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Computer Science 12:

Other important information

Week 1: Course information

General info about this course:

The official course description of CSCI 12 says:

Concepts of thinking computationally and the technical tools to function effectively in the digitally-connected world. Hands-on introduction to computers, computation, the Internet, and the basics of computer hardware and software. Students will have experience during the instructed computer lab with a number of software environments including an operating system, a word processor, a presentation tool, a spreadsheet, and a database system. The course will focus on problem solving and programming within the context of a wide range of applications, and prepare students for further study in a variety of majors and minors. In addition, students will acquire the skills needed to learn other similar tools on their own.

Important notes:

  1. Although programming concepts will be introduced throughout the course, CSCI 12 is not a programming course per se and will not teach you much about how to program. The skills taught will involve primarily the use of common business software such as Microsoft Office. The main emphasis in lecture will be on figuring out how to solve problems using the software (especially Excel).
  2. Although Computer Science 12 is an introductory course, it is a college-level introductory course -- not a remedial course. Hence, not a lot of time will be spent on the basics of how to use a personal computer, which the vast majority of students have already learned in high school or earlier.
  3. Nevertheless, computer use experience of any kind is not an outright prerequisite to this course. We do aim to make this course accessible to the few students who have had little or no computer use experience whatsoever, but such students will need to work extra hard. It is strongly recommended that such students allow time in their schedules to (1) stay after class, up to an hour as needed, and/or (2) see the Computer Science department tutors (available on weekdays only).
  4. CSCI 12 is NOT intended for computer science majors and cannot be used to fulfill any of the requirements for a computer science degree, not even as an elective. But it is the first course of the separate Information Technology minor offered by the Computer Science department.
  5. CSCI 12 is one of two courses that accounting majors can use to fulfill their Excel requirement. The other such course is CSCI 48, Spreadsheet Programming, which goes deeper into Excel than CSCI 12 does. However, even CSCI 12 emphasizes Excel to a greater degree than the course description alone would indicate. Excel is emphasized both for the sake of the accounting students and because Excel is a very good fit for the course's problem-solving focus. (Please note that Excel can be very useful to non-accountants too.)
  6. In most sections of CSCI 12, including this one, the topic of presentation tools (e.g. PowerPoint) is relegated mostly to independent study using provided tutorial materials. In this section, the more basic features of Microsoft Word are treated similarly. (You will be asked to write a paper using Microsoft Word, and you will be asked to create a PowerPoint slideshow.) Requiring students to learn the easier topics primarily outside of class will, we hope, help them to "acquire the skills needed to learn other similar tools on their own," as the course description says. Classroom time will be spent mainly on the more challenging topics, which the majority of students are not already familiar with and cannot be expected to pick up just from tutorial material.
  7. Because this course teaches skills, not just facts and ideas, it has a relatively high workload -- especially for the few students with little or no experience using desktops or laptops, but also for the more experienced students too. Please plan your schedule accordingly.

Topics covered:

For a more complete overview of many (but not all) of the topics covered, see last semester's quiz study guides. Note, however, that this semester's covered topics may vary slightly from last semester's.

Quizzes and exam:

Every week starting in the fourth week of the semester, there will be a quiz at the beginning of each class session. Study guides for both the quizzes and the final exam will be posted here.

At least 85% of the final exam will consist of problems similar to those on the quizzes. The final exam will be approximately equal in length to 6 or 7 quizzes.

For this section of the course, both the quizzes and the exam will be on-paper only. (Actual computer use will be featured in homework assignments and lab work.) Among other things, this means you must be able to hand-write Excel formulas on paper, as well as use them in Excel itself. It is hoped that this requirement will help you think more abstractly about Excel formulas and problem-solving with Excel.

Grading scheme:

The grading scheme will be somewhat flexible, but in general you can count on the following weights:

If you do better on the final exam than on the quizzes, the final exam may be counted more (maximum 50%) and the quizzes less (minumum 15%). However, the fraction of the grade based on homework and papers will NOT be increased to compensate for bad quizzes and exam.

The extra credit items on the above list will be weighted on a sliding scale, with greater benefit to those students who are otherwise not doing well. A perfect score on all extra-credit items will add a total maximum of between 7% and 14% to your final score, as follows: (1) If your final score without the above extra credit items is 60 or below, the maximum extra credit will be 14 points. (2) If your final score without the above extra credit items is 100 or above, the maximum extra credit will be 7 points. (3) If your final score without the above extra credit items is between 60 and 100, the maximum extra credit will be a linear interpolation between 14 and 7. For example: If your final score without extra credit items is 80, the maximum extra credit will be 10.5 points.

