ICS 311 Spring 2018 Format and Routines

By "routines" we mean our periodic patterns of activity: what happens in a typical class, a typical week, and a typical exam and assignment cycle. This page tells you what you will be expected to do on a recurring basis.

Exam Cycles

There are two midterm exams covering the core material. Results are returned before the withdrawal date so you can assess whether you are ready for ICS 311.

Weekly Routine

The pace is intense: set aside time almost every day for ICS 311. (We recommend that you take ICS 311 when the rest of your schedule is lighter.) The basic pattern is as follows:








Class Routine

The focus of the Monday/Wednesday classes will be student problem solving in groups, with opportunites to get help. The groups will be formed anew randomly each week. Each day you will solve a series of conceptual problems and turn them in as a group. These problems prepare you to take on more substantial problems that you do at home as part of the homework. At that time you will also allocate points to group members. (See Assessment for explanations of grading.)

Here are typical schedules for 75 minute classes on Monday and Wednesday and 50 minute class on Tuesday (adjustments to the class routine will likely be made to meet current needs):

Monday Class:

Tuesday Class:

Wednesday Class:

Plan to bring your laptop or tablet to lectures (but not to exams). You'll need an HDMI or mini-DP connector to be able to project your laptop to your working group, or you can connect wirelessly via Windows wireless display or Apple TV using an iPad, a recent MacBook, or Air Parrot software installed on a Windows machine or older Mac OS. Groups can function with only one or two members having a projectable laptop, but it's better for you to have a laptop so you can be an active participant. At least one person in each group should have the textbook handy in class as well.

Other Comments

Inverted Classroom

This class is "inverted" in the sense that lectures are recorded and made available outside of class, and classroom time is used for what can only be done in person: collaboration and helping each other.

Lectures have their advantages, but they have problems too. For most students listening to lectures is too passive an activity. The temptation to daydream or check Facebook may be too great, and it takes effort to keep your mind on the material. Actual problem solving is more effective for learning. Also, lectures are a form of "distance learning": though we are all in the same room we might as well be at a distance, as there is little interaction. When I ask working professionals what skills they want our students to have, being able to collaborate in teams is ALWAYS mentioned on the first breath.

For these reasons, the inverted classroom puts lectures online so that students who benefit from them can have them, and even review them repeatedly; and uses the classroom time in ways that engage students more actively and takes advantage of the unique opportunity provided by being in the same room.

Studying Before Class and Quizzes

The quizzes at the beginning of the class are intended to motivate students to review the material before class. If you don't prepare in advance, you risk looking foolish in front of your peers, who may be annoyed at you for being unprepared to help, and you'll miss a learning opportunity. You don't want to get a reputation for being the person who is not prepared. It's a small world: someday your peers may be able to influence hiring decisions.


Much has been published by researchers and practitioners on how to organize groups for collaborative learning. Our approach is based on this research and our experience with this course.

During the semester students will be assigned randomly to groups, rotating to new groups each week to help you get to know each other. (A survey of students in a prior class indicated that many liked this format as it was a rare opportunity to get to know other ICS students.) Also it helps prevent reliance on dysfunctional relationships (e.g., freeloading and "the sucker effect"): a student can't plan on being with someone who will do the work for him or her.

This is an important opportunity to develop group collaboration skills and also to develop a good reputation with your peers. I have seen some students after graduation get hired while others fail to get a job because of the reputations they had with their peers.

Nodari Sitchinava (based on material by Dan Suthers)