Course Syllabus – Consult As Needed

Introduction to Computer Science II

Summer 2023 | CS 128
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign


Prof. Michael R. Nowak|Teaching Assistant Professor
Department of Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
[email protected]|+1 (217) 244-8894|

Learning Objectives

At the end of the course, a successful student should be able to:

  • Manage, organize, and compile C++ projects of simple complexity using basic Unix-based tools
  • Use basic editing and debugging tools such as GDB and Valgrind
  • Understand the features of computer systems that make them useful for solving problems, including computation, memory, storage, data access and networking
  • Use object-oriented design to appropriately structure data and couple data and behavior
  • Decompose problems of modest complexity into simpler components with well defined interfaces
  • Formulate and implement useful algorithms that solve real problems and can be implemented and run on a computer
  • Construct and test code from a simple specification

Last day of Instruction

The Summer 2023 Academic Calendar denotes August 3 as this semester's "Last day of instruction." We do not accept any work past the semester's last day of instruction.

Asynchronous Lectures

This class breaks from traditional collegiate lectures by delivering course content through a series of asynchronous daily lessons available on-demand through our course website. Each lesson introduces new material through a combination of text, video, and interactive walkthroughs. You will find interactive coding exercises interspersed throughout most lessons, which are designed to reinforce the material that you have been learning about.

Synchronous Programs

Office Hours and Help Sessions

All course staff participates in running online office hours on the online help site ( Both group and individual help sessions will be available, with available course staff dropping by periodically to offer suggestions and advice. Office hour times are posted on the course calendar ( The course instructor's office hours are by appointment.

Getting Started

After reading the course syllabus (, please visit our getting started page (

General Grading

Only exceptional performance will constitute an A grade. If you're okay with just getting by or are a quiet quitter, this course will likely be too fast-paced for you.

Grade scale

Course grades will be assigned according to this scale:

* You will fail this course if you earn below 60.0% of the total available points.
Minimum % of
Total Points Earned
93.0% 90.0% 87.0% 83.0% 80.0% 77.0% 73.0% 70.0% 60.0%
Letter Grade A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D

Method of Evaluation

Course grades will be calculated using the following weights:

* With the exception of the Machine Problem category, no categories will overflow—you cannot earn more than the total number of available points for each respective category.
* We reserve the right to modify these weightings during the semester.
Category % Contribution Category % Contribution
Machine Problems 75% Graded Lessons 25%

Final Grade Modifiers

You must earn at least 67% on each machine problem to become eligible for a course grade higher than a B+. Suppose you fail to submit any solution that earns at least 67% for some machine problem. In that case, the maximum grade you are eligible for in this course is a B+. Late submissions are considered submissions, so please take advantage of our late policies to meet this modifier's stipulation. This policy effectively caps your grade at a B+ should you not earn at least 67% on each MP.

Last Day to Submit Coursework

We do not accept any submissions past the semester's last day of instruction. The date for the current semester's last day of instruction is found on the University's academic calendar.

Regrades and Audits

Regrade requests, challenges, and/or otherwise of the grade on any assessment must be submitted within one week (7 days) from the date that the respective student work is handed back.

  • For all works submitted to PrairieLearn or to the website (, this is within one-week from the assignment due date (not the late due date).

We reserve the right to audit the grades for any assessment submitted to this course; during the audit process, we can decrease or increase your score. Examples when this might occur include (but are not limited to):

  • a mistake made by our auto-grader;
  • student circumvention of a test case by any means;
  • breach of any extent of the academic integrity rules; or
  • student failing to follow an assignment requirement.

Whenever there is uncertainty, it is your responsibility to seek clarity. Never assume; instead confirm.

