Summer 2021 — Information and Computer Sciences — UC Irvine
ICS 139W Course Reference
CRITICAL WRITING ON INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, OR
COMMUNICATIONS SKILLS FOR COMPUTER SCIENTISTS
Instructor: David G. Kay (
Teaching assistant: Lika Liu (
Lika will be available for group and individual consultation throughout the term.
Quick links: Master Schedule Piazza Public Q&A Recordings Resources
Course goals: Even if you intend to spend your entire professional life designing software or configuring networks, you will spend more of it writing prose—memos, proposals, documentation, electronic mail—than you will writing code. Yet in most of your courses, you exercise this vital skill only after you have run the last test case, in the half-hour before the deadline. Here we have the luxury of concentrating on your writing skills, with an emphasis on writing to meet the specific needs of different audiences; you will also make oral presentations and design presentation graphics.
This course satisfies UCI's upper division writing requirement, which gives students the opportunity to do writing in ways that are specific to their own academic disciplines, guided by faculty from that discipline rather than from English.
Prerequisite concepts: Satisfaction of the lower division writing requirement isa a prerequisite for this course, so we will expect every student to be able to write cogent, grammatical English at the level expected in Writing 39C.
Discussion groups: Each of you has been assigned to a five-person discussion group in the Canvas system for this class; your group will read and comment on some of each other's work during the quarter.
Meeting place and times: Just kidding. This class is entirely on-line and we plan to be entirely asynchronous (that is, there will be no required activities that occur at a single time for everyone). We will have deadlines for submitting assignments, to maintain the pacing of the course.
Office hours: Lika and I will be checking Piazza regularly every day and we'll also be checking for class-related Email. If there seems to be a need for larger groups of people to meet at once, we can set up something like that, probably on Zoom. These group sessions will be recorded for those who couldn't make it at the scheduled time. If, during the course, you feel as if you'd like to communicate with us in a different way, let us know.
Questions and announcements: You can
usually get a response to your course-related questions most quickly by
posting them at Piazza.com; these postings are public to the whole class (though you may choose to hide your name from your classmates). For questions that apply to you individually, use the private communication feature in Piazza or send electronic mail
to the ID
This goes to both of us, and whoever reads it first can respond. If you
need to reach one of us individually, our individual addresses are listed
We may also send course announcements by Email
to the official course mailing list, so you should check your Email at least daily.
Note that this mailing list goes to the Email address that the registrar
has for you (your UCInet ID). If you prefer to read your Email on another
account, you should set your UCInet account to forward your Email to your
preferred account (from
http://www.oit.uci.edu/email/deliverypoint.html). Don't let this slide; if you miss official
announcements, your grade could suffer.
This course has a home page at
Course materials: Every student in the course should have
There are other useful resources on the 139W resources page.
Course requirements and grading: To satisfy the upper division writing requirement, you must receive a grade of C or better in this course; you may also take this class on a pass/not-pass basis (which also requires work at the C level to pass). This is an overview of the quarter's assignments:
In general we will assign scores on a 100-point scale, with 95 a clear A, 85 a clear B, and below 70 not of passing quality (i.e., below C). It is possible but not guaranteed that the cutoffs for course letter grades of A and B will be assigned more leniently; that is, an overall score of 89% might receive an A or A-.
There will be no exams. Like "project courses" in ICS, you will spend nearly all your time on the writing [building the projects].
We're required to say that in unusual circumstances, these criteria could change. We won't make changes arbitrarily, but the world has had a lot of special circumstances lately and we'd like everyone to try to be flexible, rolling as best we can with the punches that come our way.
Special needs: Any student who feels he or she may need an accommodation due to a disability should contact the UCI Disability Services Center at (949) 824-7494 as soon as possible to explore the possible range of accommodations. We encourage all students having difficulty, whether or not due to a disability, to consult privately with the instructor at any time.
Assignment requirements: The separate sheet titled "Writing Assignment Requirements" contains important advice that can affect your grade. Read it now and check it again every time you start a new assignment.
Good advice and helpful hints:
Check your electronic mail regularly; this is an official channel for course announcements.
You can't wait to start an assignment until the previous assignment is due. Most assignments have more than one step, so they'll spread over weeks. Keep close track of the Master Schedule of assignments and events; it wouldn't be crazy to check it every day.
Participation in your discussion group on assigned tasks is an importat aspect of your learning. People who skip assigned things will receive lower scores.
Always keep your own copy of each assignment in more than one place. If an assignment should get lost in the shuffle (or if some server should crash, which has happened in the past), we'll expect you to be able to supply a replacement easily.
If you find yourself having trouble or getting
behind, speak with a TA or the instructor. But never take the shortcut
of copying someone else's work and turning it in; the consequences can
be far worse than just a low score on one assignment. The ICS department
takes academic honesty very seriously; for a more complete discussion, see
the ICS academic honesty policy:
The best advice we can give you is to read all the materials with care and pay close attention to what they specify. Even if a natural language like English is not quite as precise as a formal language like Python, precise expression in English is precisely what this course is about and we have tried to reflect that in our course materials. The time it takes to read each assignment twice will be time well spent.
Master list of course activities: Stay tuned there for due dates and other news.