Community Engaged CS

CS 186-02 • Fall 2020

Course Syllabus

CS 186 Special Topics: Community Engaged Computer Science

Fall 2020 • CS 186-02 • 2 Credits

This course provides a structured opportunity for students to learn and participate in the departmental and local technical communities on and off campus. The course features activities including guest speakers from the local tech industry; faculty research talks; presentations by the campus career center and similar organizations; field trips to local meetup events; and opportunities for students to socialize and build relationships with one another.


A syllabus is similar to a contract between the instructor and the student, and as such can be quite long. Here is a summary of some important points in this document:

  • Due to the Thanksgiving break and timing of the end of the semester, the last normal lecture for this class is Friday, November 20, 2020. See: Important Dates

  • There will be no final exam. Instead, students must participate in CS Night on the evening of Thursday, December 5, 2020. See: Grading Breakdown

  • Students must get 60% or above in all categories to pass. Falling below that cutoff in any category will result in an F letter grade. See: Grading Breakdown

  • We will primarily use Piazza for all asynchronous communication for this class, not email. See: Communication Policy

  • Attendance is required and late submissions are not accepted; but there are automatic exceptions granted for certain situations. See: Course Policies

It is still the responsibility of each student to review the entire syllabus below.

This section covers basic information about the course, instructor, and teacher assistants.

Lecture Sections

This course meets once a week as follows:

CS 186-02 (CRN 41057)
1:00pm – 2:45pm
Zoom: 941 4305 4441

Some activities may occur outside of the scheduled class time. These will be announced on Piazza.

See the Getting Started With Zoom guide for how to download, install, login, and properly use Zoom.


The course instructor and office hours will be as follows:

Sophie Engle
Thursdays, 2:45pm – 4:15pm
Fridays, 11:00pm – 12:30pm
Zoom: 983 9788 5780

Teacher Assistant

The teacher assistant and TA office hours will be as follows:

Pierce Hammond
Wednesdays, 4:00pm – 5:00pm
Zoom: 669 854 9458
(See Piazza for password.)


Requires instructor approval. Must be an incoming first-year CS major.

Required Materials

There are no required textbooks for this class.

Students will be required to use various software and websites, including Zoom, Canvas, Poll Everywhere, Piazza, and Linkedin Learning. Everything is free to use for enrolled students, will be linked from the course website, and class time will be dedicated to making sure everyone has appropriate access.

Students must have access to a desktop or laptop computer, modern and updated web browser, and a stable internet connection to participate remotely in livestream lectures.

Important Dates

Below are important dates relevant to this class:

🚩 Date Description
  08/18 Fall 2020 classes begin.
🚩 08/21 First CS 186-02 lecture.
  08/24 Last day to add classes online.
  09/04 Census date; last day to drop without a “W” appearing on transcript.
  10/30 Last day to withdraw from a class and receive a “W” on transcript.
🚩 11/20 Last CS 186-02 lecture.
  11/27 Class canceled due to Thanksgiving recess.
🚩 12/03 CS Night; Fall 2020 classes end.

See the official academic calendar for other important dates.

We will not have a final exam in this class. Students must instead attend CS Night on Thursday December 3rd.

This section discusses what the students can expect to learn in this course and how the learning outcomes for this course will be assessed.

Learning Outcomes

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

  • Describe on-campus support provided by the CS Department and University
  • Engage with technical communities on and off campus
  • Improve in-class oral communication skills

This course counts towards general electives. It does not count towards the CS major or CS minor.

Course Topics

The majority of class time is dedicated to guest lectures. Topics fall into one of three categories: department community, university community, or local community.

Department Community

This includes activities that involve the community within the USF Computer Science department. For example:

  • Guest lectures or panels from faculty
  • Guest lectures or panels from alumni
  • Guest lectures or panels from CS student groups, such as Women in Tech, the Diversineers, or the ACM Student Chapter
  • Guest lectures or panels from other CS department groups, such as the CS Tutoring Center or CS Support
University Community

This includes activities that involve the community within the broader University community. For example:

  • Guest lectures from the Career Services Center
  • Guest lectures from other campus organizations, such as the LWSC, CASA, HPS, and CAPS
Local Community

This includes activities that involve the local SF Bay Area or tech communities. For example:

  • Guest speakers or panels from local tech companies
  • Attending field trips to local tech companies
  • Attending local meetups or technical conferences

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, some local community activities (such as field trips and physically attending local tech meetups) have been replaced with virtual or remote options.

