Syllabus for CS149 Spring 2021 Section 005 - Instructor: Chao


Objectives and Expectations

Official course description: Fundamental problem-solving techniques using a modern programming language. 

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • Explain fundamental programming concepts (e.g, variables, methods, decisions, loops, arrays, objects) using appropriate terminology.

  • Describe basic elements of high-level programming languages, including expressions, statements, functions, modules, and libraries.

  • Read and interpret software specifications and write source code from them.

  • Use automated software tools and processes to test your programs thoroughly.

  • Distinguish appropriate collaboration from cheating on assignments and exams.

  • Evaluate your own work for compliance with requirements and style guidelines.

  • Develop correct and efficient algorithms to solve problems using computation. 

Course Textbook

Required Textbook

Allen Downey and Chris Mayfield (2016). Think Java: How to Think Like a Computer Scientist. O’Reilly Media, Sebastopol, CA.

 CS149 Think Java book cover

This course aligns with Dr. Chris Mayfield's open-source textbook. The pdf is available online for free , or you may purchase a hard copy from the bookstore or online.

You are certainly welcome to use additional resources, such as the Gaddis textbook required in the other sections of CS 149 and typically used in CS159. Starting Out with Java From Control Structures through Objects by Tony Gaddis Haywood Community College 

Grading Criteria

You are responsible for all material discussed in lecture and discussion section and posted on the class web page, including announcements, deadlines, policies, etc. 

Your final course grade will be determined according to the following percentages: 

Labs(5%), Reading Quizzes(5%),
midterm Programming
Assignment counts as
double HW)
Final Programming Assignment 5%
Quizzes(In class) 5%
Midterm 1
Midterm 2
Final Exam 25%

Reading Quizzes, Labs, Homework

This portion of your grade will be based on graded labs, reading quizzes, and homework problems assigned.  I will drop a to be determined amount(probably 2-3) of reading quizzes and labs at the end of the semester to account for the 'bad day' or unforseen circumstances for missing a particular day.

Quizzes(In Class)

Quizzes(In class) There will be several in-class quizzes most likely on Thursdays as we get past exam 1 to reinforce material and make sure you are prepared for exam 2 and the final.


We will have two midterms in class(you must be present or give a valid doctors excuse or similar note confirming your absence if you miss any exam) and an in class comprehensive exam during finals week. Each exam will be two hours: one for written problems, one for coding problems. If you must be absent during an exam for a legitimate reason, you must contact me at least one week beforehand to make special arrangements. Failure to make prior arrangements for a missed exam will result in a zero grade. The instructor reserves the right to give students who do not earn 60% of the points on the final exam no higher than a C for the course. Except in extraordinary situations, you will not be excused from exams. Your instructor will be the sole arbiter of whether a situation qualifies as extraordinary. Hence, you should behave as if you will not be excused from exams for any reason.

Letter grades will be assigned on the scale A=90-100, B=80-89, C=70-79, D=60-69, F=0-59, with potential minor adjustments after considering the overall performance of the class and actual distribution of numeric scores. I will use “+” and “-” grades at my discretion.  

Final course letter grades may be curved if necessary at the end of the semester, based on each student's overall performance for all coursework. 

If you believe I have made an error while grading your work or calculating your final score, please bring it to my attention after class or during office hours. If I determine that there has been a simple mistake, I will fix it immediately and no formal request is necessary. 

If you believe an exam question or assignment has been graded unfairly, you must submit a verbal or written formal request for a regrade. Such requests must be submitted within one week of when the assignment in question is returned to you. Any coursework submitted for reconsideration may be regraded in its entirety, which could result in a lower score if warranted.

Instructor Contact Info

Please post generic questions to Piazza, where other students may answer and/or benefit from my answers. My email is chaoaj at the standard domain. My office is in ISAT 264, and my office hours are posted on the main course page

I am also sometimes available outside office hours by appointment; if you wish to make an appointment, send me an email. 

Course Policies

Important announcements will be made in class and/or on the class website. Please make it a habit to check the web page daily. 

Although every effort has been made to be complete and accurate, unforeseen circumstances arising during the semester could require the adjustment of any material given here. Consequently, given due notice to students, I reserve the right to change any information on this syllabus or in other course materials.

You are permitted to use course materials for your own personal use only. Course materials may not be distributed publicly or provided to others (excepting other students in the course), in any way or format unless explicitly allowed. 

Attendance and Participation

Attendance is not mandatory, but participation will be used as a part of your lab/quiz grade portion.  I strongly encourage you to attend every class session and participate fully in order to derive the maximum benefit of this course. If you believe that there is something I could change about the way I am handling the course in order to improve its effectiveness for you, please let me know via email or office hours. 

Please silence your cell phone while class is in session. If you have a laptop or tablet, you are encouraged to bring it to class and use it to work along with programming examples and exercises. Mute the volume to avoid unintended interruptions, and do not use any electronic devices for activities that may distract other students. Repeated violations of this policy may result in disciplinary action or a grade penalty in the course. 

