CSCI 0111: Course missive

Computer programs do not exist in a vacuum: they process information based on observations of the world. These observations–of text, numbers, images, video, or anything else–become the data over which programs operate. We are surrounded by computer programs collecting, storing, and manipulating data. The choices programmers make about how to represent and access data affect the performance, usability, and maintainability of their programs.

CSCI 0111 is a data-focused introduction to computing and programming. Students will learn how to create, analyze, and test programs that manipulate and process data. Students will also discuss the social impacts of data collection, retention, and processing, and the responsibilities engineers have to society and to the people who use their software.

This course is designed for both potential CS concentrators and non-concentrators who have no programming experience. It provides a firm foundation for future courses in computer science, and also provides non-concentrators with useful programming skills for doing data analysis in their chosen fields.

High-level information

Time and location
MWF 1:00-1:50pm, Friedman 208
Doug Woos (
Teaching Assistants
Alexander Stewart, Brantley Leaphart, Cat Nguyen Dinh, Jennifer Nino Tapia (HTA), Jordan Hartzell, Lena Cohen, Maia Rosenfeld, Moses Lurbur, Nam Do (HTA), Nicole Cheng (HTA)
Course website

Much of the content in this document is adapted with permission from materials developed by Kathi Fisler.

Learning objectives

After completing this course, students will be able to:

  • Develop data-manipulating programs
  • Explain how data organization affects a program’s performance
  • Describe the social implications of large-scale data collection, retention, and usage
  • Decompose programming tasks into solvable subtasks, informing the structure of your programs
  • Develop good automated tests for programs, gaining confidence in their correctness
  • Work with others to develop, test, and analyze programs

Potential pathways into computer science

CSCI 0111 is the first course in an eventual three-course introductory computer science sequence: 0111, 0112, and 0113. CSCI 0112 will be offered in the Spring; CSCI 0113 will likely be offered next Fall. Students who do well in CSCI 0111 will also have the option of doing some extra work over winter break to prepare for CSCI 0180 in the Spring.

Course culture

Students taking CSCI 0111 come from a wide range of backgrounds. We hope to foster an inclusive and safe learning environment based on curiosity rather than competition. All members of the course community–students, TAs, and the instructor–are expected to treat each other with courtesy and respect. Some of the responsibility for that lies with the staff, but a lot of it ultimately rests with you, the students.

Be aware of your actions

Sometimes, the little things add up to creating an unwelcoming culture to some students. For example, you and a friend may think you are sharing in a private joke about other races, genders, cultures, etc, but if you do this in a public space and a classmate overhears it, it can have adverse effects. There is a fair bit of research on something called “stereotype threat”, in which simply reminding someone that they belong to an particular culture or identity (on whatever dimension) can interfere with their class performance.

Stereotype threat works both ways: you can assume that a student will struggle based on who they appear to be, or you can assume that a student is doing great based on who they appear to be. Both are potentially harmful.

Bear in mind that diversity has many facets, some of which are not visible. Your classmates may have medical conditions (physical or mental), personal situations (financial, family, etc), or interests that aren’t common to most students in the course. Another aspect of professionalism is avoiding comments that (likely unintentionally) put down colleagues for situations they cannot control. Bragging in open space that an assignment is easy or “crazy”, for example, can send subtle cues that discourage classmates who are dealing with issues that you can’t see. Please take care, so we can create a class in which all students feel supported and respected.

Be an adult

Beyond the slips that many of us make unintentionally are a host of explicit behaviors that the course staff, department, and university (and beyond) do not tolerate. These are generally classified under the term harrassment, with sexual-based harrassment a specific form that is governed by federal laws known as Title IX.

Brown’s Title IX Web site provides many resources for understanding the terms, procedures, and policies around harrassment. Make sure you are aware enough of these issues to avoid crossing a line in your interactions with other students (for example, repeatedly asking another student out on a date after they have said no can cross this line).

Your reaction to this topic might be to laugh it off, or to make (or think) snide remarks about “political correctness” or jokes about consent or other things. You might think people just need to grow a thicker skin or learn to take a joke. This isn’t your decision to make. Research shows the consequences (emotional as well as physical) on people who experience harrassment. When your behavior forces another student to focus on something other than their education, you have crossed a line. You have no right to take someone else’s education away from them.

In light of recent reports about such issues on campus, Brown is taking additional steps to reduce this form of harm. Therefore, if we cannot appeal to your decency and collegiality, let us at least appeal to your self-interest. Do not mess around on this matter. It will not go well for you.

Issues with Course Staff

Professionalism and respect for diversity are not just matters between students; they also apply to how the course staff treat the students. The staff of this course will treat you in a way that respects our differences. However, despite our best efforts, we might slip up, hopefully inadvertently. If you are concerned about classroom environment issues created by the staff or overall class dynamic, please feel free to talk to us about it. The instructor and the HTAs in particular welcome any comments or concerns regarding conduct of the course and the staff.

