Informatics 43: Informatics Core Course III (Introduction to Software Engineering)
Spring 2009
Course Reference

Instructor information

Office hours: I will be available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:00-8:30pm in ICS 249 — not my office, as it's in a building that will be locked during at least part of that time — during which all course-related issues will have the highest priority. If you catch me in my office at other times during the week and I'm not working on something urgently, I'll be glad to chat with you about whatever's on your mind.

Contacting me: I tend to be much easier to reach via email than by phone, so I would suggest using email to contact me under normal circumstances. When you write me an email, please take a few moments to make sure that the following information is placed somewhere in your message: your name, your student ID#, and which course you're enrolled in (I'm teaching more than one this quarter).

Times and places

The lecture meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:00-6:20pm in ICS 174.

Your TA and discussion section

Your TA this quarter is Hye Jung Choi (hchoi7 AT uci DOT edu).

The discussion section meets on Fridays from 1:00-1:50pm in ICS 174. The discussion is mandatory, in the sense that material will be covered there (especially related to the course project) that will not be covered anywhere else or posted on-line; we won't be taking attendance, but missing it will make it difficult to complete the course project successfully.


The textbook for this course is:

Software Engineering: Principles and Practice, 3rd Edition
by Hans van Vliet
ISBN 978-0-470-03146-9

This course includes required readings, the material from which will be considered fair game for the Midterm and Final Exam. Much of that reading will be from the van Vliet text listed above, though some will be supplementary online readings.

While this course is not focused on programming, there will be a project that you will need to implement in Java. You may find a Java reference book handy for this. You'll probably find your textbook from prerequisite coursework to be sufficient as a reference. If not, there are many suitable ones out there; different styles appeal to different people, so I suggest going to a local bookstore and finding one that you feel comfortable with. One book that you might like is the second edition of a book titled Head First Java, which can be purchased at many bookstores; more information about this book is available at this link.

Obtaining additional assistance

Asking questions of course staff

You can most easily get course questions answered by coming to the lecture, the lab section, or office hours and asking them. I am happy to help you in person when I'm available. You can also ask questions by sending email to me and/or the TA; we check our email frequently throughout the day, so you can usually get an answer to course-related questions within a few hours (and often much more quickly). If the questions require a complex or lengthy response, we may ask you to see us in person, though we'll try to give you at least enough information to get started on solving your problem. As projects approach their due date, particularly on days when projects are due, we begin to receive quite a bit of email all at once, so we may not be able to respond to all messages before the project is due. We're not ignoring you on purpose, but unfortunately it's not always possible for us to answer questions from a large number of students at once.

Accommodations for disabilities

Any students who feel that they may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact me privately to discuss these specific needs. Also, contact the Disability Services Center at (949) 824-7494 as soon as possible to better ensure that such accommodations, such as alternative test-taking environments or note-taking services, can be provided to you in a timely way.


Weights of graded artifacts

Your course grade will be determined from the weighted combination of your scores on a multiple-phase course project, one Midterm, and one Final Exam. The weights of each of these are:

Determining final grades

Course grades will be determined neither on a normal curve nor a straight scale. It is guaranteed that overall scores over 90% will receive an A- or better, scores over 80% will receive a B- or better, and scores over 70% will receive a C or better. However, the actual cutoffs may be lowered at the end of the quarter. In short, it is not my intention to fail half of the students, nor am I planning on giving only 2% of the students A's, but I prefer not to constrain myself with either a straight scale or a formalized curve.

If you're curious about how you're doing in the course, I'm happy to discuss your estimated grade at any time. It's generally best to have this conversation in person, so that we can explore issues other than just the raw numbers; I'm happy to have this conversation at any time that I'm available, and I'm also glad to do it via email if we can't find a mutually available time.

Dropping the course or changing grade option

You may drop the course or change your grade option through end of Week 6 (Friday, May 8).

During the first two weeks of the course, adds and drops are handled electronically via the Electronic Add/Drop feature of WebReg. Beyond that time — or any time you want to change grade option — you'll need to obtain an add/drop/change card, which can be found in many places on campus (e.g., Aldrich Hall and the ICS Student Affairs Office, to name a couple), then get my signature on it. I will not be on campus on Fridays this quarter, so the latest day to get a signature on one of these cards will be Thursday, May 7; I cannot offer exceptions to this under any circumstances.

Academic honesty

The policy

As Informatics 43 students, you are expected to know and follow the academic honesty policies of both the Bren School of ICS and the University as a whole. Please take a few minutes to read the policies, which can be found at this link.

Your project is expected to be completed solely by you. Working in groups and/or sharing of code or prose between students is not permitted. Note that "high-level discussion of course material for better understanding" is permitted and encouraged, but when it comes time to sit down and write code or documents, that is expected to be done by you and you alone. All submissions are compared to one another using an automated plagiarism detection system. This system is extraordinarily good at finding similarities between submissions, even when there are superficial differences. (Note that we also compare your submissions to those submitted during previous quarters whenever one of these assignments was given during a previous quarter, so it is an exceedingly bad idea to turn in, or even refer to, code written by a friend of yours who took the course already.)

Since all of your work is expected to be completed solely by you, you will be held responsible even if you plagiarize only a small portion of someone else's work.

Academic honesty is a two-way street. Providing your work to other students for them to turn in as their own is not permitted anymore than turning in someone else's work. Resist the temptation to give code or documents to your friends "for reference." Based on my experience, I can say that your "friends" may very well betray you and turn it in, anyway.

Naturally, the Midterm and Final Exam are also expected to be individual efforts. Dishonest behavior during an exam will not be tolerated.

Violators of academic honesty policies are subject to the penalties described in the Bren School of ICS policy. They are also subject to an immediate course grade of F, and you will not be allowed to drop the course to avoid the grade. Also be aware that a single documented case of academic dishonesty may preclude you from switching into computing majors, registering for computing minors, joining the ICS Honors Program, and graduating from a computing major with honors.

The lesson

Okay, so the moral of the story is that it's wise to avoid cheating. I believe that it's relatively rare that students enter a course with the conscious intent to cheat their way through it; why come to UCI if you're not planning to get something out of the coursework? So why do people cheat every quarter in every course? The answers vary, but here's the easiest way I can boil down the numerous conversations I've had with students caught cheating in my courses over the years: I fell behind and couldn't figure out how to catch up. Things happen and ten-week quarters are unforgiving. You might get sick, you might have issues crop up in your family, you might have an off-campus job that's demanding too much of your time, you might be trying to decide whether you're on the path you want to be on... Any of those things (and many others) can make it hard to keep up. You fall a little behind, you fall a little further behind, and pretty soon the situation seems hopeless. You're under pressure, temptation gets the better of you...

If you feel like you're beginning to slip off course or things are getting beyond your control, the best thing to do is to talk to us sooner rather than later. We're here to help; we understand. But the reality of taking large-sized courses at a large-sized institution is that we're not going to know you're in need unless you tell us. If things are happening in your life, tell us; you don't have to be specific if you're not comfortable with it. Before the fact, there's often a way to work things out. After the fact, it's usually too late.