Grading Breakdown

The course requirements are broken into several categories. Students must earn above a 60% in each category to pass the course.

If one or more categories fall below 60%, then an “F” letter grade is automatically assigned regardless of the percentage score.{ .has-text-danger }

As long as all categories remain above a 60%, the final grade is determined by the following breakdown:

Percent Category
25% Class Attendance
25% Participation Assignments
25% Class Presentation
25% Community Engagement

Additional details on each category can be found below.

Class Attendance

Students are expected to attend class on-time and participate during in-class exercises. Students must be present for at least 90% of the class time to earn attendance credit.

Students must attend at least 60% of all classes to pass this course.

Participation Assignments

Students must complete weekly pass/fail participation assignments throughout the semester. Example assignments include posting questions for an invited speaker, providing presentation feedback, and responding to surveys and in-class polls.

Class Presentation

Students must complete a 10 minute in-class presentation on a significant figure, organization, or event in Computer Science. This category includes several pass/fail assignments: selecting a presentation topic, submitting slides (or other presentation materials) ahead of time, optionally visiting the Speaking Center in preparation for the presentation, and delivering the presentation in class.

Accommodations will be made on request for students unable to present via Zoom.

Community Engagement

Students must attend community engagement activities outside of class. Participation in these activities makes up the majority of the out-of-class work required for this class.

This includes participating in at least one event offered by the CS department (other than CS Night), at least one event offered by the University, and at least one event offered by the local SF Bay Area or technical communities.

This also involves participating in the annual CS Night celebration at the end of the semester. Participation in this event replaces the final exam for this course.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, virtual participation or engaging in pre-recorded videos will be accepted instead of in-person participation. If this still causes undue hardship, reach out to the instructor to discuss alternatives.

Grading Scale

Students must earn above a 60% in each category to pass the course.

If one or more categories fall below 60%, then an “F” letter grade is automatically assigned regardless of the percentage score.{ .has-text-danger }

As long as all grade categories remain above a 60%, the final grade is determined by the following letter grade and GPA scale:

  Letter   GPA
97% ≤ A+ < 100% 4.0
94% ≤ A < 97% 4.0
90% ≤ A– < 94% 3.7
87% ≤ B+ < 90% 3.3
84% ≤ B < 87% 3.0
80% ≤ B– < 84% 2.7
77% ≤ C+ < 70% 2.3
74% ≤ C < 77% 2.0
70% ≤ C– < 74% 1.7
67% ≤ D+ < 70% 1.3
64% ≤ D < 67% 1.0
60% ≤ D– < 64% 0.7
0% ≤ F < 60% 0.0

See the Undergraduate Student Regulations for more about letter grades and GPA for undergraduate students.

This section includes miscellaneous policies specific to this course, including communication, attendance, credit hours, cheating, and more. These policies are in addition to the standard USF policies included later.

Communication Policy

Email will NOT be used for communication in this course.

Instead, please see how best to communicate depending on whether you wish to communicate synchronously (live, simultaneously, in real time) or asynchronously (on your own time, without immediate responses or feedback).

Synchronous Communication

The synchronous communication that would have occurred in-class will be conducted during the live lectures as follows:

  • Comment Box: At the start of class and during breaks, the instructor will enable a poll that allows you to enter questions and comments anonymously.

  • Raise Hand: Use the “Raise Hand” feature in Zoom to get the instructor’s attention. The instructor will pause and give you an opportunity to ask a question verbally or via the chat.

  • Meeting Chat: Use the in-meeting “Chat” feature in Zoom to ask questions or make comments. These should be posted in the “Everyone” channel (not privately). If you do not want your name to appear in the main chat, you can privately chat the TA to post the question on your behalf instead.

Office hours will also be held via Zoom. Requests will be taken on a first-come first-serve basis (i.e. no appointments). You may join individually or in groups. The instructor will create private breakout rooms to respond to questions as needed.

Asynchronous Communication

Most asynchronous course-related communication will be handled using Piazza—a FERPA-compliant Q&A platform that supports public, anonymous, and private posts. When making posts on Piazza, please keep the following in mind:

  • Search other posts first. It is possible your question has already been asked and answered in another post. There is a search feature and you can use the folders to narrow posts to a single category.

