Welcome to CS 61BL #

The CS 61 series is an introduction to computer science, with particular emphasis on software and machines from a programmer’s point of view. In CS 61A, students are exposed to a diverse set of mental models for computational problems and solutions through programming paradigms like functional programming, object-oriented programming, and declarative programming. In CS 61BL, we refine those mental representations by focusing particularly on the efficiency of writing programs (design) and running programs (runtime). Further, we aim to achieve a basic understanding of fundamental topics in theoretical computer science, as part of our work on improving performance.

Hours and Workload #

This is a summer course, which means it is run at twice the speed of a course during the normal semester. In addition, CS 61B naturally has more involved programming than CS 61A, and CS 61BL has even more, so expect there to be a lot of work. We strongly recommend not taking any other courses alongside CS 61BL.

While we can’t predict how many hours you will spend on the course, here is a brief breakdown of what you will have to do in this course.

  • A total of 12 hours of lab, broken down into 8 hours of practical lab, 2 hours of theoretical lab, and 2 hours of instructor lab.
  • Two one-hour lectures per week.
  • One quiz per week (total of 6).
  • Two exams in the 8 weeks of the course.
  • Four projects in the 8 weeks of the course.

Prerequisites #

CS 61A is an important prerequisite. We expect to build heavily on data-oriented and object-oriented design approaches introduced in this course and on algorithms for recursive list and tree manipulation. Engineering 7 or CS 88 / Data 8 students may find the beginning of the course to be a bit scarier, particularly when it comes to object-oriented programming and recursion. We assume you are coming in with zero Java experience, but we will move through basic Java syntax very quickly.

Alternatives #

This is a course about data structures and programming methods. For those who may have already had a data structures course and simply want to learn Java, self-study may be a better option. Students with “sufficient partial credit” in CS 61B should consider taking CS 47B to complete the CS 61B requirement without taking the full course. Both of these self-paced courses are only offered during the fall and spring semesters.

Goals and Class Norms #

It is our intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well-served by this course, that students’ learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength, and benefit. It is our intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, culture, perspective, and other background characteristics. Your suggestions about how to improve the value of diversity in this course are encouraged and appreciated. Please let us know ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally or for other students or student groups.

In addition, in scheduling exams, we have attempted to avoid conflicts with major religious holidays. If, however, we have inadvertently scheduled an exam or major deadline that creates a conflict with your religious observances, please let us know as soon as possible so that we can make other arrangements.

Remote Policy #

This is, per university policy, an in-person course. However, we will make at least one lab section online, along with some tutor sections and instructor office hours. Please note, however, that our ability to support those in other timezones will be limited by our need to sleep at night. That means that, if you are on the other side of the world, you may have to be up all night to attend our offerings. We thus do not recommend that you take the course if you will not be physically located in an amenable timezone, although we will not prevent you, and you will still be able to complete the course fully remote.

Mental Health & Wellness #

As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, depression, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance or reduce a student’s ability to participate in daily activities. UC offers services to assist you with addressing these and other concerns you may be experiencing. If you or someone you know are suffering from any of the aforementioned conditions, consider utilizing the confidential mental health services available on campus. We encourage you to reach out to the Counseling Center for support. An on campus counselor or after-hours clinician is available 24/7.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour number any student or faculty / staff person can call to speak with someone about suicide: (800) 273-TALK (8255).

If you’re experiencing extenuating circumstances impacting your mental health and would like to meet with a member of course staff to work out accommodations within the course, or would like to be connected to more resources, you can set up a meeting with us here.

Accommodation #

UC Berkeley is committed to creating a learning environment that meets the needs of its diverse student body including students with disabilities. If you anticipate or experience any barriers to learning in this course, please feel free to email cs61bl@berkeley.edu.

If you have a disability, or think you may have a disability, you can work with the Disabled Students’ Program (DSP) to request an official accommodation. The Disabled Students’ Program (DSP) is the campus office responsible for authorizing disability-related academic accommodations, in cooperation with the students themselves and their instructors. You can find more information about DSP, including contact information and the application process here. If you have already been approved for accommodations through DSP, please schedule a meeting with the instructors so we can develop an implementation plan together.

Land Statement #

We recognize that Berkeley sits on the territory of Huichin, the ancestral and unceded land of the Chochenyo Ohlone, the successors of the historic and sovereign Verona Band of Alameda County. This land was and continues to be of great importance to the Ohlone people. We recognize that every member of the Berkeley community has, and continues to benefit from the use and occupation of this land, since the institution’s founding in 1868. Consistent with our values of community and diversity, we have a responsibility to acknowledge and make visible the university’s relationship to Native peoples. By offering this Land Acknowledgment, we affirm Indigenous sovereignty and will work to hold University of California Berkeley more accountable to the needs of American Indian and Indigenous peoples.

Course Format #

Labs #

Lab sections meet Monday through Friday. You may only attend the lab section in which you are enrolled. All lab work may optionally be done with a partner. You do not need to work with a partner. You may also dissolve your partnership, but if you do so we will not help you find a new one. If you do find another partner, then we will match the two of you together. In-person labs will be held in a lab room in Soda. Remote labs will be held over Zoom where you will be working primarily in breakout rooms with your partner (TAs / Tutors / Academic Interns will join the breakout room when you need assistance).

This summer, we are trying out a new way of teaching lab. The Monday through Thursday labs are practical labs that emphasize hands-on experience with the course material. The Friday lab will be a theoretical lab, that involves working through with your classmates and the TA a worksheet covering the theoretical aspects of the material covered that week.

If you would like to swap to a lab section that you are not officially enrolled in, you must receive permission from your current lab TA and the lab TA of the section you would like to attend. Attending a lab that you are not officially enrolled in or have not received permission to attend may result in you being de-prioritized for help.

Lectures #

There are two 50-minute lectures on Monday and Wednesday. The lecture will be held in VLSB 2050, and will also be webcast synchronously over Zoom. Attendance is strongly recommended. If for whatever reason you are unable to attend, the lecture video will be posted promptly.

Instructor Lab #

There will be instructor-taught labs on Tuesday and Thursday. These will largely consist of instructor lecturing and a small ungraded check for understanding at the end. This can be completed asynchrounsly, but it is strongly recommended to be completed before your lab section. A recording of the lab will be posted promptly after its conclusion.

Instructor Office Hours #

Instructor office hours are primarily for conceptual questions and administrative problems. The instructors are teachers too: we like teaching, and we’d rather see you as soon as you don’t understand something rather than right before the exam. If you’d like to meet with us and cannot make any of the weekly times, reach out to us privately via the course email.

In a lab-based course like CS 61BL, we expect that most of the course-related questions will occur during lab or through our course forum. For administrative inquiries like enrollment and DSP accommodations, email the course’s administrative email address, cs61bl@berkeley.edu.

Assignments #

Lab Exercises #

Each lab assignment is worth 2 points and due 22 hours after the start of your enrolled lab section (or of your switched section if have received approval from both the TA and the instructors). For example, if your lab section is from 4-6 PM, then Tuesday’s lab assignment will be due on Wednesday at 2 PM. Lab exercises and self-assessments will be graded via online submission to Gradescope, and you may submit every half an hour as many times as you like before the deadline.

Quizzes #

Quizzes will be administered once a week covering the content on the course material for that week. These will contain questions ranging from multiple choice questions to code writing questions. Quizzes will be released on Fridays, and due the following Monday. Quizzes are closed note, closed IDE. The quizzes will be timed and you will have 1 hour to complete them after you start the assignment on Gradescope.

Regardless of length, all quizzes will be worth 2.5 points. The maximum number of quiz points you can get will be 15.

Those who perform poorly have the option to attend Tutor led redemption sections on the topics from the quiz. Those who attend these short sections will unlock the ability to take a different version of a quiz on the same topic, which can clobber your initial score. This will be a full clobber so your score would be max(original_quiz_score, redemption_quiz_score).

The quiz review sections will occur on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. You will have to sign up for these section, more instructions on this will be provided after the first quiz. Redemption quizzes will be released at 12 AM Thursday and due almost 24 hours later on Thursday, midnight.