Sometimes, you may not be comfortable bringing this up directly to us. If so, you are welcome to talk to Laura Dobler (the CS dept diversity coordinator) or to the Department Chair, Ugur Cetintemel. You may also reach out to Rene Davis in the Title IX office.

As a department, we will take all complaints about unprofessional or discriminatory behavior seriously.


Course location, hours, staff

Lecture will be in CIT 115 from 1:00-1:50pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Labs will be on Thursdays and Fridays. The TAs and the instructor will hold office hours throughout each week. Specific times and locations for labs and office hours are TBA.

Time expectations

In addition to 3 hours a week in lecture and 2 hours a week in lab, students will be expected to spend 6-8 hours a week outside of class on homework, projects, and drills.

Required materials

There is no textbook for the course; all readings will be provided digitally.

You do not need a computer to complete the assignments, as you will have access to several computer labs in the CIT.

The classroom

Our time in the classroom will be a mix of traditional lecture and discussion-based activities. Please come to class ready to engage with the material and ask questions about things you don’t understand. The pre-class drills (discussed below) should help you with this!

Studies have shown that the use of laptops in the classroom can be detrimental to learning–not just for the laptop user, but also for the students around them! As such, we ask that students in CSCI 0111 take notes by hand rather than using laptops, phones, or other electronic devices.

For (much!) more information on laptop usage, see here.

Assignments, exams, and grading

All assignments (except for quizzes and exams) will be posted and handed in online. Approximate grading weights for each type of assignment are listed below.

All homeworks and projects will be due on Tuesdays at 9pm, and you will never have a homework assignment due at the same time as a project (although homework due dates may overlap with project design checks). There will generally be either a homework assignment or a project due every week. Drills will be due at 11am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (so if you’re a late sleeper, please plan on doing them the day before!).

Drills (10%)

We will assign three short online quizzes a week, which will be due shortly before each class session. These should take around 10-30 minutes to complete, and are designed to help us–and you!–understand which subjects you’ve internalized and which subjects we might need to spend more time on. Drills will be graded for completion only, and full credit will be given if you complete 70% of the assigned drills.

Labs (10%)

You will have a two-hour lab session every week. Labs are hands-on programming projects where you’ll practice writing code and integrating concepts learned in class in order to solve new problems. You’ll write programs in small groups guided by our course TAs. Labs are graded based on attendance; you can miss two labs during the semester without penalty.

Homework assignments (25%)

Homeworks, due approximately once per week, are designed to help you understand the course material and put it into practice. They will consist of both written questions and short programming assignments, which you will work on individually. Programming assignments will be graded for correctness as well as code style and test quality. Some of your homeworks will include short, written reflections on readings related to the impact of data collection on society. These will be graded lightly–we’re asking you to think seriously and carefully about thee issues, but not to write full formal papers.

Projects (25%)

There will be three larger programming-focused projects, which are designed to help you apply your programming knowledge to interesting problems and to learn how to work with a team. For each project, you will work in pairs to design and implement a solution to a data-focused problem. Before starting to implement your solution, you will have a “design check” with a TA in order to make sure you’ve thought through the problem and come up with a reasonable design. For each project you’ll hand in the code you wrote as well as a writeup describing your design and reflecting on the project. The course projects are independent of each other, and you’ll work with a different partner for each one. You will have two weeks to complete each project: one week for the design and another week for the implementation.

Quizzes and final exam (30%)

There will be three in-class quizzes and a final exam. These tests are designed to assess your mastery of the course material. They will have a mix of multiple-choice, short-answer, and (very!) short programming problems (for which you won’t be expected to remember the details of programming language syntax). These problems will be similar to problems on the homework assignments and drills. The quizzes will be weighted such that you can do poorly on one and still end up with a good overall grade for this component of the class.

Late assignments

Each student will have five “late days” that can be used throughout the semester on homeworks and projects. Each late day allows the student to hand in a homework one day late. No more than three can be used on an individual assignment. Late projects count against each partner’s late days. Late days cannot be used on project design checks; missing a design check will result in a 30% penalty on that project’s grade.

If your assignment is handed in late, you (or your project partner) are out of late days, and you have not been granted an extension (see below), your assignment will not be graded.


Please contact Doug directly regarding extensions. Extensions for illnesses and personal issues will be granted on a case-by-case basis. Only in the most extreme circumstances is an extension or time change granted on the exam.


To avoid conflicts of interest in grading, TAs may not grade students with whom they have current or past close personal or professional relationships. Either students or TAs may declare grading conflicts. If there are a particular TAs who you feel should not be grading your work, please contact the HTAs or Doug so we can configure grading assignments accordingly.

Regrade requests

You are encouraged to look over your assignments after they have been graded. If you find a possible error or believe that you lost too many points, please submit a regrade request through the course hand-in software. You should initiate such inquiries within one week of receiving your grade. The grading will be freshest in your TA’s mind during this time, and this prevents a backlog of requests from arising towards the end of the semester.

One-time Lab Switches

If you discover that you cannot make your lab section during a particular week, you can email the TAs to temporarily switch into another lab section. You should send this email at least 24 hours in advance of your scheduled lab. That way, the TAs will have sufficient time to read your email, help you find an open slot in another lab, and confirm the change. If you email the TAs with less notice, say only 2 hours in advance of your scheduled lab, and no TA is able to help you before your usual lab time, you are expected to go to your assigned lab.


If you feel you have physical, psychological, or learning disabilities that could affect your performance in the course, we urge you to contact SEAS. We will do whatever we can to support accommodations recommended by SEAS.

Religious Observance

If you require accommodation for religious observance, please contact Doug at least a week before the deadline in question to make arrangements.

Personal Emergency

In the event of a medical or family emergency, contact Doug to work out accommodations.

Getting help

Our goal, as a course staff, is for every student to do well in the class. As such, we encourage you to ask questions about anything you don’t understand. Whether you are confused by something from lecture or are having trouble with an assignment, please reach out to us!


Our course uses Campuswire for online discussions. You can use it to ask questions about course concepts, assignments, and logistics. Posts can be either public or private; public posts are visible to everyone, while private posts are visible only to course staff. Any questions having to do with your particular solution to an assignment should be private; all other posts should be public (if you have a question about something, it’s very likely that other students do, too!). The course staff reserves the right to make private posts public if the answer is of general interest.

Campuswire is a discussion forum, so please feel free to respond to questions and comments–it’s great when students can learn from each other! When doing so, keep in mind the Course culture guidelines.

Posts made on Campuswire after 10pm are unlikely to get a response until the next day.


Please post questions about the course to Campuswire rather than emailing the course staff–it’s very useful to have all course questions in one place where any of us can answer them. If you are unable to log in to Campuswire, you can contact the whole course staff at

If you have concerns of a personal nature (a problem with a project partner, for instance), please email the instructor:

Office hours

Each TA will hold two hours of walk-in office hours per week. Doug will hold one walk-in hour, and is also available for appointments. Each week’s schedule is available on the course website.

Please come to office hours! Coming to office hours does not send a signal that you are behind or need “extra help”; on the contrary, the most successful students are usually those who come to office hours early and often.

Feel free to come to Doug’s office hours even if you don’t have a specific question about an assignment; Doug is happy to chat about the course material, computer science in general, careers in computer science, etc.

Collaboration Policy

Our collaboration policy attempts to balance the benefits of students learning together and the need to work problems on your own for understanding.

Labs are done in groups of 2-4 students, depending on the activites in a particular week. There are no restrictions on collaboration within lab groups.

Projects are done in pairs. There are no restrictions on collaboration within project pairs. Project partners are expected to work on the entire project together, rather than to divide the project into parts to complete separately. Dividing the work defeats the learning goals for the project.

Drills should be done alone, as they are designed to help you and us assess whether you understand the concepts needed for the next lecture.

No collaboration is allowed on the final exam or quizzes.

For homeworks, you are permitted to discuss high-level ideas with other students, but you must produce your code and other responses on your own. In particular, the following activities are NOT allowed when working on homeworks:

  • Sharing code files with another student for any reason other than being partners on a project or lab
  • Sitting next to another student while writing up solutions while looking at what the other is typing
  • Sending code for a homework question to a classmate “just so they can look at it to figure out how to do the problem”
  • Obtaining a solution on-line, or from someone not in the course
  • Leaving your work in unprotected directories or services (including github) where other students can find them
  • Showing a classmate your code so they can help you find or debug an error

In contrast, the following scenarios are fine:

  • Asking the course staff for help
  • Classmates discussing an assignment question at a more general level than the code: discussing what the question is asking, what topics it draws on, and other similar non-code issues
  • Asking a classmate what general causes of a particular error message might be, or for debugging strategies, without showing them your code

We will follow Brown’s Academic Code procedures on any suspected violations. Note that those who provide solutions are held partially accountable, even if they didn’t think the other student would use their work. We understand the pressure to help friends when they ask: please don’t put other students in the position to say no to such requests.

If you have questions about the boundaries of the policy, please ask. There is never a penalty for asking.

Course announcements

Course announcements will be made via Campuswire. Time-sensitive announcements will also go out via email.

The course staff may issue clarifications to assignments up to 48 hours before the due date.