  • Make a public post when appropriate. You can post anonymously if you prefer. Your classmates will not be able to see your identity for anonymous posts, but instructors will still be able to see your name. If you make a private post that should be public, you will be asked to create a new public anonymous post before receiving an answer.

  • Do not post code on Piazza. If you have a question regarding your specific code, please commit and push your code to your GitHub repository and post a link. That ensures only those with access to your repository (instructor and teacher assistants) will see your code.

  • Make posts specific to solutions or grades private to the instructor and teacher assistants. This replaces directly emailing the instructor regarding the course. If you email the instructor directly, you will be asked to make a private post on Piazza before receiving an answer.

  • Follow the 1 hour rule. You should be stuck on a problem between 30 minutes to 1 hour before asking for help, but should immediately ask for help if stuck over 1 hour. Worst case, you figure out the answer before we are able to help. Best case, we can help you get unstuck!

  • Post exact details when possible. You will get a solution faster if you include as many details as possible when asking for help. This might include exact error messages, stack traces, which tests are failing and passing, console or log output, and more. If you forget, we will have to ask you for this detail which can extend how long it takes to get help.

In addition to Piazza, the instructor will also use Canvas to notify students of missing assignments or warn about low grades.

This course also has an anonymous suggestion box where you can raise non-urgent concerns or suggestions.

Under no circumstances should you reach out to the teacher assistants regarding this course via any unapproved communication channel. Instructors and teacher assistants must provide all students equal opportunity for course-related help. Using unapproved communication channels creates an unfair advantage over other students and will be treated as a violation of the Student Conduct Code.

Student Conduct

Students are required to adhere to the University’s Student Code of Conduct. In short, students are expected to treat each other with respect at all times.

In addition, remote learning often involves a netiquette policy. Simply stated, “netiquette” is network etiquette—that is, the etiquette of cyberspace. And “etiquette” means “the forms required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be required in social or official life.” In other words, Netiquette is a set of rules for behaving properly online [1].

Synchronous Netiquette

Activities that are synchronous are those that occur live (in real-time) with everyone participating at the same time. This includes livestreamed lectures and labs on Zoom. When communicating and participating in synchronous portions of the course:

  • Arrive on time and attend for the entire session.
  • Listen and dialog with each other respectfully.
  • Participate in live polls and surveys in a timely manner.
  • Need a break? Wait until the scheduled breaks if possible. There will either be two 10 minute breaks or one 15 minute break each lecture.

It will always be OPTIONAL whether you wish to enable your audio and/or video. When enabling your audio and/or video, keep in mind the following:

  • The main livestream is sometimes recorded for students unable to attend live. If you enable your audio and/or video, it is possible it will be part of the password- protected recording.
  • Consider enabling your audio and video during small group breakout rooms or when asking a question live.
  • Keep your microphone muted unless speaking.
  • If you choose to enable your video, please make sure to present yourself appropriately (dressed as you would be in the classroom) and double-check your background environment (for example, clean up laundry, trash).
  • Be careful what you do while your video is enabled. Everyone can see you in “Gallery View” if you enable video, even if you are not currently speaking.
Asynchronous Netiquette

Activities that are asynchronous are those that occur outside of class time, usually individually on your own. This includes watching a pre-recorded lecture or participating in an online discussion board. When communicating and participating in asynchronous portions of the course:

  • Be respectful of other participants and keep your comments constructive.
  • Avoid using all caps (may be read as SHOUTING).
  • Keep subject lines clear.
  • Spelling and grammar do count; proofread your writing.
  • Be coherent and succinct.
  • Check the most recent comment/email before replying to an earlier one.
  • Do not falsify information or impersonate others online.
  • Limit use of acronyms (eg YOLO), icons and emojis. If you want to use an acronym, icon, or emoji (or even a GIF) in this class to express yourself, please feel free to do so :) Just keep it appropriate!

Attendance Policy

See the Class Attendance requirements above. Students must be present for at least 90% of the class time to earn attendance credit.

Students must attend at least 60% of all classes to pass this course. See the Grading Scale section for details.

Late Policy

By default, late submissions are not accepted. However, students may request an exception to this policy. See the Policy Exceptions section below for details.

