ICS 311 Fall 2017 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. They are given one full week after the last problem set on the exam topics was due, so you have time to get feedback on homework problems. The first exam is at least half review of 211 and 241. Results are returned before the withdrawal date so you can assess whether you are ready for ICS 311.

Weekly Routine

On most weeks we cover one book chapter/topic in each of the two classes (two chapters per week). Exceptions include the first two weeks when we are getting our bearings and covering material that must be understood to comprehend the rest of the semester; the weeks we have midterms; and the chapter that introduces graphs (we take a full week for it).

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:

Thursday Night:



Class Days (MW for section 1; TTh for sections 2 and 3):

Tuesdays (all sections):



* "Midnight": The deadline in Laulima will be set to 23:55 (11:55 pm) on the due date, to avoid any ambiguity of which day "00:00" refers to, but an upload of 11:59 will be considered on time. Upload your solutions before midnight. Uploads will remain open after midnight, but if you are late, 10% will be deducted. You must upload something by 2:00 am. You may upload corrections until 2:00 am, and no submissions are accepted after this time.

Class Routine

The focus of our 100 minute class 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 for a group grade. These problems prepare you to take on more substantial problems that you do individually over the weekend and turn in on the next Tuesday. At that time you will also allocate points to group members. (See Assessment for explanations of grading.)

Here are typical schedules for 100 minute classes: Adjustments to the class routine will likely be made to meet current needs.

First Class (Monday or Tuesday):

Second Class (Wednesday or Thursday):

Plan to bring your laptop or tablet to classes held in Webster 101 (but not to exams). You'll need a VGA or HDMI connector if you want to be able to project your laptop to your working group, or you can connect by 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 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 a decision whether to hire you (I have seen this happen with both outcomes).


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.

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, and after a while people figure out who to avoid when forming groups.

This is an important opportunity to develop group collaboration skills and also to develop a good reputation with your peers. It may affect whether you are selected to be part of a good group in ICS 311, and 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.

Dan Suthers
Last modified: Thu Aug 17 01:09:28 HST 2017