Projects #

There are four projects in this course. Projects are larger and more challenging assignments than you would typically find in a lab. There will be some in lab time to work on these projects, but they are largely meant to be completed outside of lab.

Exams #

This course has a midterm exam and a final exam.

  • The Midterm will be on Friday, 14th July from 7-9 PM.
  • The Final Exam will be on Friday, 11th August from 6-9 PM.

We will have in-person and remote options for both exams. Remote exams will be administered using an online assessment software and will be proctored.

Students with DSP accommodations that require alternate exam timing will be accounted for, so long as you can make a time that overlaps the official time. If you have a disability that prevents your ability to make such a time, we will discuss alternate arrangements with you directly.

If you have a time conflict with the midterm exam, or if you are unable to make the final exam, please email cs61bl@berkeley.edu as soon as possible explaining your needs.

Final Exam Percentile Clobbering #

For those of you who, have a bad night, fall sick, or make major improvements over the semester, the exam clobbering policy gives you a chance to replace potentially both of your midterm exam scores.

Specifically, if it helps your score, we will replace your midterm scores by their “final percentile equivalent” (FPE). For example, suppose you score in the bottom quartile of midterm 1 (i.e. earn a score in the bottom 25%)i; later, you improve significantly and earn the median score (i.e. you are at the 50th percentile) on the final. In this case, we will replace your midterm score by the medians for the midterm.

Percentiles will be based on the grades before this policy is applied. In other words, we will not recalculate the statistics for the midterm for the purposes of implementing this policy.

The final exam percentile clobbering policy will only be applied if it helps your score. For example, if you score the median on the midterm, but then have a bad day and do terribly on the final, we will not change your midterm scores.

While this does mechanism introduce a bit of “curving” to the class, in practice it does not turn the class into a competition. Our grading bins are still fixed, a vast majority of the points are not subject to this mechanism, and the impact tends to be relatively small for most students.

In theory, it would be nice to have a mechanism that avoids use any statistics, e.g. simply replacing your midterm score by the final grade if it’s higher. In practice it is very difficult to get both the exam medians (and variances) to line up. Therefore, we use a percentile clobbering policy as described above.

Surveys #

After most weeks, we will send out a weekly survey in the weekly announcements. We will have 6 weekly surveys. Completing each weekly survey will give half of an extra credit point! In addition to the weekly surveys, we will send out presemester, midsemester, and end of the semester surveys. Completing each of the presemester, midsemester, or end of the semester surveys will earn 1 extra credit point. Completing all three will give 3 points. So, if you complete every survey in this class, you can get a total of 6 extra credit points!

Grading #

Your course grade is computed using a point system with a total of 300 points.

Grade breakdown
Category Percentage Points
Lab Assignments 15% 45
Theoretical Lab Attendance 5% 15
Quizzes 5% 15
Project 0 5% 15
Project 1 10% 30
Project 2 12% 36
Project 3 12% 36
Midterm 18% 54
Final Exam 18% 54
Total 100% 300

Each letter grade for the course corresponds to a range of scores:

Grade bins
A+ A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D D- F
295 270 255 245 225 205 195 185 175 170 165 160 0

There is no curve. Your grade will depend only on how well you do, and not on how well everyone else does. These bins were designed based on past semester student performance with the intention of complying with departmental grading guidelines.

Incomplete grades will be granted only for dire medical or personal emergencies that cause you to miss the final, and only if your work up to that point has been satisfactory. You must complete all coursework before the drop deadline to be considered for an incomplete grade. For more information, please email the instructors.

There are a total of 24 graded lab exercises, each worth 2 points. Thus, while the total point value for labs is 48 points, lab grades are capped at 45 points. This means that you can miss up to 3 points on labs without penalty. In other words, getting more than 45 points on lab is equivalent to getting 45 points for your lab score.

For the theoretical lab sections, you will need to attend 5 out of the total 6 in order to recieve full attendance credit.

