Course Policies


Table of Contents

Late Policy

Written by Pat Hanrahan

Hofstadter’s Law: “It always takes longer than you think, even when you take Hofstadter’s Law into account.”

The rules:

  1. The cutoff for on-time submission is 5 PM of the due date. Late days are counted in 24-hour periods. Submitting anytime between 5 PM and 5 PM of the next day is one day late, and so on. We use the timestamp of your final git commit as the the time you submitted your assignment.

  2. You are given 4 “grace days” (self-granted extensions) which you can use to give yourself extra time without penalty.

  3. Instructor-granted extensions are only considered after all grace days are used and only given in exceptional situations.

  4. Late work handed in when you have run out of grace is discounted 10% per day late. It is always to your advantage to complete all the assignments even if they are late.

  5. Late submissions (penalty or not) are not accepted after the hard deadline, which is 4 days past the original due date, but may be restricted to fewer days on a per-assignment basis.

  6. The final project must be submitted on time.

Collaboration Policy

Originally written by Julie Zelenski, some wording borrowed from a collaboration policy distributed by Brown CS.

The programming assignments are an integral part of the CS107e learning experience. We have a great set of projects lined up for you and the time you spend designing your own solution and working toward its successful implementation can be fun, challenging, illuminating, time-consuming, rewarding, and frustrating. Your pride upon finishing is a fantastic high and your efforts earn you powerful skills and deep understanding. Don’t cheat yourself out of this incredible learning opportunity! Borrowing someone else’s design, building on another’s code, being lead by another person, and other such “shortcuts” jeopardize the chance to develop your own mastery and compromise your integrity.

This document is designed to make clear our expectations and restrictions on collaboration. We expect your assignment submissions to be your own independent effort and not be derived from the thoughts and work of others. You should do your own thinking, your own design, your own coding, and your own debugging. This doesn’t mean that you can’t ask questions or get help when you get stuck, but any help must remain within acceptable limits, as detailed in the concrete examples given below.

All of you should be familiar with the principles of the Stanford Honor Code. The CS department Honor Code policy further explains how it applies in CS courses. Students are to uphold their obligations to do honorable work and encourage others to do the same. On our part, we will treat students with trust and respect. When alerted to any possible infraction, we will protect the honorable students’ interests by investigating and prosecuting dishonorable behavior.

Assistance that is allowed and requires no citation

These things are encouraged and allowed for all students:

Discussing course topics and materials

You may freely talk through any material from the lectures, labs, textbook, and course documents with other students.

Asking/answering questions about the programming language, libraries, and tools

For example: “Does strcmp compare strings case-insensitively? What does the keyword static mean? How do I view my git history? What does this error message mean in a Valgrind report?”

Clarifying the requirements or specification of an assignment

For example: “Do the results have to be sorted? What is the expected response if the input is empty?”

Sharing generic advice and techniques for coding or debugging

For example: “I test each function right after I finish writing it. When my program crashes, I first look at the stack trace in the debugger. I used custom sanity check to test these kinds of inputs. Valgrind callgrind is great for finding performance bottlenecks.”

Use of web or public resources for background information

You may search for and use external resources (web sites, blogs, forums, etc.) for information on course topics, as reference material on the programming language and libraries, and to resolve technical difficulties in use of the tools. The allowable use of these resources does not extend to assistance specific to the assignment code. (Please see below for restrictions on use of external resources)

Any discussion between student and the staff

You are welcome to discuss any aspects of design, code, or debugging with the course staff. They are the best folks to talk to because they are knowledgeable about all the material and know how to help you without overly influencing or leading you.

Assistance that is allowed but must be cited

Whereas the discussions listed above are allowable, certain discussions require citation. The difference between the two comes in what is being discussed and in how much detail. You may discuss general topics (course materials, tools, language) in any depth without citation, but discussion or help specific to the particulars of an assignment requires citation. The particulars include such things as the program’s design, data structures, choice of algorithms, implementation strategies, testing, and debugging. Some examples:

Discussing the design of an assignment

Design is a crucial part of the programming process, and we want you to learn to work through design problems on your own. Only after you completed your own independently-conceived design, you may compare and contrast with a peer who has also completed their own design. You both must cite this discussion and note any ideas taken away from it.

Helping another student to debug

Two students should not sit down and debug jointly at the same computer, but a student could describe symptoms to a peer who responds with suggestions and hints (e.g. “it sounds like you might have forgotten to terminate the strings” or “you might be accessing freed memory, have you tried commenting out all the free statements?”). Receiving specific debugging advice must be cited.

Sharing specific test inputs or strategy

You may exchange strategies for testing (e.g. “here’s my approach to using custom sanity check”), brainstorm together about test cases (e.g. “be sure to verify handling when file can’t be opened”), and share text inputs (fragment files, corpus files, and so on) but this collaboration must be cited. Sharing actual code used for testing is off-limits.

