Course Goals

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

Communication is a key aspect of this course. A proof is not simply correct or incorrect; it is an act of communication to an intended audience. For this reason, the production of clear, convincing, and unambiguous writing is a key aspect of this course.

Pandemic Changes

While the course of the pandemic has improved, we still are prepared to adapt to health issues (both individual and broader).

What happens if I get sick?

Remember to follow the university policies (which include rules on reporting positive tests if you've been on campus, restrictions on when you can return to campus, and some times when masking may be required for you, even if not for everyone).

Late days are intended to handle "normal" issues during the quarter. Additional accommodations (e.g. extra late days or longer extensions on specific assignments) may be possible if you have an extended illness. Contact Robbie as soon as possible if your illness is beyond

We will be recording lectures and posting to panopto so you can keep up/catch back up when you're healthy.

What if I get sick right before an exam?

Don't come to the exam if you're sick! Contact Robbie once you know you're too sick to attend, and we'll schedule a makeup exam for when you're ready to return to campus.

If your illness hits for the final, we may utilize other options like remote exams or temporarily giving an incomplete until you're well enough to return and take the exam. We will work with you to decide which accommodation is appropriate to your illness.

What if I'm not sick, but won't be comfortable in a large lecture hall?

Lectures will be recorded; we won't track in-person attendance for lectures.

We expect the final to take place in person.

We will have some accommodations available for people with significant reasons to not attend the main exam (e.g., a conflict exam for illnesses), but these will be limited.

If you have a health condition (mental or physical) that means you should not be in a large lecture hall, you should contact DRS (see Accomodations above) to investigate accommodations.

What happens if a staff member gets sick?

Depending on who is sick (and how sick they are) we may find a substitute or convert an in-person meeting to zoom. In extreme circumstances, we may cancel a section or office hour, but we do not expect that to be common. Any such changes will be announced via Ed.

If Robbie has an extended illness, we may switch to zoom lectures for a short time.

We are doing our best to learn and teach during a pandemic. But we are still in a pandemic! If unforeseen circumstances arise during the quarter, please do not hesitate to talk to the course staff. The sooner we are made aware, the more options we will have for designing accommodations. You can also send us anonymous feedback with ideas to improve the course.

Nonetheless, one of the main methods of learning is talking to other students in the course! We strongly encourage you to find study groups you can meet with (remotely or otherwise).


Grades will be based off homework assignments, section participation, a "mini-midterm" and a final.


There will be approximately eight week-long homeworks.

Since technical communication is one of the main focuses of the course, we will grade your homework both in accuracy and clarity. More details are included in our grading guidelines.

Homeworks are both a chance for you to improve your understanding and for us to evaluate how well you understand the material. For that reason, although you are encouraged to discuss the problems with one another, you must still write up solutions on your own. More details are included in the collaboration policy.


We will have a take-home "mini-midterm." You will have access to course resources during the exam, but collaboration will be limited. We will release more details as we get closer to the exam. The exam will be available over the weekend of February 10-12.


We will have an in-person final exam. It will be at 8:30 AM on Wednesday March 15th (as scheduled on the UW standard final schedule.

Section participation

This course is designed to introduce concepts in lectures and give you practice with them in sections. As a result, trying the problems associated with each section is extremely important for success in the course.

Each week, TAs will record everyone who came to section and participated. "Particpated" doesn't mean you ever have to get questions correct, or even say something out loud for the whole class. It means you're working on the problems, and talking with those around you.

You are expected to attend the section which you are officially registered for. If you cannot attend your section for a specific week, you may attend another with permission of the section's TAs.

If you cannot attend any section in-person, you may do the section problems on your own and submit them to a TA for credit. More details (including which problems to do) will be released on Ed each week.

There are 10 sections during the quarter. Your section participation grade will be: min(9,number-participated)/9. I.e., you can miss one section without penalty (or doing the replacement problems), but do not get extra credit for participating in more than 9.

Extra credit

We will have occasional extra credit problems on homework assignments. These problems are intended to allow students who want to dig deeper into the material and work on more challenging problems.

Extra credit will have minimal effect on your final grades. They are graded separately from the main homework and factored in only after grade cutoffs have already been determined.

Assigning course grades

Your course average will be a combination of your scores on the homeworks and exams. We will weight those categories as follows:

Extra credit is incorporated after we have set the grade breaks according to the weights above. Extra credit has a minimal effect on grades (changing GPAs by 0.1 or less).

Students often wonder whether the class is "curved." For example, whether the median course grade must be some specified value, or if we have a maximum amount of "good" grades we can assign. We do not "curve" in either of these senses. We do, though, look at the performance of students this quarter relative to other quarters (especially where homework problems were similar) to try to keep grades consistent between different quarters (that is that similar levels of understanding of the content would lead to similar grades). This process means that before we have collected all the grades, we don't know exactly where gradebreaks will be.

Grade guarantees

In order to give you a sense of how you are doing during the quarter, we offer the following minimum guarantees. That is, if your course average (calculated as descrbed above) meets these thresholds, we guarantee that you will get a GPA of the grade shown or higher. These guarantees are intended to give you a simple way to interpret how you are doing throughout the quarter; we will still decide at the end of the quarter on exact grade breaks as described above. In the event that exams or homeworks (or both) turn out more difficult than intended, we may make grades higher than indicated here, but we will not make them less generous.

Course Grade GPA guarantee

Late Policy


You will have six late days to use during the quarter for homework assignments. A late day allows you to turn in an assignment up to 24 hours later without penalty. Simply submit late and we will keep track of your usage internally.

Regardless of how many late days you have, you cannot submit an assignment more than 72 hours after it is due without prior permission from course staff.

For example, an assignment due at 11:59 PM on Wednesday could be turned in at 10 PM on Friday with no penalty by using two late days. However, you cannot submit at 12:01 AM Sunday as it would be more than 72 hours.

If you run out of late days, you may still turn in an assignment late, at a penalty of 15% per day (but still may not turn in an assignment after the 72-hour-late-deadline without prior permission from the course staff).

Late days are designed to handle the “normal” difficulties in a quarter (e.g. prioritizing different courses, fundraising for an RSO, a minor cold, or attending a relative’s birthday dinner). If your situation goes beyond those “normal” circumstances, you should contact the course staff as early as you can.


We will not allow late days to be used on take-home exams. If you have extenuating circumstances that interfere with completing these activities on-time, you should contact the course staff.

Academic Integrity

We want to make sure that you fully understand and internalize the approach to the materials. So, we take academic integrity very seriously. We may refer violations of our policies to the Office of Academic Affairs.


You are allowed (and encouraged!) to discuss homework problems with other students, as long as you:

Collaboration rules will be different on the exams. More details will be released as we get closer to the exams.

If you are confused as to whether or not some collaboration is allowed, ask us! No set of rules will be completely exhaustive.

If something weird happens, please tell us too! We will not consider any action to be a violation of the academic integrity policy if you tell us about it before turning in the assignment.

Resources Outside of CSE 311

You are strongly encouraged to seek out resources beyond official course resources, with the following caveats: