From Computer Science
Revision as of 23:51, 30 July 2020 by Jkinne (talk | contribs) (Admissions / Prospective Students)
Jump to: navigation, search

This page will be kept up to date with information and resources related to how CS courses are handling impacts due to covid-19 (in particular online instruction and potential student/faculty illness).

Best-Practices for Not Becoming Infected or Infecting Others

If every person in the country followed the recommendations of the CDC, the pandemic would be under much better control. Keep yourself safe, keep others safe from you (if you become infected and don't know it yet), and set an example for others following these guidelines - listed in order of importance.

  • Stay home if - you have any new cold-like / flu-like / covid-like symptoms, specifically even if the symptoms are very mild. The virus is normally most contagious just before and just after the first symptoms. It is no longer "tough" to work, etc. when you are mildly sick; instead it is reckless, uninformed, selfish.
  • Stay home if - you are coughing or sneezing. The virus is transmitted much more effectively by coughing/sneezing than anything else (you could infect an entire room, a large portion of a store, etc.).
  • Wear a mask if - you are indoors with people outside of your household. There is no safe distance while indoors. You wear a mask to protect others from your germs, and remember that you are likely most contagious just before having any symptoms at all.
  • Stay outside - as much as possible if you do see/meet someone. The virus is dispersed much better outside than inside. In almost all cases, staying outside is safer than anything you would do inside.
  • No large gatherings - one person could infect dozens or hundreds. You could be the one person that infects dozens or hundreds. Don't be that person.
  • Short and sweet - make any trips indoors around others as short as possible. Order take out rather than dining in, make a grocery list and be efficient at the store rather than browsing aimlessly. The longer you are inside the more likely you are to become infected or to infect others. For outside meetings, minimize the amount of time you are too close to others.
  • Stay a safe distance - especially when inside, keep as much distance as you can between you and others. 6 feet is an easy distance to remember, but there is no truly safe distance when inside. When outside, keep a safe distance as well.
  • Good hand hygiene - wash your hands well before you leave somewhere and when you arrive. When you leave your house to go somewhere, wash your hands. When you return, wash your hands. Or use hand sanitizer if that is more readily available.

If everyone in the country did all of these, we could all mostly go back to work. Do your part.

Fall 2020

The university has announced that face coverings will be required during all classes - for both students and faculty. Face coverings should be worn while indoors. As noted above, if you do become infected but don't know it yet then wearing a face covering can drastically reduce how many people you will infect before you show symptoms and start quarantining yourself. Guidance from the university is to maintain distance inside classes (the 6 foot rule) and to stay below 25% of each room's capacity.

The university has also announced that the two weeks after Thanksgiving will be done via distance. This includes study week and final exams. Students will not return to campus but will finish these weeks remotely.

To comply with the above and take reasonable precautions, the following will be in effect for fall CS courses.

  • Face coverings required during class.
  • CS labs and classrooms modified to have seating for less than 50% of the regular room capacity (unix lab 2 GAs + 2-3 students getting help, classrooms around 10 students + instructor).
  • Encourage students to bring their own laptops. Depending on the state of the pandemic, we may make use of the computers in the rooms "opt-in only" (you would need to ask for permission to use the computers, and then we could reduce further the number of computers in the rooms).
  • Class lectures and tutoring will be available remotely through Teams, and students will be encouraged to use this method if it works well for them.
  • Faculty will choose whether to use face to face time for synchronously delivered lectures or for Q&A/review.
  • Office hours are by default remote/online using Teams.
  • Faculty at high risk for covid-19 will offer instruction remotely with face to face support from GAs.
  • Key courses will be offered both online and face to face so that students who need to take courses online only can make progress in the major. This includes - CS 101, 151, 170, 201, 202, 401/501, 452/552, 458/558, 500, 611, CSS 210, CSS 331.

The CS faculty are preparing to be ready for increased instruction online. As part of our preparations we are (a) ensuring faculty have technology they need to be effective from anywhere (e.g., writing tablet, document camera, ...), (b) focus group of students to share with faculty recommendations from students for effective online instruction, (c) revising the standards for teaching CS courses both online and in general, (d) ensuring faculty and student assistants are ready to go with software and technology that will be used.

Survey of CS Majors Regarding Fall Term

Survey results of current CS majors.

  • Preference for mode of instruction
    • Currently due to Covid-19 - 30% face to face, 34% online, 32% hybrid/mix, 0% depends on the course/instructor, 4% no preference
    • Normally, when Covid-19 is over - 66% face to face, 3% online, 18% hybrid/mix, 7% depends on the course/instructor, 6% no preference
  • Best guess what the pandemic will be like in the fall - 5% much worse than now, 9% a bit worse than now, 27% about the same as now, 27% a bit better than now, 28% much better than now, 9% no idea
  • Most important for keeping face to face instruction safe
    • 82% Students not coming to class if any chance having early covid-19 symptoms
    • 75% Instructions not coming to class if any chance having early covid-19 symptoms
    • 66% Students staying safe distance apart
    • 59% Students wearing masks
    • 57% Temperature checks for instructors
    • 55% Instructors wearing masks
    • 52% Temperature checks for students
    • 34% Instructor speaking from behind plexiglass shield
  • Will have reliable internet at home in fall - 48% definitely yes, 43% probably yes, 9% not sure
  • Additional feedback from students - concern of keeping shared computers clean, cost of tuition, emphasize that people are contagious before showing symptoms (be very cautious), faculty and students who are vulnerable should be online, some still prefer face to face,

For Students in CS Courses

Room Setup

Most classrooms are being setup so that they are operating at half of normal capacity and have people spaced out roughly 6 feet apart.