Machine Problems

No Collaboration Allowed
  • Please treat an MP as an exam or quiz. You must individually compose your solution to these assignments; no collaboration is allowed.
  • A new machine problem will be released every Friday.
  • Our machine problems are designed for students to incrementally develop their solutions over the course of one week
    • Waiting until the due date -- or a couple of dates prior to the due date -- to begin these assessments inevitably results in poor outcome.
    • Machine problems do not take a week to complete, but should be completed over the course of one week.
  • Each week’s MP increases in difficulty and sophistication from the previous week’s MP.
  • All machine problems are automatically graded by the PrairieLearn autograder:
    • You will have the opportunity to earn partial credit by passing some of the test cases; however,
    • non-compiling solutions will not be awarded any points.
  • Submission Policy: Each Machine Problem is worth 100 points and will have TWO (2) submission deadlines:
    • [CHECKPOINT] Checkpoint deadlines are strictly enforced, and are typically set to Tuesday directly following the MP's release by 23:59 central time.
      • Submission and Grading Details
        • The checkpoint deadline is worth 10 of the 100 points available for the MP.
          • The checkpoint deadline points are awarded only if you obtain 10% or more of the assignment's test case points. No partial credits are awarded and non-compiling solutions will not be awarded any points.
        • There will be a separate submission window titled "Checkpoint." You will submit to that submission window for the checkpoint credit.
          • Submitting a perfect solution to Checkpoint Window will only grant you 10 of 100 points; you will get the deadline credit (90 points) only when you submit this solution again to Deadline Window.
      • Late Policy
        • No late checkpoint submissions will be accepted. No exceptions.
        • If you do not earn the checkpoint deadline points, the most you can earn on the assignment is 90 points: you will forfeit checkpoint credit.
    • [DEADLINE] The assignment deadline will be the Thursday following the assingment's release by 23:59 central time.
      • Submission and Grading Details
        • Your assignment deadline submission is worth 90 of the MP's 100 points
        • There will be a separate submission window titled "Deadline." You will submit to that submission window for the deadline credit.
        • For some MPs, we may require you to submit your test cases, in which case part of those 90 points will be dedicated to the test cases submission
          • For MPs with Test Case submissions, there will be a separate window for Test Cases (which results in 3 different submission windows – Checkpoint, Deadline, and Test Cases).
          • Test Cases Window deadlines are identical to Deadline Window deadlines and follow the same late policy.
      • Late Policy
        • We strongly encourage you to complete all MPs well in advance of deadline; however, each machine problem will be accepted through the semester's last day of instruction with a grade cap imposed.
        • If you submit within 24-hours past the deadline (i.e., one day late), your grade for the deadline credit will be capped at 92%.
          • For example, for MPs without Test Cases, the credit cap would be 90 pts * 0.92 = 82.8 pts.
          • Therefore, if you submit late and receive 100% from our autograder, the grade awarded will be 92% of the full deadline credit (i.e. 82.8 pts in this case).
          • You would receive the same score if you received 92% from our autograder.
          • If the credit you had received pre-deadline was higher than the post-deadline, with-deduction credit, you will keep the higher credit (i.e. will not hurt your previous credit)
        • If you submit 24-hours past but within 48 of the deadline (i.e., two days late), your deadline credit will be capped at 84%.
        • If you submit 48-hours past but within 72 of the deadline (i.e., three days late), your deadline credit will be capped at 70%.
        • Past three-days late (i.e, 72 hours past the due date) and through the semester's last day of instruction, your deadline credit will be capped at 67%.
      • Provided you have satisfactorily met the checkpoint (i.e., received full checkpoint points), if you submit a solution earning full credit before 23:59 on the Wednesday directly following the release of the MP, you will receive 5% extra credit points for an assignment total of 105%.
      • Students can elect to waive a fixed number of late penalty machine problems (past, present, or future) from the "MP Late Penalty Waivers" section of My.CS128 (
        • This is a "No Questions Asked" waiver that is available for everyone.
        • This is not automatic and you are not required to use these waivers should you choose not to.
        • Once you elect the assignment, you cannot undo the action — we want you to use this as a flexibility when "life happens" events occur. Choose wisely and plan ahead.
      • Important details about checkpoints
        • Your overall score will be recalculated as if the checkpoint slot was not present regardless of if you completed the checkpoint within the Checkpoint deadline.
        • For example, given an MP with Checkpoint (10 pts), Deadline (82 pts), and Test Cases (8 pts), your score would now be the percentage equivalent of (Deadline + Test Cases) / (82 + 8). The checkpoint submission slot is discarded.
        • As an additional example, consider an MP with Checkpoint (10 pts) and Deadline (90 pts). Your score would now be the percentage equivalent of (Deadline) / (90). Again, the checkpoint submission slot is discarded.
        • Warning: a late penalty waiver can lower your grade. For example, if one got 100% on a checkpoint (10/10) and 80% on the deadline (72/90), one would earn an 82%. If one then elects a late-penalty waiver, their grade will go down to an (72/90) 80% (since checkpoint is discarded) until their solution is improved.
      • Without exception, students must make their late penalty waiver elections by the semester's last day of instruction.
      • For any MP you've elected a late penalty waiver, you must submit the assignment to PrairieLearn by 11:59 pm central time on the semester's last day of instruction.
      • The late penalty waiver will not show in PrairieLearn in real-time. Therefore, late submissions will reflect the earned score with our late penalty.