Late Policy #

Lab Lateness #

For lab assignments, you will receive a total of 4 slip days, with one slip day released to you every two weeks. If you use a slip day, your lab deadline is extended by 24 hours. You can use at most one slip day per lab assignment, and you may not use a fraction of a slip day. Slip days may only be applied retroactively. Lab assignments turned in late without using a slip day will receive no credit.

You should only be using a slip day on a lab assignment if you have made significant progress on the lab prior to the original deadline for the assignment. The intention of a slip day is to give you enough time to put the last finishing touches on the lab assignment before turning it in (for example, if you have been facing a bug for awhile, you should use a slip day, which buys you time to get some sleep before asking your TA for the last bit of help you need the next day). We recommend that slip days are not be used if significant progress wasn’t made on the lab before the deadline, such as if you couldn’t make a lab section and are trying to complete the entire lab the day after. In this situation, it may be better for you to consider skipping the assignment and proceeding with the more current ones to keep pace with the course. Remember, you don’t need to get all points in the lab category to still get full credit for labs.

Note that slip days are handled individually, not on a partner basis, meaning that your slip days don’t add up. If partner A requests a slip day and turns in a lab late, partner B should also request one (otherwise partner B would receive no credit).

*To use a lab slip day, go to the Extensions tab on Beacon. If you have enough slip days remaining, you may select your assignment and your new due date. Note that once you apply a slip day to an assignment, you cannot later extend it by even more time.

Project Lateness #

For projects, you will not receive any slip days. However, you may turn in your project late and receive a penalty depending on when it is submitted:

  • Within 24 hours of the deadline: 10% penalty
  • Within 48 hours of the deadline: 50% penalty
  • More than 48 hours after the deadline: 100% penalty (no credit)

For example, a project that scored 10 points on the autograder that was turned in 8 hours after the deadline will receive a 10% penalty; the final score will be 9 points. Similarly, the same project turned in 25 hours after the deadline will receive a 50% deduction, and the final score will be 5 points.

DSP Accommodations #

We will be honoring DSP accommodations for extensions on assignments. For any assignment, students with the appropriate accommodations can receive an automatic one day extension on any assignment.

Resources #

Online Forum #

Our discussion forum this semester will be Ed. For most questions about the course, Ed is the right place to ask them. The course staff read it regularly, so you will get a quick answer. Furthermore, by posting online as opposed to emailing us directly, other students benefit by seeing the question and the answer.

Staff Email #

The email address cs61bl@berkeley.edu will send a message to the instructors. Only the current instructors and select Head TAs have access to this email. You can use it for correspondence that you don’t want to send to all TAs through the ticketing system. Please do not email the instructors directly since your message may be misplaced that way. You will get a faster response from the course email.

Reading #

You are expected to read each lab’s contents. There are also related textbooks that belong to CS 61B, which you may read if you please. The The first text we use is Josh Hug’s free, online course notes written in collaboration with past and current TAs. If you find these notes insufficient, you might consider consulting Paul Hilfinger’s (free) Java Reference or Head First Java, 2nd Edition by Sierra and Bates (O’Reilly, 2005). The optional textbook for the latter half of the course is Algorithms, 4th Edition by Wayne and Sedgewick.

Collaboration and Academic Misconduct #

Plagiarism on any lab or project will result in a score of zero on that assignment, along with academic sanctions. A second instance of plagiarism on a lab or project will result in an F in the course. All incidents of plagiarism will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct, including carelessly leaving code up on GitHub. Further details about our academic misconduct policy can be found here.

Deadlines can be stressful, and we know that under extreme pressure, it becomes tempting to start rationalizing actions that you would otherwise would consider inappropriate. If you find yourself in this situation, please talk to a staff member immediately! See the late policy above. We want to work with you!

During the Spring 2017 semester, we compiled a series of incident reports written by students who were caught plagiarizing. If you find yourself tempted to cheat, consider turning to the words of others who have made the wrong choice for guidance.