  • Room arrangements for CS rooms: A-017 and A-019 A-015
  • Signs/flyers for the rooms: Do not sit, Rules, Leave room setup
  • Setting up the rooms: do not sit flyer taped to the table in any places where there is a seat that should not be used, rules flyer printed and taped with one per row and at entrance to room, leave room setup flyer taped to whiteboard, room arrangement printout taped to whiteboard, for tables that should have person sitting in the middle of the table - move one of the seats to the front/back of the room, extra seats have do not sit flyer on them.

S/U Grading

For each of your courses in Spring 2020 you were able to choose whether you are given a standard final letter grade (A-F) or S/U (Satisfactory / Unsatisfactory). See - A few FAQ's...

Will S/U be an option again in summer or fall 2020? No, this was a one-time only option because things changed rapidly during the semester. Going forward we are all aware that things will be different and should plan accordingly.

Can a student change their choice from S/U to A-F or vice versa? No, the choice cannot be changed now.

If a student chose S/U but would have earned a C or higher, can they register for the next class? For example, if would have earned a C or higher in CS 151 but chose S/U, can they register for CS 201. If you are in this situation, get in touch with the associate chairperson so that we can let you register.

University and College Info

Lab Hours

The online lab is normally only open during the academic year. For the summer, be in touch with your instructor for help.

CS Online Lab uses Microsoft Teams. To get help, do the following.

  • Make sure you are using the latest version of Chrome or Edge (the software we will use is fully functional only in these browsers).
  • Go to or and login with your full ISU email address on the initial login and then using your ISU portal Id when asked for that. If you login at, Teams is one of the apps that shows up (along with Word, etc.).
  • Request access to the CS Online Lab team - by going to this link and clicking to request access. One of the faculty or GAs will approve your request to join.
  • Once part of the team, you can check on the General channel whether a GA / lab assistant is currently on duty. You can post questions in the chat, or you can ask to talk. With the video call you can share your screen to show your code and talk through debugging it.
  • There is also a Microsoft Teams app that can be installed on phones and tablets. That should work as well.

Course Policies

Attendance Students should plan to keep their calendars clear for when they would normally have lecture. Some instructors will meet online with their classes during the regular lecture time. Courses should have at least some points each week that are easy to earn, play the role of attendance or participation, give students enough hope to keep working.

For courses where attendance is part of the grade, each instructor will determine how to count attendance during online instruction. The policy should be reasonable. Students should not be penalized for illness, and if there are other impacts related to covid-19 students should be in touch with their instructor and the associate chairperson of CS.

Lecture and Office Hours Each course instructor can choose how to deliver the content of the course - offline videos to watch, tutorials to follow, interaction using chat, synchronous video conferencing, or something else. Your instructor will let you know what to expect. You can see the possibilities that faculty are choosing from at Online-Instruction.

Programming Assessment For those who were unable to pass the programming assessment (CS 202, 500) in spring 2020, some remediation is being planned for May and June so that you can improve your C programming and data structures in order to pass the assessment. If you are able to pass the assessment you earn at least a C, and a change of grade will be put in for the course and you will be able to register for the next courses. The programming assessment is given online using the Lockdown Browser from within Blackboard. A by-phone option can be requested if needed.

Grades - Should be kept mostly up to date in blackboard.

Other See CS Online Teaching for other thoughts on good policies for online teaching.

Lab/Room Computers Students should bring their laptop to class if possible. If not, next best is to bring their own keyboard and mouse to use. If not that, then you will need to clean/wipe the keyboard/mouse before you use it and after you are done.

Class periods MWF 50 minute class sessions should try to finish in 45 minutes to allow for more time in between classes (hopefully resulting in less congestion).

Admissions / Prospective Students

We are aware that students hoping to attend ISU will have additional challenges in securing all required documentation, etc. in a timely manner.

For those applying for the CS MS, if our normal Graduate Admissions process is not feasible (e.g., you could not do a Skype interview but could do a phone interview due to internet issues, etc.) please be in touch with the associate chairperson. We will also be glad to defer Fall 2020 admissions to Spring 2021 for those who are admitted but end up unable to get to ISU in time for Fall 2020. Note that our normal admissions deadline for Fall is June 15, and for Spring is Nov 15. At this time the university-required documents for admission (4-year degree or equivalent transcript, English language scores if not from the US) remain the same, and the process for obtaining a student visa for international students remains the same. If there are any changes we will let all applicants know and post details here.

For international students, we are aware that many US consulates have put a hold on taking new appointments for visa interviews. At this time we just have to wait to see how this situation develops. As noted, we will be glad to take students for Spring 2021 entry if needed.

Update For new international MS students, the latest possible arrival date in the US is Sept 8. For this term only, you will be able to register for classes even if ISU only has an unofficial transcript (official transcripts must be received during the fall term). For those arriving from outside of the US, a mandatory 14 day quarantine will apply. If you will not be on campus by the start of the term, please be in touch with the associate chairperson to coordinate.

Update For the fall 2020 term only, the US administration is allowing continuing international students to register for as many fully online courses as needed. In addition, new international students from India, Saudi Arabia, Ghana and Nigeria can also register for fully online courses while you work towards getting a visa to enter the US. If you are uncertain, check with ISU's International Students & Services.

Covid-19 - Recommended Articles

Note - articles are added to this lest at the bottom, so least recent is first.

Covid-19 - Data and Analysis

Many will be interested in examining the data related to the spread of Covid-19. Some sources of data, articles on simulations, links to research, etc. (least recent first). Note - try the youtube videos first, assuming you like watching videos.