Graded Lessons

Limited Collaboration Allowed
  • A lesson is considered a graded lesson if it has at least one programming activity and/or question.
    • Therefore, the interactive coding activities and multiple-choice questions interspersed throughout the daily lessons are graded.
    • You may work through the lesson programming activities and questions together, but each person must write their own unique solution. Please carefully read the academic integrity section of this document so that you understand what's allowed and what's not.
    • We expect you to complete these activities and questions the same day that the lesson was released.
  • Submission policy
    • Within a graded lesson,
      • each programming activity and question will specify their individual point value and the number of submissions you have been allocated for that activity/question;
      • your score for each activity/question will be recorded as the maximum score across all submissions of that activity/question.
    • Your score for the graded lesson will be the number of points that you've earned out of the maximum number of points available within that lesson; each graded lesson contributes equally towards the graded lesson component of your final grade.
    • Due date: A lesson week is defined as the lessons assigned within a Monday through Saturday period. All graded lessons within a lesson week are due on the Sunday directly following the lession week by 23:59 Champaign local time. The only exception is that the last week of class's graded lessons will be due by 11:59 pm central time on the last day of instruction.
  • Late policy: You must complete these activities by their due date. Do not contact the course staff regarding a missed graded lesson. In order to accommodate illness and other potential excused absences throughout the semester, we will drop ten (10) graded lessons when computing the graded lesson component of your final grade.

Style guide

In this course, we will use the Google C++ Style Guide (

CS 128 and PrairieLearn

In this course, you will submit your MPs to PrairieLearn using your CS 128 account instead of your NetID account used in your other classes. Therefore, you must access our CS 128 course in PrairieLearn through the links provided in our assessment prompts. Each assessment submitted to PrairieLearn in CS 128 will have an "Access Autograder" blue button. Upon clicking that button, you will be logged into your CS 128 PrairieLearn account. If your other courses use PrairieLearn, you must log out and back in using your NetID account to access your other classes.

Course Communication

We have set up a comprehensive and well-organized course website and discussion forum to help you find what you need to know. Our goal is to avoid email and other 1-to-1 forms of communication that don't scale well to large numbers of students.

There are two primary sources of information for CS 128:

  1. This website
  2. The course forum at

Most policy questions are answered in this syllabus. For almost anything else, search the forum—maybe another student has asked your question and we've already answered it. If you still can't find an answer, post your question on the forum.

Addressing course staff

While I recognize that today's world is more casual than ever, I prefer to keep things formal and professional. Therefore,

  • When addressing your professor, please address me as Prof. Nowak or Prof. Michael.
  • When addressing a graduate TA, I suggest using the pronoun Mr./Ms. unless your TA tells you otherwise.
  • When addressing an undergraduate CA, feel free to use their first name.

What You’re Responsible For

You are responsible for email sent to your email address. We will occasionally use a course email list to send important announcements.

You are also responsible for announcement messages posted in the course forum. These announcements are important and we will frequently post in this category in lieu of using email.

Contacting the Course Staff
The course forum is your primary point of contact with the staff.

You may think the professor's five minutes of responding to your email is not a huge problem. Five-minute responses to 100s of students can consume many hours, though. Therefore, we kindly ask you to post to the course forum.

This is not because we don't like you. It's because there are many of you, a much smaller number of us, and many of the questions you have tend to be shared by other students. If you email us, we can answer your question with one person: you. If you post on the course forum, we can answer your question for the entire class. You may find that your question has already been answered by searching before posting or that another student can answer it for you before the course staff.

Here is a general guide about how to contact the course staff:

  • I need help installing... post on the course forum.
  • I'm confused about the concept... post on the course forum.
  • I need help with... post on the course forum.
  • I can't find... post the course forum.

In contrast, here are some cases where you can and should contact the course instructors:

  • I think that my friend is cheating in CS 128... contact the course staff.
  • I'm really sick and getting behind in the class... contact the course staff.
  • I'm feeling really overwhelmed and need someone to talk to... contact the course staff, or an academic advisor, or a friend.

Reporting Problems

If you believe that you have identified a problem with a quiz question, machine problem, lesson, or otherwise, please report the problem to the course staff through a private note on the discussion forum. Do not post your questions publicly.

Once we have received your report, we will do one of the following:

  • If the question has a bug, we will fix it and ensure that all students receive full credit or are given an opportunity to rectify the problem at our discretion—even those that took the quiz before the bug was identified.
  • If the question has a minor typo that we don't think affects its ability to be correctly answered, we will fix it and distribute that change.
  • If the question is fine, we will not do anything.

Academic Integrity

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Student Code should also be considered as a part of this syllabus. Students should pay particular attention to Article 1, Part 4: Academic Integrity. Read the Code here.