I strongly encourage you to check the main website and the Piazza web forum regularly for important announcements (usually regarding programming projects). You may also use the Piazza forum to ask general questions of interest to the class as a whole (e.g., administrative issues or project clarification questions) as well as to offer each other general advice on class assignments. However, do not post any information that would violate the university academic integrity policy. If you are unsure about this, please email me for approval before you post. 

Programming Assignments(PA's)

PA's must be submitted electronically following the instructions given in class and on the website. Assignments may not be submitted by any other means (e.g., do not email your projects to me unless I request that). It is your responsibility to test your program and verify that it works properly before submitting it.

All assignments are due at 23:00 (11:00pm) on the day indicated on the assignment unless noted otherwise. 

Assignments may be submitted up to 48 hours late for a 15% penalty per 24-hour period. For example, a submission that would have earned 90 points in an on-time submission will earn 90 x 0.85 = 76.5 points if submitted up to 24 hours late, or 90 x 0.60 = 54 points if submitted up to 48 hours late. If you make multiple submissions, I will typically grade the latest submission. If you wish me to grade a different submission, you must indicate this before the 48-hour late period is over. 

Regardless of the above policy, I reserve the right to refuse to grade any programs submitted after the beginning of the second class period following the project deadline, because I may discuss the solution in class. 

Project extensions will not necessarily be granted due to server congestion, system problems, network problems, power outages, etc., so do not wait to submit a program until the night it is due. No consideration in grading will be made for errors made in transferring files or submitting the wrong version of your project. Having a working, non-submitted version will not count; only submitted code will be be counted. 

You will be responsible for developing your own techniques for testing your projects before submitting it. I will grade your assignment based on test cases not provided to you in advance. Because grading may be done automatically, you must follow the project specification exactly. 

Your code will be graded on a combination of correctness, completeness, documentation, and code style. 

Any "hard coding" in a project assignment will result in a score of zero for that assignment, and is considered a bad-faith effort. Hard coding refers to attempting to make a program appear as if it works correctly, when in fact it does not. One example of hard coding would be printing the desired output instead of computing it. If you have any questions as to what constitutes hard coding for a particular assignment, be sure to ask ahead of time. 

Academic Honesty

You are expected to comply with the JMU Honor Code as stated in the Student Handbook and available from the Honor Council website on all assignments, projects, and exams. 

Consulting with other students about problems and solutions is not necessarily a violation of the honor code, depending on the particular assignment. All final work turned in for an assignment must be your own unless it is a group project. In particular, you may not share source or binary code on programming assignments unless the project specification explicitly allows it. If you are in doubt about whether something is an honor code violation, please contact me immediately. 

If I find evidence of a violation of the honor code, I will bring the matter to the attention of the involved individuals via email and request a face-to-face meeting. As per section IV of the honor code, first time student offenders may agree that a violation has occurred and accept an appropriate penalty by submitting an "Informal Resolution Agreement Form" to the honor council. If the student is not a first-time offender or if there is disagreement about the violation or penalty, the matter will be refered to the honor council under section V of the honor code. 

Important Notes

You must achieve a B– or better grade to continue on to CS 159. 

Adding and Dropping the Course

Students are responsible for adding and dropping courses. Please consult the appropriate academic calendar for the exact deadlines. I will not give "WP" or "WF" grades to students requesting a drop after the deadline except in extraordinary circumstances. 

Disability Accommodations

If you need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability, you must contact the Office of Disability Services if you have not previously done so. Disability Services will provide you with an Access Plan letter that will verify your need for services and make recommendations for accommodations to be used in the classroom. Once you have shown me this letter, we will sit down and review the course requirements, your disability characteristics, and your requested accommodations to develop an individualized plan appropriate for this course. I will not make any accommodations without the appropriate documentation, as I am not qualified to diagnose disabilities. 

Excused Absences

Besides the policies in this syllabus, the University's policies apply during the semester. Various policies that may be relevant appear in the Undergraduate Catalog.

Excused absences will be granted at my discretion and only with appropriate documentation. Please contact me as soon as possible if you wish to request an excused absence.

Missing an exam for reasons such as illness, religious observance, participation in required university activities, or family or personal emergency (such as a serious automobile accident or the funeral of a close relative) all are circumstances that may qualify as an excused absence.  Where possible you should attempt by all means necessary to attend and take exams at their regularly scheduled class period.  

Inclement Weather

In case of inclement weather, we will hold class online via Webex.  A link will be sent via an annoucement in Canvas.  Otherwise, this class will operate in accord with JMU's official cancellation policy.

Catalog Description

CS 149.Introduction to Programming. 3 credits.

Fundamental problem-solving techniques using a modern programming language. Topics include variables, input/output, decisions, loops, functions, arrays, and objects. Students learn about algorithm development, testing strategies, and software tools. Students may not receive credit for both CS 139 and CS 149

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