Cheating Policy

All students are expected to know and adhere to the University’s Honor Code (see the Academic Integrity section below). In short, students must never misrepresent their work. Examples of honor code violations include (but are not limited to):

  • Lying about your attendance or participation in outside of class activities
  • Having anyone other than yourself complete your work
  • (including classmates and tutors)
  • Copying and pasting content without attribution from the web (or from anywhere)

Flagrant or repeat violations of the honor code will result in an F in the course, a report to the Academic Integrity Committee (AIC), and a report to the Dean.

At the discretion of the instructor, a less severe penalty may be imposed for minor or first offenses. This usually involves receiving a 0% on the assignment with no opportunity to make up the lost points, as well as a report to the department chair and your academic advisors. This is at the sole discretion of the instructor and any violation may result in an F in the course. See also the Regret Clause below.

Credit Hour Policy

The official USF Credit Hour Policy states:

“One unit of credit in lecture, seminar, and discussion work should approximate one hour of direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work per week through one 15-week semester.”

Students should expect to spend approximately 1 hour on out-of-class work every week, with some weeks requiring more out-of-class time. See the Community Engagement requirements for out-of-class expectations over the semester.

Life sometimes (often?) interferes with learning. Several exceptions to course policies will be granted AUTOMATICALLY upon request. These exceptions are requested by making a private post on Piazza within the required timeframe. See the following sections for additional details.

Attendance Waiver

You may request to have your attendance waived for any lecture that you are not scheduled to present. The waiver will be automatically granted if (1) it is made within 48 hours of the missed lecture, (2) you are not scheduled to present on that day, and (3) you have not made any previous attendance waiver requests.

Assignment Extension

You may request to have a 48 hour extension on any participation assignment. This request will be automatically granted as long as (1) the assignment is in the participation category, (2) the request is made within 48 hours of the assignment deadline, and (3) you have not made any previous extension requests.

This extension does not cover assignments in other categories, such as attending a livestream panel or presenting in-class.

Extra Credit Request

Unhappy with one of your grades? You may request an extra credit assignment to make up the missing points for one assignment in any category. This will involve extra work, so students are encouraged to take advantage of the assignment extension or attendance waiver first if possible.

An extra credit request will be automatically granted if (1) the request is made within 48 hours of receiving your assignment grade and (2) you have not made any previous extra credit requests.

Regret Clause

Did you cross the line and violate the Academic Honesty policy? You can invoke the regret clause [2] to avoid the full consequences outlined in the Cheating Policy section. Instead, you will be able to resubmit the offending assignment with a 40% point deduction.

You must voluntarily invoke the regret clause within 48 hours of submitting the offending assignment and attend a one-on-one appointment with the instructor to discuss the specifics of your cheating case to qualify.

You cannot retroactively invoke the regret clause. If the instructor confronts you regarding cheating after the 48 hour grace period, expect full consequences for that action.

You can only invoke the regret clause once. Repeat cheating cases will immediately result in an F for the course and report to the Academic Integrity Committee.

Other Exceptions

Additional exceptions may be requested for any reason, but are more likely to be approved for verifiable exceptional circumstances. To make an additional policy exception request, please make a private post on Piazza to only the course instructor.

This section includes standard statements on University policies and resources.

Students with Disabilities

The University of San Francisco is committed to providing equal access to students with disabilities. If you are a student with a disability, or if you think you may have a disability, please contact USF Student Disability Services (SDS) at or call (415) 422-2613 to speak with a disability specialist. All communication with SDS is private and confidential. If you are eligible for accommodations, please request that your accommodation letter be sent to me as soon as possible, as accommodations are not retroactive. Once I have been notified by SDS of your accommodations we can discuss your accommodations and ensure your access to this class or clinical setting.

Behavioral Expectations

All students are expected to behave in accordance with the Student Conduct Code and other University policies.

Academic Integrity

USF upholds the standards of honesty and integrity from all members of the academic community. All students are expected to know and adhere to the University’s Honor Code.


All course communications, like all other USF communications, will be sent to your USF official email address. You are therefore strongly encouraged to monitor that email account.

See the Communication Policy for this course above.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

CAPS provides confidential, free counseling to student members of our community.

Confidentiality, Mandatory Reporting, and Sexual Assault

For information and resources regarding sexual misconduct or assault visit the Title IX coordinator or USF’s Callisto website.