The quizzes will typically have extra-credit problems, typically an extra 2 points out of 10. Thus, if you get perfect scores on all quizzes, including extra-credit problems, and if you do everything else perfectly too, including the maximum extra credit for class participation plus extra-credit assignments, your maximum total percentage score is 113.

Because of the large amount of extra credit possible, and because of the abnormally high resulting maximum percentage score, letter grading in this course will be stricter than normal at the high end (B+ and above), as follows:

0 to 59F
60 to 66D
67 to 69D+
70 to 72C-
73 to 76C
77 to 79C+
80 to 82B-
83 to 86B
87 to 90B+
91 to 94A-
95 to 99A

At the same time, the large amount of extra credit makes it possible for students who would otherwise be failing (but not too far below 60) to get a C-, without applying a curve. Therefore, grades will NOT be curved.

Important: Extra credit for good class participation is NOT given automatically. In addition to whatever you've done to earn the extra credit during a given class session, you must also put your name on an extra-credit signup sheet at the end of the class session. You will earn the maximum class participation extra credit points only if your name is on the extra-credit signup sheets for at least 10 of the class sessions. If your name is on less than 10 extra-credit signup sheets, you will earn 10% of your maximum class participation extra credit per signup sheet.

Textbooks vs. online tutorials and lecture:

Because many students have complained bitterly about how expensive the textbooks used by other sections of this course are, this section uses a variety of free online tutorials instead of textbooks. Note, however, that most of the tutorials are not quite as good as the textbooks, nor are most of the tutorials tailor-made for this (or any) course. Therefore, this section of the course will be somewhat harder than the other sections.

Also, it will be even more important in this section than in the other sections that you be able to attend class regularly. Please note that, in ALL sections of this course, lecture attendance is crucial in order for you to have all the information needed; you cannot rely solely on the reading material of whatever kind.

Recommended (but not required) textbooks:

  1. Exploring Microsoft Word by Grauer and Barber
  2. Exploring Microsoft Excel by Grauer and Barber
  3. Exploring Microsoft Access by Grauer and Barber
  4. Jerry Waxman's course notes - available at the Copy Center under Gino's Pizza, across Kissena Blvd from QC

REQUIRED COURSE MATERIALS (which you must obtain if you don't have them already):

Although you don't need to spend money on textbooks for this course, you might need to spend money on a computer (either a laptop or a desktop -- a tablet will NOT do) if you don't have one already. You will be required to install Microsoft Office, including Word, Excel, and Access, if they are not installed already. If you already have Microsoft Office on your computer, make sure you have version 2010 or later.

You will also be asked to install the following free software on your computer: (1) Scratch, (2) either WinSCP (if you have a Windows machine) or Cyberduck (if you have a Mac), (3) either Putty (for Windows or for Mac OS X) or some other SSH (Secure Shell) client program, and (4) Python ("Latest Python 3 release" for Windows or for Max OS X).

You will also be asked to bring an old-fashioned paper notebook with you to class, for distraction-free note-taking.

Week-by-week syllabus (approximate):

Because the course has recently been rearranged, the following week-by-week syllabus is not yet set in stone. Some topics may take longer or shorter than expected.

Assignments marked "in-class" must be done as homework if you miss the lab session, or finished as homework if you are unable to complete them during the allotted lab time.