Academic dishonesty will result in a sanction proportionate to the severity of the infraction, with possible sanctions described in 1-404 of the Student Code. Every student is expected to review and abide by the Academic Integrity Policy as defined in the Student Code. As a student it is your responsibility to refrain from infractions of academic integrity and from conduct that aids others in such infractions. A short guide to academic integrity issues may be found here. Ignorance of these policies is not an excuse for any academic dishonesty. It is your responsibility to read this policy to avoid any misunderstanding. Do not hesitate to ask the instructor(s) if you are ever in doubt about what constitutes plagiarism, cheating, or any other breach of academic integrity. It is imperative that each student clearly understand those rules and the severe consequences that can result from the adjudication of an Honor Code Violation.

By submitting anything to this course, electronically or otherwise, you are asserting the following: "I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this academic work. In particular, I certify that I have not received or given any assistance that is contrary to the letter or the spirit of the collaboration guidelines for this assignment."

In particular, every student should understand that complicity – helping or attempting to help another student commit an act of academic dishonesty – also constitutes academic dishonesty and carries the same punishment as cheating.

  • In other words, if you provide your solution to another student, even if that student does not turn it in for credit, you have committed an act of academic dishonesty and will both be subject to the same consequences.

Furthermore, writing, interjecting, or otherwise, codes and/or comments to reveal test cases or to otherwise circumvent our auto-grader / bypass any test cases is considered an academic integrity violation. You may never hard-code against the test cases in our suite.

Moreover, in defense of FAIR violations, students have claimed that another student (typically a friend) stole their solutions while leaving their device unattended or on loan. We will no longer entertain this scenario as a defense against academic integrity violations. Therefore, it is your responsibility to ensure that your computer and coursework are secured should you leave your device unattended or loan it to another individual.


All work submitted to this course must be your own. Cheating in this course will result in a grade reduction, your removal from the CS program, or from the University of Illinois. Specifically, the following activities constitute cheating and will be dealt with according to relevant departmental and university policies. You may not:

  • Turn in work that was completed by anyone other than yourself.
  • Copy or paste code that you did not write from any source.
  • Misrepresent your work as the work of another student.
  • Examine another classmate's solution, reproduce it, or submit it as your own work.
  • Share information about the content of quizzes or other private course assessments.
  • Publish your MP or coursework anywhere where other students can find them. Note that this includes publishing your MP publicly on GitHub. If you want to impress employers, fill your GitHub page with your own independent projects.
  • Email or share your code with anyone in the class now or in future semesters.

We will run cheating detection software on all submitted student work. These programs are extremely accurate, and any evidence of cheating that they uncover will initiate academic integrity violation proceedings. We are serious about this, and ask you to be serious about learning. If you want to learn more about how accurately this software detects cheating and plagiarism, read this article.


Plagiarism is the presentation of the work of someone else's work as your own. Submitted work will be examined for plagiarism using computer software designed for that purpose. We compare your code with every other student’s code and code from easily accessible repositories found on the internet. If there is a high similarity between your code and another student’s code (or code from online solutions), and we believe it is more probable than not that an academic integrity violation has occurred, we issue a FAIR violation. Moreover, examinations are meant to measure the knowledge or skill of each individual, so giving or receiving unauthorized assistance during tests and quizzes is cheating. It is assumed that college students know what is honest and what is not.


Self-plagiarism is reusing the work you have already submitted to a class. In CS 128, you cannot reuse/submit work you've completed during a previous semester. Instead, you need to think through the problems and compose new solutions. Past performance is typically indicative of future performance. Sitting out and disengaging while resubmitting old work is unsuitable for your learning. Accordingly, I will only allow submissions of a past semester's work if one has an extraordinary circumstance. For example, if one had to withdraw due to medical reasons. This policy is not meant to be harsh or otherwise; I sincerely want you to do well in my class and future courses in our program. Therefore, to encourage learning, I can only allow you to submit codes from a previous semester this semester if you have an extraordinary circumstance that I consider and subsequently decide to approve in writing.

Therefore, if you are retaking the course this semester, you will need to compose solutions without any reference to your work a last semester. Failure to follow our self-plagiarism policies will result in a FAIR referral. Provided you do not review your solutions from a previous semester, you should be good.

Policies on collaboration
Machine Problems

No collaboration with other human beings, AIs (e.g., ChatGTP), or otherwise is allowed on the Machine Problems (MPs). The only exception to this rule is course staff members. If you have any questions about your solution, approach, or otherwise, course staff members can meet with you during office hours. You may not receive help from other individuals, including your classmates.

