Computation, Information, and Description

Department of Computer Science
The University of Iowa

Coursework and Grading

The organization of coursework and the evaluation of your work for a final grade will be a bit unusual. Instead of grading according to the quality of your performance on the same standard assignments and exams, I will provide several levels of work, and grade according to how many levels you accomplish with acceptable quality. Here are the basic accomplishements required for each grade:

F Do nothing, and forget to withdraw.
D Do just enough to indicate a very muddled understanding, and forget to withdraw.
C Through simple assignments and exams, show that you have a basic understanding of the class discussion. I don't record attendance, but it will be impossible to do this without coming to class.
B Satisfy the requirements for a C. In addition, contribute intelligently to the written class discussion on the World Wide Web. I will give substantial credit for asking insightful questions, but I expect B students to propose interesting answers on occasion, and not wait for word from me. The ideal discussion would be one that doesn't need my input.
A Satisfy the requirements for a B. In addition, propose a small individual project and execute it in a way that shows serious insight into some significant topic connected to the course. The nature of the project is open. Acceptable forms of projects include, but are not limited to, short term papers, mathematical derivations, creation of computer software, experiments with existing computer software, organization of materials through the World Wide Web.
I expect that the F and D options are there for formal completeness, and will not be exercised. I don't mind students following the course for a C (or Pass if that option is allowed by your program of study), and doing only the C level of work. I hope that most of the action will be in the B and A categories. I am serious about the requirement to do a good job at the level you choose. I am not very interested in weak projects used as leverage for a B.

Assignments and exams

Since the material is so new, I don't have concrete examples of assignments and exams, and I am not sure what mix of formats I will use. If I can find the right assignment material, exams may not be neccesary, or they may be done in take-home style. However the details work out, assignments and exams will be aimed at basic understanding and familiarity, rather than the creative challenge of a project. They will include exercises to produce understanding, as well as demonstrations of understanding. Some assignments will involve reading relatively well written scholarly articles that I will select and pass out, and digging out insights from them. Some will involve exercises with interactive software, such as Turing's world, Tarski's world, some animations of computations that I am working on right now, and some artificial life simulations. I may require brief written or online presentations of the results of software exercises, and possibly one or two 10-minute demonstrations in a private interview.

Online discussion

Please take the online discussion very seriously. You need to check it at least three times a week, and preferably more often. For examples of useful discussion on other topics, you may look at discussions from the courses in Sound Modelling and in Operating Systems that I taught last year in Chicago. I did not use the online discussion heavily in grading those courses, but I found that it was pretty easy to evaluate the depth of each student's participation. I encourage anyone who is unsure of my evaluation of her participation to drop by for an informal preview of the grading.

Optional projects

I will announce more details of the project organization at the beginning of the term. But, the details of the projects are up to you. I expect each student who wants to do a project to propose the project well before the middle of the term, and to complete it by the end of the exam period. We will negotiate the precise description of each project, and sensible students will discuss project progress with me several times during the last half of the term. I would much rather guide each projector toward a result that we know in advance will be worthy of the A, than to evaluate projects that appear from nowhere at the last minute, and that may or may not be good enough. A thorough understanding of how your thinking progressed while preparing the project will probably make me more appreciative of its quality, too.

Maintained by Michael J. O'Donnell, email: [] odonnell@cs.uiowa.edu
Last modified: 19 December 1996