Week #Lecture topicsAssignments
1 Administrivia.
Excel miscellany.
Scratch intro.
Scratch (begun in class, continued as homework).
Problem-solving paper preliminaries (homework).
PowerPoint preliminaries (homework).
2 Excel miscellany.
Scratch (and PowerPoint) drawing tools.
Graphics intro.
Excel (begun in class, continued as homework).
Scratch (begun in class, continued as homework).
PowerPoint presentation, part 1
(independent study; due week 4).
Problem-solving paper, part 1 (due week 5).
3 Excel miscellany.
Number bases.
Excel (begun in class, continued as homework).
Scratch (homework).
PowerPoint presentation, part 1, due next week.
4 Data types and their binary
Excel IF functions.
Scratch variables and
Excel (in-class).
Scratch (begun in class, continued as homework).
Problem-solving paper, part 1, due next week.
5 Excel: Formulas with multiple
IF functions (including nested IF),
AND and OR functions.
Review of dates.
Problem-solving techniques.
Excel (in-class).
Scratch (homework).
Problem-solving paper, part 2 (due week 7).
6 Databases: Brief intro.
Excel: More about formulas with multiple
IFS function and more about nested IF,
AND and OR functions.
Access (in-class).
Scratch (homework).
Problem-solving paper, part 2 due next week.
7 Databases: brief intro, continued.
String concatenation.
WinSCP brief intro.
WinSCP login (in-class).
Excel (in-class, continued as homework).
Wordpress (in-class, continued as homework).
Scratch (homework).
Extra-credit assignment on computer security
(maximum 2 to 4 points of final grade).
8 HTML: intro.
Databases: Multi-table.
HTML (in-class and homework).
Access (in-class and homework).
Scratch (homework).
Problem-solving paper, part 3 (due in week 11).
PowerPoint presentation, part 2
(independent study; due week 12).

9 Python, brief intro.
Excel: SMALL and LARGE functions,
array functions (brief overview),
Goal Seek,
Solver tool (brief overview).
Python (in-class).
HTML (in-class, continued as homework).
Wordpress (homework).
Extra-credit assignment
on Excel array constants and array formulas

(maximum 1 to 2 points of final grade).
Extra-credit assignment
on Excel Solver tool

(maximum 2 to 4 points of final grade).
10 Excel: VLookup.
WinSCP and file permissions
Website upload via WinSCP (in-class).
Excel (in-class).
Problem-solving paper, part 3, due next week.
11 Excel: Financial functions.
Components of a website, part 1
Wordpress (homework).
PowerPoint presentation, part 2, due next week/
12 Components of a website, part 2
Excel pivot tables, CSV files.
Word: Reference features, brief overview
Excel (in-class).
Add Word Reference features to paper
(in-class and homework).
13 Computer hardware overview.
Microsoft Word Mail Merge.
Microsoft Word (in class)
14 Search engine optimization?
Review & miscellaneous.


Other relevant websites:

Office hours:

Office hours are after class and (by appointment) before class. Please try to arrange your life so you can stay after class if you need extra help. Please email me in advance if you need to see me before class.

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Week 13: Grading scheme update (from earlier email)

Update to grading scheme

The following was sent to students via email in late April 2020.

In mid-March, during the transition between in-person and online classes, I announced that I would be modifying the grading scheme to place less weight on the final exam and more weight on class participation. I never quantified this, however, being too preoccupied with other aspects of the transition.

The grading scheme originally announced at the beginning of the semester gave the final exam a weight of at least 35% of the total grade. This doesn't make sense for an online course. To cut the weight of the final exam down to 20%, I will be doing the following:

1) The final versions of the problem-solving paper and the PowerPoint slideshow, which will be assigned on Sunday, May 3, will now (especially the paper) have a higher weight than they were given in the initial grading scheme. The problem-solving paper will now be worth 12% of your final score, and the PowerPoint slideshow will now be worth 6% of your final score. Neither of these assignments will require you to do anything new, but just to make corrections in light of feedback on previous versions. (In the event that you haven't done the previous versions but have shown evidence of being able to pass the course otherwise, you may request an incomplete grade if necessary to give you a few extra weeks to do these assignments after the end of the semester; you can then receive your final completed grade a few weeks late..)

2) "Class participation," as I announced in March, is no longer just extra credit (as in the previous grading scheme) but a part of the grade itself. Because I didn't quantify this earlier (although I've mentioned it repeatedly in emails and chat), it will now be just 5% of the grade (I would have preferred to make it 10% and thus further reduce the relative weight of the final exam down to 15% of the total score.) Class participation means not just showing up but being actively engaged, e.g. by asking and answering questions at least occasionally during each online class session. If you have NOT participated much in the past, you must do so during the remaining two regular class sessions on May 3 and May 10, and you may also make up for previous lack of participation via the optional Thursday evening chats (of which there will be one this evening, April 30).

So the grading scheme is now:

~ 20% final exam.

~ 30% quizzes (both the paper quizzes and the online quizzes).

~ 12% final version of the paper on problem-solving.

~ 6% final version of the PowerPoint slideshow.

~ 27% all other homework.

~ 5% class participation.

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D. Nixon: CS 12 > Other Info