Re-using your own work from a previous quarter

This special rule applies to students who are re-taking the course. Re-using your previous quarter’s work is generally permissible as long as the work was your original, independent creation and the self re-use is clearly cited. A specific exception to this general rule is the final project on which any re-use is expressly disallowed. For the final project, a re-taking student must take a distinct approach from any previous submission and write new code and new documentation from scratch. Re-using the same design or borrowing code/documentation from a previous submission will not be considered a Honor Code violation, but such a submission will not be accepted for grading.

A required citation must be specific, complete, and truthful. You must clearly identify the source of the help/discussion (person’s name, book title, URL), describe the nature and extent of the assistance, and indicate how you believe the help may have influenced your work. A vague mention of “discussion with friends in my dorm” does not meet the obligations for a required citation. A misleading, incomplete, or untruthful citation can be considered an aggravating factor when a case is referred to the Office of Community Standards.

Failing to make a necessary citation can be charged as an Honor Code violation. Some former students have acknowledged they were unsure about the appropriateness of the assistance and chose not to cite to avoid drawing scrutiny. If in doubt, cite, as it is never a problem to give proper credit where due. If the assistance is truthfully cited, even if impermissible, we can work with you to discount the work rather than handle as a Honor Code violation.

Assistance that is not allowed

Whereas discussion as described above is acceptable if cited, these discussions should never become so detailed that they involve jointly writing or exchanging/sharing passages of code. Your code must represent your original, independent work and it should not be developed in conjunction with or derived from anyone else’s. You should never be intimate with another’s code nor allow others to be intimate with yours. Here are specific examples of unpermitted aid:

Copying code

It is an act of plagiarism to submit work which is copied or derived from the work of others and represent it as your own. It does not matter if the plagiarized source was a current or former student, outside the course, or found on the web, or whether the amount was an entire program or just a small part; in all cases, it is unacceptable. You should never be in possession of anyone’s else code, whether in printed, written, or electronic form.

Reviewing the code/design of another

You are not permitted to have another person “walk you through” their approach nor may you use their work “as a reference” to look at if you get stuck. This prohibition applies to both code and design, to isolated passages as well as the entire program, and whether the review is conducted verbally or in printed/written/electronic form.

Joint development/debugging

You are not permitted to work with another to jointly develop a design, write code, or debug. Two students should never be working together on a passage of code/pseudocode whether on paper, on a whiteboard, or in editor/debugger of a shared computer.

Use of web or public resources for assignment-specific code

You should not be searching external resources for solutions, whether in the form of code, pseudocode, or design. Should you find full/partial solutions anyway, you are to turn away and report the location to us. A submission must not be adopted from or influenced by study of any external resource.

Sharing your code/design

You must not share your code with individual students nor publicly broadcast it. You should not post your assignment code in a public site for the review of others nor ask in a public forum for others to resolve issues specific to your assignment code. Although you will submit assignment code using Github, we have private accounts set up for this and we expect that you will keep this code private. Even after the course ends, you should not put your assignment code on a public Github account. You are expected to take reasonable security precautions to maintain your work privately. If we request that you remove/protect code that has been improperly shared, you are expected to comply in a timely manner.

Note that the giver of unpermitted aid, i.e. the student who provides the code/design/walkthrough to another, can also be charged with a violation.

If you are ever unsure whether something you intend to do is acceptable, play it safe and ask us first. A student’s explanation that “I thought it was okay; I didn’t learn the course policies” will not excuse the violation.

The Honor Code is a powerful assertion that we as a community proudly dedicate ourselves to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity. The vast majority will do right by CS107E – we ask a lot of you and you will consistently meet those challenges by creating work that authentically represents your own effort. We demonstrate our respect and appreciation for your honor and efforts by doing our part to make absolutely clear our expectations and hold accountable those students who act in violation.

Collaboration Policy FAQ

Can I include my solution code in my portfolio for internship/scholarship applications?

We’re delighted to hear that you are proud of your work and want to show it off! We are supportive, but ask that you contain the code to the intended audience. You may share your code via direct communication, privately-maintained repositories, restricted access, or another controlled channel. (as a suggestion, bitbucket.org offers academic users unlimited private repos). Making your code freely accessible on the web or maintaining a public repository at a code-sharing site will be a temptation for others who would exploit it. This is a bad situation we would much rather prevent than prosecute.

What does it mean to have “third-party responsibility” under the Honor Code?

The students and faculty agree to work together to establish and maintain standards for honorable work. Students are not the primary enforcers of the policy, but they give meaning and value to the Honor Code by showing their respect for it and encouraging others to the same. You are to model appropriate behavior in word and deed and should decline to aid or support another’s actions in violation. If asked by another to act inappropriately or you observe something improper, take reasonable action to rectify the problem: draw attention to it, ask the student to stop, remove the temptation, or alert the course staff.