Searching for solutions on the Internet is cheating. If we catch you viewing or submitting a solution found on the Internet, we will request a failing grade as your FAIR sanction. We are serious about this. Don't cheat yourself. One should be serious about learning and completing these assignments independently as intended.

Likewise, we will not tolerate plagiarism or complicity. Again, the consequence of this will be severe. Please don't do it.

Any general questions about the assignment -- e.g., I don't understand what I'm supposed to do, what does the prompt mean by x, etc. -- can be asked publicly on the course forum. However, any implementation specific questions or otherwise must be asked privately. If you are unsure whether your discussion forum post's contents could go against course policies, you should make your post private.

Graded lessons

Exchanging or soliciting ideas about how to solve a graded lesson's activity is not cheating, but exchanging code is cheating. Feel free to discuss your solutions with other students as long as you do not provide them or allow them to view your source code. If you are talking in English or another spoken human language that's fine. If you are exchanging computer code, that's cheating. Refer to the assignment-specific section of the syllabus for more information on what is allowed and what is not.

In general

You might look up how to do something in C++. For example, "How do I iterate through an std::map's keys?", "How do I clear the contents of an std::string?", "How do I preallocate memory for an std::vector?", etc. During such lookup, if you find inspiration from a source that is not directly associated with an assignment's prompt, should you adapt that code, be sure to make it your own, and cite the source. After this exercise, your code should look very different from the inspired source. Looking at C++ documentation is not considered cheating, provided you do not plagiarize it.


If you are caught cheating in CS 128 you will (without question) receive a FAIR violation. Depending on the severity of the situation, you may also have any of the following penalties (or otherwise) applied:

  • A letter grade reduction in the class per assignment involved, or
  • An F in the course.

Computer Requirements

Please ensure that you have a laptop device that meets the College of Engineering's recommendations (, with either Window, Mac, or Ubuntu operating system, and the Google Chrome web browser (used to access our website) installed.

Classroom Climate

Our course goals can only be accomplished in a setting of mutual respect.

Your instructors are committed to creating a classroom environment that welcomes all students, regardless of their identities—race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs. We value diversity in all of its definitions, including who we are, how we think, and what we do. We cultivate an accessible, inclusive, and equitable culture where everyone can pursue their passions and reach their potential in an intellectually stimulating and respectful environment. The effectiveness of this course is dependent upon each of us to create a safe and encouraging learning environment that allows for the open exchange of ideas while also ensuring equitable opportunities and respect for all of us. Everyone is expected to help establish and maintain an environment where students, staff, and faculty can contribute without fear of personal ridicule, or intolerant or offensive language. If you witness or experience behavior that goes against these expectations, you are encouraged to bring this to the attention of the course instructor. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to make sure everyone is encouraged to succeed in this class.

Our Values and Code of Conduct

All members of the Illinois Computer Science department (faculty, staff, and students) are expected to adhere to the CS Values and Code of Conduct. The CS CARES Committee is available to serve as a resource to help people who are concerned about or experience a potential violation of the Code. If you experience such issues, please contact the CS CARES Committee. The instructors of this course are also available for issues related to this class.

Religious Observances

Illinois law requires the University to reasonably accommodate its students' religious beliefs, observances, and practices with admissions, class attendance, and the scheduling of examinations and work requirements. Therefore, we recommend that students examine each syllabus at the beginning of the semester for potential conflicts, notify the instructor/professor, and follow their directions on how to request accommodations.

In this class, we require students to procure an absence letter from the Office of the Dean of Students for any class activities or assessments affected by a religious observance. The Request for Accommodation for Religious Observances form allows for requesting such a letter. To best facilitate planning and communication, you must provide your instructor with the absence letter within the first two weeks of classes for the semester in which any accommodations request applies.

ADA Statement

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. To obtain disability-related academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids, students with disabilities must contact the course instructor and the Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) as soon as possible. To contact DRES, you may visit 1207 S. Oak St., Champaign, call 333-4603, e-mail [email protected] or go to If you are concerned you have a disability-related condition that is impacting your academic progress, there are academic screening appointments available that can help diagnose a previously undiagnosed disability. You may access these by visiting the DRES website and selecting "Request an Academic Screening" at the bottom of the page.

Tentative Schedule

Week Topics
1Introduction to C++; navigating the command line; compilation and execution
2Build systems, version control, and software and errors; testing and debugging
3Compound types (pointers, references, arrays); user-defined types; streams and input validation; data representation
4Functions and the stack; the free store; dynamic memory in classes
5Linked lists; generic programming; inheritance and polymorphism
8Design patterns; smart pointers
Version: Rev 2023-06-07T10:45:00