3 Readings

We will primarily use the free online textbook Introduction to Theoretical Computer Science by Boaz Barak. Please first refer to the copy availble on our page. We will refer to the textbook as TCS when listing readings.

This is a new textbook that is freely available from introtcs.org under a Creative Commons license. In addition to costing $271.95 less than the traditional textbook for this class, this book takes a modern and innovative approach to introducing theory of computation which has several advantages (and a few disadvantages) of the traditional approach (which we will discuss some in class, and be happy to elaborate on during office hours). We plan to follow the organization and material in the textbook fairly closely, but will also cover some topics that are not included, and present some of the material in ways that are different from how it is presented in the book. Although the book is available free to read on-line, we do recommend printing out the chapters you are reading from the PDF files. Numerous studies have found that essentially everyone reads faster and comprehends better from printed paper than from even the best on-screen reading. To encourage on-paper reading, we will provide links on the course website to PDF files for relevant chapters. In addition to the course textbook, some readings will be assigned from other (freely available) sources.

This textbook is still in development, and Nathan Brunelle is in frequent communication with the author on improvements. If you find any errors in the textbook, feel free to submit an issue in the book github. Doing so will earn extra credit (with factual errors being worth more than typographical errors).

1.4 Tasks

For each problem set, Students will be expected to do the following:

  • Before their prep cohort meeting: Watch provided instructional videos, read provided instructional text, attempt weekly problem sets, attend office hours to improve understanding when necessary
  • During their prep cohort meeting: Discuss (potentially incomplete or incorrect) solutions with the cohort. Collaborate and converge on the best answer you can muster for each problem.
  • Between their cohort meetings: Review solutions from the first weekly cohort meeting to ensure you understand them. Seek clarification from your cohort-mates or office hours when necessary. Refine solutions if necessary.
  • During their assessed cohort meeting: Do your best to provide solutions when called-upon by the TA. The TA will ask each student to attempt at least one problem, and may ask follow-up or clarification questions to more accurately assess understanding.
  • After their assessed cohort meeting: Complete and submit your problem writeup.

2 Grading

For details on grading, see: Grading information.

Note that we will have no traditional exams in this course.

2.1 Absences and Deadlines

We will make allowances for cases where a student is not able to make a scheduled cohort meeting or writeup deadline. We consider medical issues, personal trauma, legal obligations, family responsibilities, and other justifiable conflicts to be valid excuses.

In the case that you are unable to make an assessed cohort meeting, please submit an exemption request for both the cohort assessment and the writeup in the kytos submission site. In the case you are unable to submit a writeup on time, please submit an extension request for the writeup. When possible, requests should be submitted 48 hours before the assessed cohort meeting.

In cases where a student has to miss more than one cohort meeting during the semester, we will provide an alternate assessment through an individual video meeting.

2.2 Bonus Points

We hope students will go beyond the provided assignments and do other things to contribute to the class as well as beyond. We provide some concrete opportunities for this in the form of Challenge Problems, but also will award bonus points for relevant and creative activities that students invent on their own. We also offer bounty bonuses for contributions to the course textbook: having a Pull Request accepted by the author is worth something (even if it is just a simple typo fix) is worth one or more bonus individual grade points, and becoming the #2 contributor (by Additions) to the book repository is worth an automatic A in the class.

3 Course Conduct

3.1 Pledge

All students of CS3102 are expected to abide by the course pledge.

3.2 Professionalism

Behave professionally.

Never abuse anyone, including the emotional abuse of blaming others for your mistakes. Kindness is more important than correctness.

Let our TAs be students when they are not on the clock as TAs.

Lack of professionalism has an overall detrimental impact on our community of learning, and therefore egregiously unprofessional behavior could incur arbitrary penalty to your grade.

3.3 Collaboration

We believe strongly in the value of a community of trust, and expect all of the students in this class to contribute to strengthening and enhancing that community.

The course will be better for everyone if everyone can assume everyone else is trustworthy. The course staff starts with the assumption that all students at the university deserve to be trusted.

