Frequently Asked Questions
What are the pronouns on the staff page?
Normally, we assume people's gender based on appearance, and use the pronouns that correspond with that gender identity. This usually works, but it can be very awkward when you assume someone's gender incorrectly. For that reason, we've provided the pronouns of all of the CMSC 201 TAs and instructors on the staff page. Here is a short guide on using pronouns inclusively. Remember, gender identities (and pronouns) are protected under Title IX!
Which textbook option should I choose?
Although not "required," the course textbook is highly recommended, and the relevant chapters that accompany each lecture are listed on the schedule page. When you purchase the book from the bookstore, you will have two options:
- An electronic/online copy of the textbook (the "e-text")
- An electronic/online copy of the textbook (the "e-text") and a loose-leaf physical copy of the textbook
The second option, which contains both the e-text and a loose-leaf copy of the book, is provided for students who prefer a physical book when studying. Many students find that staring at the screen can put a strain on their eyes, or that the computer on which they read the e-books contains too many other temptations that can distract them from studying.
What can I do to succeed in CMSC 201?
We asked the TAs their thoughts on this, and have compiled their answers below, with the most frequent advice listed first.
- Start your assignments early! Office hours get pretty crazy on the day the assignment is due. Start each assignment well ahead of time so that you have time to fix errors and ask questions.
- Go to office hours, because these are your biggest help. Come prepared with specific things to ask. The course builds off of previous material, so resolving issues is key to success.
- Make sure you understand the Academic Integrity policies, and ask for clarification if you need it. It's not supposed to be confusing or scary - we just want to make sure everyone is learning.
- When working on an assignment, do not try to code everything at once. Solve the easier parts first and then add on the more complicated parts.
- Don't give up! A lot of learning to code involves trial and error. As you fix one problem, another arises without you even thinking about it. It's easy to think all is lost, but perseverance and persistence are key.
- The people who are around you in the class are a valuable resource. Use them to form study groups, and work with them when you can.
- Take labs seriously. They will cover important topics that the projects may not cover, but that will be included on exams. Put in the extra time to seriously look through the pre labs.
I have to miss a class, what should I do?
If you have to miss a class, you have a number of options to cover the material on your own. First, the lecture slides are available on the course website; although simply reading the slides is not a substitute for attending class, they can give you a good idea of the material that was covered.
Second, although each professor will present the material in their own way, you are welcome to attend another professor's lecture on the few occasions you can't make your assigned class. The same material is covered in the Monday and Tuesday lectures, and in the Wednesday and Thursday lectures. You do not need the permission of an instructor to attend a different section for a day, but you may not "switch" lecture sections.
Third, if you have any questions about the material after covering it on your own, the TAs or professors can help you go over the concepts in office hours. (The lecture will not be re-given to you during office hours, but the course staff is happy to answer specific questions.)
Fourth, you should be talking, studying, and working with other students in the course. If so, you can ask one of them to take detailed notes for you, and possibly to help you go over the material at a later date. (This has the added benefit for them of reinforcing the material!)
I have to miss a discussion, what should I do?
Students are allowed to reschedule a discussion, but only for reasons similar to those for rescheduling exams: religious holidays, athletic competitions for student athletes, etc. If you are caught in traffic, sleep through your alarm, or forget to attend, you will receive a zero for that discussion. Plan to arrive early to your discussion every week so that this is not a problem.
To reschedule your discussion, fill out the Google form here, at least a week in advance. Dr. Gibson will respond, either confirming or denying your request, and both TAs will be notified in the event of a reschedule.
These are one-time requests — if there is a second discussion you feel you must reschedule, you will need to make a second request. When you attend your alternate discussion, bring your laptop if possible, as there may not be enough lab computers.
Also, as a reminder, your three lowest discussion scores are dropped when the final grade is calculated at the end of the semester.
How can I get an extension on an assignment?
If a student experiences a personal emergency (hospitalization, death in the family, etc.), an extension may be granted, even after the due date (if applicable.) If a student will be at a school-sanctioned event (conference, sporting event, etc.) for an extended period of time, an extension may be granted, but only if requested in advance.
To obtain an extension, you will need to email your instructor. They may require proof of the event or emergency in order to grant you an extension. Whether an extension is granted is up to the discretion of the individual instructor.
Who should I email if I have a question or problem?
If you have a question, your first place to go should be this page (the FAQ), the course syllabus, or the relevant course page (for due dates, information about exams, etc.).
If you cannot find the answer in the syllabus or FAQ, you should email your TA. They will respond to you within 24 hours (responses on the weekends may take longer). You can also go to office hours if your question has to do with course material, or if you need clarification about a course policy.
Your instructor has hundreds of students, while your TA has 20 or 40, so your TA will be able to help you much more quickly.
If you need to discuss something that goes "above" your TA, then you should email your instructor. For example, if you need to schedule a meeting about how you can improve your performance in the class, discuss an issue you're having with a TA, or report a violation of the Academic Integrity policy (yours or someone else's). These and similar issues are matters that should be handled by your instructor.
Regardless of who you email, make sure you have a meaningful subject line: CMSC 201, Sec ##, Reason for Emailing. (Your section number should be your discussion section, not your lecture section.) The email must be sent from your @umbc.edu account!
If you need to email an instructor, you can find their addresses below:
- Dr. Gibson — email@example.com
- Prof. Neary — firstname.lastname@example.org
I turned in my homework, but my TA says the file is empty?
How can I double-check I submitted my assignment correctly?
If you don't follow the directions, or if you make a mistake when submitting your assignment, it is possible to submit an empty file (even one with the correct name) instead of your completed assignment.
You should always double-check that your assignment was correctly and completely submitted to the GL system. You can find detailed instructions on how to do that in Homework 0, when it is released. Make sure you don't wait until the last minute to submit your assignments — if you do, you won't have time to double-check your submission.
I turned in my assignment, but there was a mistake. What do I do?
As long as the due date hasn't passed, you are allowed to resubmit your assignment as many times as you like. (Do note that if the filename is the same, it will automatically overwrite your prior submission.) It's not a bad idea to submit your assignment each time you reach a major milestone, so that if you accidentally delete your file or lose your backup copy, you have your submission as a second backup.
When will I get a grade back on a programming assignment?
Where can I see my grades?
You will receive assignment grades back typically within 10 days of the due date. Once your assignment has been graded, an email will be sent to your @umbc.edu address. This email will contain your score (out of 40 points for homeworks, and 80 points for projects). It will also have the rubric against which your assignment was graded, which includes a detailed breakdown of why points were lost, as well as feedback from the TA at the bottom.
You can see your grade for an individual assignment in its respective email. You can view all of your grades (including the grades you earned for individual labs, Pre Lab quizzes, and exams) on the "My Grades" page on the course's Blackboard page.
What is Student Disability Services? Does it apply to me?
The mission of Student Disability Services (SDS) is to "ensure that UMBC students with disabilities are afforded an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the programs, services, and activities of the University through the provision of accommodations and reasonable modifications that result in equal access and full inclusion." You can find more information about their mission on their web page.
SDS is not just for students with physical impairments or learning disorders. Students with chronic health issues (epilepsy, chronic pain, etc.) or mental health issues (clinical depression, etc.) are also eligible for accommodations, as long as appropriate documentation of the disability is provided. Accommodations may include things like extra time on exams or having another student provide their notes for the classes you're taking. SDS can also help if you have a temporary injury or impairment that requires accommodation.
Visit the SDS website for information on how to request services and what the rights and responsibilities are for students requesting accommodations. If you already have accomodations, make sure to fill out an accommodation card — without official notification from the SDS office, we cannot provide extended time on exams or other accommodations.
Why do some sections have two times? Should I sign up for one?
These sections are "Guided Review Sections," (GRS) and are meant for students who meet two conditions:
- The student has no prior programming experience (in any language).
- The student will attend an additional hour of required guided review each week.
Students in a GRS will cover course material at the same pace and depth as the other sections of CMSC 201, and will complete the same assignments, exams, and lab exercises. The guided review hour will be used to cover topics in more detail, to work on concrete skills in small groups, and to practice the material learned in class. The additional hour of guided review each week is required, and failure to attend will negatively impact your grade. The guided review will be led by a Teaching Assistant, with support from the instructor as necessary.
If you are new to programming and would like extra support and course time to learn the material, a GRS is the right section for you!
Registration for Section 18 is by permission only. To obtain permission, you will need to see an advisor in COEIT.