CSE 131 / 501N (Fall 2013)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below are some typical questions student have about CSE131. If your question isn't answered here, please ask!

Why should I study computer science at Washington University?
How is this course different from a typical lecture class?
A 3 unit lecture class typically consists of 3 hours of lecture per week. This course is quite different, in that it uses active learning for most of the material you will study.

Each week generally consists of the following:

Thus, you spend 1.5 hours in lecture, but 3 hours working in much smaller groups to learn the materail for this course.

If I am struggling with the course material, how do I get help?
We recognize that the material you are studying is nontrivial. It is challenging and at times you will need help.

We have a myriad of resources at your disposal:

How do I earn participation credit for this course?
Ben Murray and Ron Cytron have developed an application called WUTexter, which allows you to interact anonymously with the live lecture. This application is similar to iClicker, but it requires no special equipment and can be accessed via any cell phone that can send text messages. You can prepare for participation by following the instructions. With this application, you can do the following:
While your participation is anonymous during class, sufficient information is retained to award you participation credit at the end of the semester.
What is the difference between CSE131 and CSE131R?
CSE131 is the standard course, and CSE131R is an optional 1-unit pass/fail seminar associated with CSE131 offered in the fall semester.
This seminar is intended for students who may intend studies in computer science: a major, a minor, or a second major from another school.

Credit is given for CSE131R based on attendance and submission of one lab assignment (also an extension for regular 131 class).

The seminar features:

I cannot access my SVN repository
First, make sure you have a repository. If you added the class after the first day of classes, then ask the instructor to make sure you have a repository set up. The information on how to access your repository is included with Lab 0.
The most common problem is that you are not authenticating correctly with the server.
  • For your username, be sure to supply your WUSTL key name but spell it completely in lower case. For example, if you are used to typing John.Doe as your user name, type it in as john.doe.

  • For your password, be sure to supply the password you use for logging into WebSTAC, and spell it just as you type it in to WebSTAC. For example, if your password is NobodyWillGuessThis, then type in NobodyWillGuessThis.
I have installed eclipse on my Windows 7 computer. However, when I follow the instructions to set up subversive (SVN), the relevant menus don't seem to be there.
For reasons we have not yet fathomed, this problem occurs only when your eclipse files are in the special program files folder in Windows 7. So don't put the files there, just put them on your desktop (the folder will be called eclipse, and the thing you click to run eclipse is inside that folder).

In other words, re-download the eclipse project from the website, but this time unzip the files to your desktop.

I am on the waiting list for CSE131 or for the lab section I need. Will I be able to take the course?
Almost certainly! Be sure to attend class on the first day. In the past, we have been able to accommodate everyone from the waiting list.

Do I need any computer science background to succeed in CSE131?
No. The only prerequisite for this course is that you be comfortable with algebra and geometry at the high school level. No programming background is required. We start from the beginning. However, the course is demanding and does move rather quickly. If you're looking for an easy course, this isn't it.

I have some programming experience. Will I be bored in CSE131?
Most high school computer science courses cover programming, but not computer science as a discipline. In other words, you may have learned the nuts and bolts, but the background and theory are likely to be missing.

However, we do not want you to waste your time! If you have had an AP course in computer science, or some other substantive experience, please see the instructor. We have a placement exam you can take to see if you should place out of CSE131.

How much time should I expect to spend on CSE131?
CSE131 emphasises learning by doing. Most of your time outside of class will be spent on lab assignments. You will spend very little time reading, since everything you need to know will be covered in lecture, studio, or in the lab assignments. Since CSE131 is a 3 unit course, you should expect to spend about 9 hours per week on average doing the lab assignments, including the lab session itself. Some weeks will require more time, some will require less.

Is there a textbook for CSE131?
Yes. Although previous instances of our course were offered without a textbook, we have found it easier to teach the course consistently by using a textbook. Also, students have felt more secure with the material by having a textbook handy.

In addition to the text, on-line materials will be provided or referenced.

The textbook in use for this semester is listed on the home page.

Do I need a CEC account for CSE131?
No. You should be able to log into our lab computers using your standard WebSTAC authentication. Moreover, you are able and encouraged to use your own computer by installing the course software.
Do I need to buy a computer for CSE131?
No. You do not need to own a computer to take this course, but most students do own their own computer and you are encouraged to do so as well.

You are welcome to use our lab computers whether you have your own computer or not. Labs are reserved for classes at certain times, and open for general use at other times. See the schedule posted by the lab door for details.

If I want to buy a computer, what should I buy?
This is a matter of personal preference, and you should discuss your options with the instructor, other students, and with whoever will be paying for your computer.
Where should I store my work?
No matter which computer you use, your work is managed by subversion, which saves your files in a very safe place (meaning it is frequently backed up by someone other than you) when you commit them. This will allow you to work from any place that has an Internet connection if you have installed eclipse with subversion.

I'm having trouble with my computer. Where can I get help?
Try the EIT/CEC help desk in Lopata Hall. If your computer is not working, use a lab computer until yours is fixed so that you don't fall behind in your work.
I have accommodation on timed exams and quizzes. How do I arrange to take these?
Please present your accommodation documentation to the instructor the first week of class. The in-term exams will have extra time for you to complete the work. You will be allowed extra time for recitation quizzes as well. No extra time is allowed for labs, except as provided by the late lab policy.