Lab Collaboration #

The entire point of labs is to learn, so we emphasize active learning and pair programming. For labs, just like projects, you can submit with a partner. One person can make a submission on Gradescope (from the partner repositories that are distributed on 6/27), and then add the other person to their submission. If you decide to work alone, you are able to submit individually. Feel free to collaborate with others besides your partner however you choose, though keep in mind that greater independence between pairs is likely to give you a better learning experience, as long as you aren’t totally stuck. Even though we will allow close collaboration outside of just your partner pairs on labs, the code you and your partner turn in should still be by you and your partner alone! This means that although you may discuss the labs with students other than your partner, you should not be sharing or receiving code from them.

Project Collaboration #

By contrast, the projects were designed not just for learning (particularly how to be self-reliant in the context of large unfamiliar systems), but also for the dual purpose of evaluating your mastery of the course material. As such, they are intended to be completed primarily independently of any other student (who is not your partner), particularly when it comes to writing actual code. You should never be in direct possession code that was not written entirely by you or your partner alone. However, we encourage you to discuss high-level strategies, specific syntax issues, and solutions to bugs.

Exam Misconduct #

For exams, we will be absolutely unforgiving. Any incident will result in a failing grade for the course, though Berkeley will let you retake CS 61B next semester. All incidents of academic misconduct on exams will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct.

Academic Misconduct #

The golden rule of academic misconduct is that you should not claim to be responsible for work that is not yours. To help (but not entirely define) the bounds of acceptable behavior, we have three important rules for projects:

  • By You (and Your Partner) Alone: All code that you submit (other than skeleton code) should be written by you and your partner alone, except for small snippets that solve tiny subproblems (examples in the Permitted section below).
  • Do Not Possess or Share Code: Before you’ve submitted your final work for a project, you should never be in possession of solution code that you (or your partner) did not write. You will be equally culpable if you distribute such code to other students or future students of CS 61BL (within reason). DO NOT GIVE ANYONE YOUR CODE! EVEN IF THEY ARE DESPERATELY ASKING. DO NOT POST SOLUTIONS TO PROJECTS ONLINE (on GitHub or anywhere else)! If you’re not sure what you’re doing is OK, please ask.
  • Cite Your Sources: When you receive significant assistance on a project from someone else, you should cite that assistance somewhere in your source code with the @source tag. We leave it to you to decide what constitutes “significant”.

Permitted #

  • Discussion of approaches for solving a problem. Such help should be cited as comments in your code. For the sake of others’ learning experience, we ask that you try not to give away anything juicy, and instead try to lead people to such solutions.
  • Discussion of specific syntax issues and bugs in your code, without showing another student your code. Verbally discussing syntax issues is permitted, but Zoom screen sharing your code, for example, is never permitted. Cite any non course staff (course staff meaning AI, Tutor, TA, and Instructor) person you received advice from.
  • Using small snippets of code that you find online for solving tiny problems such as code for finding the distance between two points. Such usages must be cited in comments in your code.

Absolutely Forbidden #

  • Typing or dictating code into someone else’s computer is a violation of the “By You Alone” rule.
  • Looking at someone else’s project code to understand a particular idea or part of a project. This is not allowed due to the danger of plagiarism. We are very serious about the “By You Alone” rule!
  • Possessing project solution code that you did not write yourself or another student’s project code in any form before a final deadline, be it electronic or on paper. This includes the situation where you’re trying to help someone debug. Distributing such code is equally forbidden.
  • Posting solution code to any assignment in a public place (e.g. a public git repository, Google Drive, Discord, etched into stones above the Mediterranean, etc). This applies even after the semester is over.
  • Working in lock-step with other students. Your workflow should not involve a group of people identifying, tackling, and effectively identically solving a sequence of subproblems.
  • Using tools like Chat GPT and GitHub Co-Pilot to generate code.

You can obey the letter of this entire policy while completely violating its spirit. However, this policy is not a game to be defeated, and such circumventions will be seen as plagiarism.

A Parting Thought #

Grades and penalties aren’t the purpose of this course; we really just want you to learn and be successful in the course.

The entire staff is very excited to be teaching CS 61BL this semester and we’re looking forward to meeting such a large and enthusiastic group of students. Welcome to CS 61BL!

Acknowledgments #

Some course information ideas derived from: