Lecture Recording and Practice — MW 3:00-4:30pm — 1610 IOE (materials available here) (mix-and-match attending either lecture for credit, regardless of registration)
Discussion Sections — all optional, all start January 14th (materials available here) (~50% review material, ~50% office hours)
None (but see below, and a personal computer or laptop is required)
Successful software projects require more than just technical expertise. Figuring out what the client wants, collaborating in a team, managing complexity, mitigating risks, staying on time and budget, and determining, under various constraints, when a product is "good enough" to be shipped are equally important topics that often have a significant human component. This course explores these issues broadly and covers the fundamentals of modern software engineering and analysis.
This course focuses on software engineering and analysis. At a high level, the course is organized around five core topics:
This course is an upper-level CS technical elective for both CS-Eng and CS-LSA. (It does not show up in some versions of the CS-LSA Program Guide, but it does, in fact, count. Students can check their Audits to confirm.) It is not a capstone course or a major design experience course. It focuses on individual mastery of key software engineering concepts. It does not feature a large team project.
The expected workload for this class is "moderate" — one notch harder than UI Design, but two notches easier than Operating Systems.
This course draws inspiration from Carnegie Mellon's Foundations of Software Engineering (15-313) course as well as from the insights of Drs. Prem Devanbu, Christian Kästner, Marouane Kessentini, Kevin Leach, and Claire Le Goues.
You must attend either one of the lecture slots each day in person. You may mix-and-match which lecture you attend from day to day, regardless of which you are officially signed up for. Attendance participation will be assessed through in-class activities (e.g., notecards, coding, etc.). We typically check attendance each day (Monday and Wednesday), but some weeks we may only check attendance on one day. The course schedule is available in advance so that you can plan accordingly.
In addition, once per week a student may attend any Discussion Section in person and receive one day of attendance/participation credit. (Talk to the course staff member running the Discussion Section to ensure you are recorded.) For example, it may be that one week we check attendance on Monday and also check on Wednesday, and you attend on Monday but miss Wednesday. You could then attend a Discussion Section on Thursday or Friday for participation and end up with both assessments covered for that week.
Students are also required to make use of course websites (such as Piazza and Gradescope) and check them for updates. Some information, including information about certain quizzes and assignments, and any last-minute changes or fixes to assignments or policies, is made presented on course webpages. This course does not use Canvas.
To reduce student stress and provide support for individual circumstances, each student may miss two (please read the whole sentence before worrying) participation activities without excuse without penalty and also infinite activities with approved excuses without penalty. You do not need to report or request anything for the first two; these will be applied automatically. Students with approved documentation can miss more activities, but to simplify things for students, you do not even have to explain to us why you are missing the first two. (Note that this applies to participation only and not for any other other course quiz or assignment.)
If you are uncertain about whether your circumstances are an excused absence, email EECS481Staff@gmail.com with your information and documentation. The course staff will review your information and apply any accommodations merited by course policies. Your email will be read by a real human.
Discussion Sections are not required, do not feature mandatory participation, and do not assess attendance. All discussion section materials are made available online.
This course cannot be taken remotely for full credit. While some computing courses admit remote participation, EECS 481 does not. This course places more of a focus on reading, speaking, prose and similar activities. While the lectures will be recorded and the assignments and exams can be completed online, other activities (such as participation, some discussions, certain quizzes, and certain in class programming) are in person.
If you believe you have been exposed to or have COVID-19, you should follow the updated University instructions on the Campus Maize and Blueprint, which include contacting University Health Services at 734-764-8320 and isolating yourself. Let the course staff know and you will be excused from any in-person participation requirements on those days. We want to avoid any tension between the health of the community and your grade. (The length of time you should isolate depends on University policies and your health. The University currently recommends following the CDC guidelines.)
For absences due to other illness or circumstances, coordination with the C.A.R.E. Center may be appropriate.
If you miss an assignment deadline or in-class activity, we can be very lenient about extensions or makeups but only if you provide documentation. For example, for death or bereavement, a copy of the obituary or funeral program suffices; for illness or injury, any sort of doctor's note suffices. This policy follows that of other professors in the department. You may email EECS481Staff@gmail.com with supporting documentation (rather than posting it to Gradescope).
Regarding Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD), we offer additional time on all examinations. No accommodations can be offered for reading comprehension quizzes or homework assignments, but all due dates are posted at the start of the semester and all assignments can be completed remotely.
To better accommodate individual student situations, the course will feature two different uses of lecture time slots.
The 1:30pm slot will feature a traditional live lecture delivery. Students can ask questions, take notes, and listen to the material presented. Students may be "called on" to answer questions or engage with the material. Participation is typically assessed via "how would you (and your partner) deal with topic XYZ?" questions collected on notecards, but other methods (e.g., in-class coding submissions) may be used.
The 3:00pm slot will feature a lecture recordings and practice. Students can watch current or previous lecture recordings (possibly at high speeds), make use of structured study aids (e.g., lecture summaries with blanks for you to fill in to guide you as you follow along, reinforcement activities, practice-with-a-human skills roleplays, etc.), ask questions of the course staff, or coordinate with partners on projects. Participation is typically assessed via sign-up sheets or entering a key word online, but other methods (e.g., in-class coding submissions) may be used.
Students may attend either lecture slot, regardless of registration, and may switch back and forth freely. All materials are always made available to all students regardless (e.g., the lecture from the 1:30 slot is recorded to everyone can see it, and any structured study aids or activities in the 3:00 slot will be posted as course resources). As long as you attend one lecture slot each class day you will receive full participation credit.
There are two exams during the semester. Both are delivered remotely. The grading breakdown is as follows:
By default, this class has no curve. If we do implement a curve (which has not happened in the last few semesters), we only ever curve up. If we do implement a curve, it would be calculated at the end of the semester (and not on a per-each-assignment basis).
The exams are intentionally given a low weight to reduce student stress and the impact of a "bad day". Similarly, because there is no curve, students are never in competition with each other.
For each category in the grading breakdown above, add together all of your points and divide by the total number of points. Then you weight each category as listed above.
For example, if HW1a is 20 points, HW1b is 12 points, HW1c is 14 points, and HW1d is 5 points, you would add up your points from those four sources and divide by 51. That result would be your overall HW1 score, which (following the breakdown above) is 10% of your grade in the course. There are no secret tricks or hidden weightings, all of the grading is based just on the numbers you can see. Similarly, suppose, hypothetically, that there are only two reading comprehension quizzes: the first worth 3 points, the second worth 4 points. You would add up your points, divide by 7, and that would be your total for the Comprehension Quizzes portion of your grade (which is 5% of your total course grade).
As an example, suppose only HW1 and two reading quizzes have happened so far (as above). A student who scored 19, 11, 13, and 4 on the HW1 parts would have (19+11+13+4)/51 = 92% on HW1 overall. If that student also scored 1 and 3.5 on the two quizzes, that student would have (1+3.5)/7 = 64% on the quizzes. The projected grade would thus be (10%*92 + 5%*64) / 15% = 83% (a "B" grade in this course). Note that the actual course grading does not round for intermediate calculations and instead uses floating point numbers.
Students often wonder what grade will be needed on subsequent assignments to pass the class (or meet any other goal). This can be computed with linear algebra. Continuing the previous example, suppose the student with an 83% "so far" on 15% of the course wants to get an 93% ("A") grade overall. What score, Z, would the student need on the remaining 85% of the course material for the total to be 93? The student solves the equation 83*15 + Z*85 = 93*100, or Z = (93*100 - 83*15) / 85, yielding Z = 95. So the student would need to get about 95% on the rest of the course material to have an overall score of of 93%. A grade projection service is typically not available, but students can project grades and resolve queries directly using mathematics.
While reading comprehension and participation vary based on how often they are assessed, for other assignments, the last time the course was offered:
In previous semesters, the grading cutoffs (each "+" and "-" grade has 3 points associated with it) were:
There are six homework assignments for this course. The assignments involve the electronic submission of artifacts. Some (e.g., test cases) are graded automatically and admit immediate feedback. Others (e.g., prose descriptions) are graded manually. For certain assignments it is possible to work as a team.
If the autograder.io or gradescope assignment websites are inaccessible to all students for a short time, all due dates and times remain unchanged (plan ahead!). If they are down for a longer period of time, the course staff will likely extend the deadline slightly and post a notification to that effect. We will make such determinations on a case-by-case basis.
If the main course webpage is inaccessible to all students, all due dates and times remain unchanged. (It is hosted by the EECS department, not by the professors personally, and occasionally exhibits service interruptions.) If it is down for a longer period of time, the course staff will likely extend a deadline slightly and post a notification.
If the course staff are unable to deliver a lecture at the scheduled time (i.e., if it fails for all students), no live participation grades for that day will be counted. If the lecture has not started within fifteen minutes of the scheduled time, you may consider it canceled. The course staff will post a notification and deliver the lecture later. No attendance will be taken at that make-up time, and the lecture recording will be made available as usual.
If you personally are unable to attend a lecture (e.g., if your internet access disappears), all of the due dates and times remain unchanged (plan ahead!). In extreme cases, send proof (e.g., a photo of the dead router or network selection screen) to EECS481Staff@gmail.com for possible (but not guaranteed) accommodations.
With these policies, we are attempting to strike a balance between being as supportive as possible of students while holding students to similar standards of preparation and accountability. We may revisit these policies later in the semester if there are extenuating circumstances.
A critical part of software engineering is reading — both code and prose. To encourage you to keep pace with the material, we will randomly assign reading comprehension quizzes. These quizzes may consist of elements such as (1) comprehension questions about any readings, especially those new since the last quiz; (2) questions about the lecture materials; (3) a 4-sentence summary of lecture material; or (4) a random code word shared during a lecture. The goal is to encourage engagement and retention.
For on-line reading comprehension quizzes, you will have a 48 hour span near the associated lecture to begin your reading quiz. Quizzes are announced via their visibility on Gradescope, and not via any sort of mass mailing to the class. Once you begin the quiz, you will typically have 10 minutes to complete it. The quizzes are designed to be completable in 5 minutes, but additional time is given as a blanket accommodation. The quizzes are "open notes" (but are typically constructed to favor completing the reading before starting the quiz).
Software engineering is often more engineering than science: the basic concepts may be easy to grasp, but the trouble is found in the details. Questions such as "which of these methods works best in the real world?" and "what are successful companies actually doing?" are paramount. As a result, many of the readings are experience reports from companies (e.g., Microsoft, Google, etc.) or academic papers (e.g., with human studies). We have structured this course so that there is no expensive textbook and all of the readings are available on-line for free.
Some of the readings are marked optional. Next to each such optional reading is a small "advertisement" for it. The optional readings are not required for any class assignments, but there may be extra credit questions on exams or quizzes that reference them.
EECS 481 does not feature a generous late policy. Assignments, quizzes or exams turned in late typically receive zero points. (In some extenuating cases you may receive h% off, where h is the number of hours late.)
In other classes, late policies may be more lenient (e.g., students may receive a number of fungible "late days", etc.). EECS 481 is different because scheduling and risk for projects are explicitly topics in this course (they are covered in lecture and in the readings, etc.). Staying on schedule is part of the material for the course, and is thus part of the assessment. If you are working for a company that is shipping software by a particular date and you miss that deadline, your contribution will not be included.
To support students, all of the course materials, assignments and due dates are provided on the first day of class. No due dates are ever shifted to be earlier. You can access the autograder for any assignment as early as the first day of class. The freedom and responsibility rest with you. (For example, if you know that you struggle with deadlines, or if your other classes have exams around a particular point, you may want to "pretend" that an assignment in this class is due earlier than it actually is. If you miss your internal deadline by a bit, you can still make the official deadline. If you are used to courses where there are frequent email updates or calendar reminders, this is a good opportunity to practice setting up your own reminders for future situations in which organizational ones may not be available.)
All course materials submitted for a grade must be turned in by midnight on the last date listed on the course syllabus.
Regrade requests for exams, assignments, or written assignments must be received within one week of you receiving your score. All regrade requests should be made via Gradescope if possible (if a request absolutely cannot be made via Gradescope for a certain assignment or exam, please email it privately to the course staff). When we regrade an assignment we will look over it very carefully for correctness: it is possible that after a regrade you will end up with fewer points than before the regrade. Regrades should be treated with caution and used only when the graders have made a clear mistake evaluating your work.
Historically, the single most common student question about this class relates to the waiting list. The question is some variant of (or logically reduces to) "I am currently at position X on the waiting list; am I likely to get in to the class before the deadline?"
Now, for the most common student question:
Unfortunately, I have no special insight here (i.e., it has never happened that a student has said to me "I plan to drop in X days but won't drop today", so I do not have any secret information about the plans of other students to drop or not). The best we can do is use the past to predict the future (see raw data above).
Students often experience strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol or drug problems, feeling down, difficulty concentrating, family issues, or a lack of motivation. Student mental health concerns are quite common but we don't always talk about them. The University of Michigan is committed to advancing the mental health and well-being of its students. If you or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or in need of support, confidential mental health services are available on campus.
Your class work might be used for research purposes. For example, we may use anonymized student assignments to design algorithms or build tools to help programmers. Any student who wishes to opt out can contact the instructor or teaching assistant to do so after final grades have been issued. This has no impact on your grade in any manner.
Students interested in considering undergraduate research should make an appointment to talk about it. I am happy to discuss independent study projects, senior projects, paid research work over the summer, research work for credit, and graduate school.