To get the most out of this course, we expect all students to abide by the following:

  • Try it yourself first: We believe it is important for students to learn by thinking about problems on their own, so it is expected that each student studies the provided materials and attempts to solve the problems on their own, before discussing the problems with others (including cohortmates at the cohort meeting).
  • Discuss with other students in the course: You are welcome to also discuss problems with any students currently enrolled in the class (including students who are and are not in your cohort) and to share what you learn from them with your cohortmates. Do not discuss problems with any students who are not officially associated with the course (e.g. former CS3102 students or students attending other universities).
  • Don’t copy solutions: Many problems in this course will be selected from problems used in previous courses, as well as well-known problems. The goal of these problems is to lead students to develop understanding of the underlying concepts by working through the problems themselves and in discussions with others, and this goal would be defeated if you instead use posted solutions to the problems (it will also probably be clear in the assessed cohort meetings if you do not understand a problem as deeply as you would if you solved in yourself). Other than using solutions to the specific problems you are given, students are encouraged to use any other resources they find helpful.
  • Do writeups independently: You may not collaborate with your cohort members while working on the writeups. You’re welcome to reference or copy content from the textbook, officially-provided course materials, and notes compiled prior to your assessed cohort meetings. You may not consult the internet or communicate with your cohort members regarding your writeup between the assessed cohort meeting and when you submit your writeup.
  • Read the policy on each assignment: A collaboration policy will be described on each assignment document, and may be different for different assignments. We aim to make the language describing the policy as clear and unambiguous as possible, but if anything is ever unclear about the stated policy for an assignment, please clarify with the course staff.

3.3.1 Consequences of Dishonesty

If I believe you have acted dishonestly, I will communicate this fact to you and propose a penalty. If you have information I lack, please share that with me; I may thereafter change my belief and/or proposed penalty.

4 Personal Accommodations

4.1 Special Circumstances

The University of Virginia strives to provide accessibility to all students. If you require an accommodation to fully access this course, please contact the Student Disability Access Center (SDAC) at (434) 243-5180 or sdac@virginia.edu. If you are unsure if you require an accommodation, or to learn more about their services, you may contact the SDAC at the number above or by visiting their website. For this course, we ask that students with special circumstances let us know as soon as possible, preferably during the first week of class.

4.2 Religious Observances

It is the University’s long-standing policy and practice to reasonably accommodate students so that they do not experience an adverse academic consequence when sincerely held religious beliefs or observances conflict with academic requirements. Students who wish to request academic accommodation for a religious observance should submit their request in writing to Prof. Brunelle as far in advance as possible. If you have questions or concerns about academic accommodations for religious observance or religious beliefs,contact the University’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights (EOCR) at UVAEOCR@virginia.edu or 434-924-3200. Accommodations do not relieve you of the responsibility for completion of any part of the coursework missed as the result of a religious observance.

4.3 Safe Environment

The University of Virginia is dedicated to providing a safe and equitable learning environment for all students. To that end, it is vital that you know two values that I and the University hold as critically important:

  1. Power-based personal violence will not be tolerated.
  2. Everyone has a responsibility to do their part to maintain a safe community on Grounds.

If you or someone you know has been affected by power-based personal violence, more information can be found on the UVA Sexual Violence website that describes reporting options and resources available. As your professor and a human, know that I care about you and your well-being and stand ready to provide support and resources as we can. As a faculty member, I am responsible employee, which means that I am required by University policy and federal law to report what you tell me to the University’s Title IX Coordinator. The Title IX Coordinator’s job is to ensure that the reporting student receives the resources and support that they need, while also reviewing the information presented to determine whether further action is necessary to ensure survivor safety and the safety of the University community. If you would rather keep this information confidential, there are Confidential Employees you can talk to on Grounds. The worst possible situation would be for you or your friend to remain silent when there are so many here willing and able to help.

4.4 Life

Bad things happen. People forget things and make mistakes. Bad days coincide with due dates. Etc.

If you believe that circumstances warrant an change in deadline, a second chance, or some other accommodation in order to more accurately synchronize grade with knowledge, come talk to me and we’ll resolve the situation as best we can.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or isolated, there are many individuals here who are ready and wanting to help. The Student Health Center offers Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for all UVA students. Call 434-243-5150 (or 434-972-7004 for after hours and weekend crisis assistance) to get started and schedule an appointment. If you prefer to speak anonymously and confidentially over the phone, Madison House provides a HELP Line at any hour of any day: 434-295-8255.