It’s been said that “you’re only cheating yourself”. I do honest work; why do I care if another student doesn’t?

It is sad that a student with the wherewithal to be granted the privilege of a Stanford education would disrespect it in this way, and it is certainly true that they are the one who stands to lose the most by their actions. You can feel secure that your hard work earns you knowledge, skills, and pride that they will never have. If even one acts in violation, it undermines the integrity of the system and the fairness by which we all treat one another. When dishonest dealings are rewarded with course grades as good or better than those given for sincere achievement, it diminishes us all. We demonstrate our respect for those who do right but holding accountable those who do not. We ask you to do your part by not providing unpermitted assistance nor giving tacit approval to dishonorable actions.

I’m nervous about adding a citation, as I’m concerned it will cause my work to be scrutinized and suffer repercussions. What would you advise?

If you fear that citing your collaboration will invite trouble, your dilemma is not in whether to admit to it, but in reconciling that you are engaging in activities that you are not comfortable openly acknowledging. The choice to not cite your sources can be seen as trying to avoid drawing attention to actions you knew were dubious. You should only be engaging in collaboration that you are confident is appropriate, for which you have no qualms about openly citing. A citation that gives proper credit is not only welcome, but necessary. Citing appropriate help never causes a problem and often avoids them. Even in the case where the collaboration was inappropriate, a proper citation can downgrade the severity of the response (see below in “I messed up”).

Can you further clarify appropriate and inappropriate use of external resources?

External resources can be used to research course topics and answer general questions, e.g. review 2’s complement addition, ask “does strncpy null-terminate the destination string?”, or learn how to use a gdb watchpoint. You are not to search for nor use external resources to obtain solutions/answers to assignment-specific tasks. The prohibition applies to solutions in any form (e.g. design, algorithm, code, pseudocode) and whether a complete solution or just part. A few examples of inappropriate use: searching for code to implement portions of the assignment, adopting pseudocode found on Wikipedia for an assignment-specific algorithm, or posting a broken passage of your assignment code on StackOverflow and asking others to debug it. When you have assignment-specific issues, the appropriate resource to tap into is us – come by office hours, post to the forum or send us email. We’re happy to help!

Appropriate use of external resources does not generally require citation, but if your code/design was materially influenced by what you viewed, it is appropriate to cite that resource and indicate the affected passage.

I have stumbled across what appears to be a full/partial solution that is public or otherwise unprotected. What should I do?

Your primary obligation is to make an immediate about-face and follow up with us so we can arrange for its removal. If you peruse the code just “to see how they did it”, you are headed down a slippery slope of being inappropriately influenced by its ideas and can easily lead to adoption of its approach and copying of code. Even if you manage to avert your eyes at first glance, knowing of an available solution can be a powerful siren song that calls you back if you get stuck or want a hint. Contact us immediately so we can take action to remove the temptation. In this way, it will no longer entice you and any other student who might use it in a moment of weakness.

I’m in a tough situation (out of time, behind on material, stressed) and my panic has me considering less-than-honorable ways to get my assignment finished. Help!

As much as we all intend and aspire to be worthy, in the heat of the moment with mounting pressures and the coincidence of opportunity, temptation can weaken resistance. If you find yourself vulnerable, I ask you to please, please, please step away from any immediate action. Taking a break or getting a good night’s sleep may be enough to restore your sense of perspective. Even better would be to reach out to me or someone else you trust and ask for guidance in working through a bad situation. There are always other options. You can ask for more help, you can take a late day even if it means a penalty, you can submit a program that’s known to be imperfect, or you can not submit a program at all. Maybe you can find relief by allowing yourself to reset your expectations about the course grade you’ll earn, changing the grading option to remove pressure, or even withdrawing from the course. Even the most drastic of these options has consequences that are small potatoes compared to compromising your character and facing judicial charges. Please come to me and I promise to support you in finding a way through your situation that will maintain your integrity.

I messed up. I took actions that I suspect/know were in violation of the Honor Code. What do I do now?

Acknowledging responsibility to yourself is a hugely difficult but very important first step. Your next step is to reach out to me. I am more than willing to work constructively with a forthright student who owns their behavior and seeks to make things right. Within a limited time frame, we can accept a request to retract the compromised work or allow an amended citation that properly credits its authorship. Acknowledgment of diminished self-contribution may result in discounted/zero credit for the work, but an accurate explanation rectifies the mis-representation that would have otherwise been the basis for a formal judicial charge. No matter what the violation or your follow up actions, it is never too late to change course and commit yourself to acting with integrity going forward. Even in the situation where a formal case is being pursued with the Office of Community Standards, a student’s efforts to be upfront and cooperate in the process are considered favorably. In contrast, false denials and further prevarication will be treated as aggravating factors.