Please refer to the course syllabus for relevant policies and information that apply to the course as a whole.
The purpose of discussion and lab sections is to exercise and cement the knowledge you gained in lecture. Discussion focuses on on-paper problem-solving skills and challenging theoretical concepts—skills useful for exams. Lab focuses on technical implementation skills and further builds upon the ideas you learn in class, which are relevant for homework and projects. Both are integral to your computer science education.
Labs and discussions will start on Berkeley time, so they will be 80 minutes long.
Discussion centers around working through a worksheet of problems. The worksheet may be completed on paper or on your computer. (I recommend the paper version.) We will never work through all of the problems on a worksheet. By design, the worksheet is too long to complete in the allotted time so that you have some extra practice problems if you want them.
Lab is centered around the completion of a lab assignment on your computer and submitted to Gradescope. You will have the assistance of an autograder. The labs are designed to be able to be completed during the allotted time. The AIs and I will work hard to ensure that you are able to complete the lab assignment within the lab section.
Collaboration and participation are highly encouraged in discussion and lab section. You may work on lab/discussion problems together, and I will frequently ask you to work in groups or talk to your neighbors. I know that breaking the ice can often be painful, but we all end up better when we work on things together.
Getting to that collaborative course climate requires that we all commit to being respectful toward each other. Remember always that your peers are human beings, and you never know what's going on in their day or life. So please be understanding and kind to each other.
Discrimination, of course, is unacceptable. I know you all agree with me about that. In this class, I also want you to pay attention to your unconscious biases. Often times, the things we say or the way we treat other people are influenced by factors we are not even aware of. Be cognizant of that when you form groups and respond to other students.
Finally, making this section worthwhile does require some amount of courage on your part. The courage to ask questions, to be wrong, and to reach out to people we might not otherwise reach out to. This may be a challenge, but we're all in this together.
Discussions and labs account for 20/300 points, or 6⅔%, of your grade.
You will receive one point for each discussion you attend. The first discussion (disc 00, 1/20) will not count. Participation is determined through your completion of a brief form and is verified through a secret word distributed at the end of each section. Lying on this form or sharing the secret word for the purpose of misrepresenting attendance is academic dishonesty.
Unfortunately, we do not provide extra credit for attending/completing more than 10 discussions/labs. However, I highly encourage you to attend as many sections as possible. Attending section is super helpful for success in this course.
Each lab is worth one point. To earn credit for lab, you must have a submission for the lab on Gradescope and truthfully fill out the lab check-off form with the correct secret word. You can only be checked off for the following reasons:
On the lab check-off form, you are asked to select which of the above reasons applies to earn credit for lab. This is largely on the honor system, although we use the secret word for some amount of accountability. There will be different secret words for different types of check-offs, so you should be careful to use the secret word that was given to you.
About 10 minutes before the end of lab, I will write a secret word on the board. This will be the secret word that most students use. At this point, you may fill out the check-off form with the secret word if you finished all of the questions, only the required questions, or if you simply worked hard on the lab throughout section.
If you attend lab in person and finish the entire lab (including all of the optional questions) early, you may raise your hand, and Gabe will give you a secret word to fill out the form with. Then you may leave section if you would like to.
If you finish the entire lab (including all optional questions) before section, you may email Gabe with a link to your Gradescope submission, and he will send you a secret word to fill out the check-off form with. Note that you must complete all required and optional questions before lab and email Gabe before section in order to use this option.
If you request an excused absence from lab section, Gabe will email you a secret word so that you can fill out the lab check-off form.
Since there are more than 10 discussions/labs, you have some leeway in how many sections you have to attend to earn full discussion/lab credit. You can therefore miss a few sections for any reason and still earn full discussion/lab credit in the course.
In the event of illness, reasonable suspicion of illness, family/medical emergencies, etc., I do not want you to come to class. Absences for these reasons are excused because there are some things more important in life than CS 61A. If you need to be excused from discussion/lab, please send me an email to let me know you will not be coming to class and why, and I will send you a secret word to fill out the attendance form. Please note that to receive credit for a lab, you still have to submit your
.py file to Gradescope and fill out the check-off form even if you have been excused from the lab. If you've been excused, you can submit the unaltered lab file you download from the CS 61A website to Gradescope.
Regardless of credit, I highly recommend that you complete the lab/discussion on your own time if you are absent from class one day. You'll be missing out on a lot of important material and practice if you skip lab or discussion.
In general, if you need help outside of discussion/lab, the following resources are available to you:
For course policy questions or generic written advice, please see cs61a.org. It has the course syllabus in addition to written guides that can help you navigate the course.
For online, asynchronous debugging assistance, other questions about course material, or course policy questions that are not answered by the syllabus, please use EdStem.
For personalized, in-person help with homework, lab, or project problems, you can come into office hours. The hours and specific staff members providing office hours may vary from week to week. You do not have to attend the office hours of your discussion TA for this kind of help.
Advising office hours are also available by appointment for advisory questions unrelated to specific course content (e.g. declaring the computer science major).
Feel free to email me at classonberkeley.edu if you ever have any questions or concerns! I'll do the best I can to help you out.
As with most CS courses at UC Berkeley, office hours in CS 61A are for technical help. You go to the office hours room, put yourself on the queue, and wait for a staff member to help you. After the staff member is done helping you, they move on to help the next person on the queue. Our staff is amazing, and this system works really well for assisting students who need a little extra help on their assignments! (Really, I do encourage you to go to office hours.) But I do feel that something is missing from the equation.
"Office hours," as they are traditionally conceived, are a place where you can freely talk to and think with your teachers. Instructor office hours allow you to have that kind of experience with the professors. But for us regular UGSIs, ordinary office hours really don't provide that space.
So if you want to expound on a problem from discussion, to receive miscellaneous advice, or to talk about anything else (it doesn't necessarily have to be course related or super pressing), I encourage you to either stay a few minutes after section or to email me to set up a meeting. I think students often don't believe that instructors are serious when they make this kind of offer, but we really mean it. I really do want to talk to you (yes you, the student reading this).
I welcome and encourage honest feedback from students in my section! Our attendance form includes (optional) feedback questions. Additionally, there is a form for you to provide feedback to me where you have the option of remaining anonymous. I will also be asking for feedback from you in the middle of the semester.
I do not have the power to grant extensions even in extenuating circumstances. Please go to go.cs61a.org/extensions to request an extension. If you email me about extensions, I will just send you this information.
24-hour extension requests made for any reason are approved automatically. For DSP students, the window for a no-questions-asked extension is 72 hours.