Here are some questions which come up, well… frequently.

What do I need to do when I start the course?

Here’s a checklist:

  1. make sure you can log in to the Piazza forum (let me know if you can’t)

  2. read the course policies page carefully

  3. work through the week 1 lab material (anytime!)

  4. sign up for a lab group

How do I sign up for labs?

Lab signups will happen through streams—you just log in with your usual uni ID and password and it’s pretty straightforward.

Lab signups aren’t open yet, they will open up after the first lecture (i.e. shortly after 4pm Tuesday July 25).

I can’t get into my preferred lab group—what do I do?

This is always a problem, for every course. We’ll try really hard to fit you in, but sometimes you might have to shift some other things around to make sure you can attend a lab time. There’s a good spread of times available (including a couple of late-afternoon ones if you’re studying part-time and work during the day) so make sure you’re ready to go at sign-up time.

If you’re really stuck, then contact Ben.

What’s expected of me in this course?

As well as the usual stuff (attending labs & lecutres), to keep on top of this course you’ll need to:

  1. watch & ask questions on Piazza

  2. read the weekly lab material ahead of time

  3. start the assignments early

  4. ask questions (in lectures, during labs and on Piazza) if you don’t understand anything—there are no dumb questions in COMP1720, and if you’re ever made to feel this isn’t the case then let me know

It’s really important to attend the labs. If you’re struggling later on in the course (or if you’re unhappy with e.g. your assignment marks) but you haven’t been attending your lab group, then you’ve only got yourself to blame.

Can I use my own laptop/desktop machine?

Yep, you can, although make sure you’ve read the course “own machine” policy.

Can I use a different browser/text editor?

Yep, although I’d advise against it (unless you have a strong reason to). If you do go down that route, check out the marking software environment policy—basically you’re marked on how it works in the labs—no exceptions.

Do I have to use my own laptop/desktop machine?

Nope, you’re welcome to just use the computers in the CSIT & Peter Karmel Mac labs. We’ll make sure they’ve got all the software you need.

Bummer. The main thing I want to stress (for everyone) is that you don’t have to have your own computer for this course. All the software works fine in the labs, and you can work in the labs (either in the Peter Karmel Building or the CSIT labs) whenever there’s not a class on.

If there’s some reason the class software doesn’t work on your machine, I’m really sorry about that. Since there are such a wide variety of laptops/desktops/OSes out there it’s really hard to choose tools which are available (and affordable) for everyone, and there are unfortunately always edge cases we don’t hit. If this is you, then I suggest you schedule some regular time in the computer labs (outside of your lab group) to work though things at your own pace.

Will the lectures be recorded?

The lectures will be recorded, although some elements of the lecture (including live coding sessions & in-class discussion) may not make it onto the recordings (especially for the Thursday artist talk guest lectures). We’ll try our best, but some things are just hard to capture with the recording tools we have in lecture theatres.

I have a lecture clash with another course—what should I do?

That’s a bummer, but unfortunately the uni’s a big place with lots of students & courses, so this happens from time to time. It’s a tricky situation. The COMP1720 lectures will be recorded, so you could always watch the videos later (although I do think it’s usually better being there in person).

You should talk to the other lecturer anyway (especially to see if those lectures will be recorded). You could alternate between them, and watch the video of the one you missed.

The most important thing is that you attend your lab group—if you do that (and engage while you’re there) then I think you’ll be ok and able to keep up.

Why do you keep calling it COMP1720 when I’m in COMP6720?

Sorry about that—it’s nothing personal, it’s just that it’s too much hassle to write the full COMP1720/6720 each time. If there’s any information which is specific to one group of the other, I’ll make it really clear.

Why isn’t there much stuff up on this website?

The web content (e.g. lecture notes, labs and assignments) will go up as we go. So you really should bookmark this page and check it regularly.

If there’s any info on here which is confusing, then let us know on Piazza and we can update it.

Is there a textbook for this course?

No, all the material you need will be on this website (with helpful supplementary material listed here). This isn’t because we’re trying to do the course on the cheap, it’s because this is a web course and the best documentation and examples are also on the web.

What are the assessment deadlines, late penalties, etc?

Good question! It’s important to know this stuff in any uni course, so have a look at the policies page.

Are there any other deadlines I should be aware of?

These aren’t specific to COMP1720, but they might be useful to know:

  • Monday 31 July - deadline to add semester 2 courses via ISIS
  • Thursday 31 August - semester 2 census date
  • Friday 6 October - deadline to drop semester 2 courses without failure (WD)
  • Thursday 30 November - semester 2 results released

What if I can’t understand/keep up with the artist talks?

The Tuesday code & design lectures are normal class lectures—we’ll start at the beginning, and gradually up your knowledge of the key concepts as you go, and with plenty of explanation and examples.

The Thursday artist talks, on the other hand, aren’t like this. The artist talk in week 1 isn’t necessarily any easier/harder to follow than the one in week 10. Instead, think of the artist talks as a chance to see how different people make cool things with code. As T. S. Elliot (probably) said, good artists copy; great artists steal. So come along, see new things, and ask questions.

I’m sortof keeping up with the lectures and lab material, but the “extension” stuff in labs is way over my head—am I ok?

Yep, you’re ok. Firstly—the extension boxes are just that, they’re meant to go beyond the core course material. Secondly, it’s a proven fact (with science!) that there’s often a gap between a student’s “felt” proficiency (how much you feel you know) and actual proficiency (how much you actually know) during the course:

felt vs actual proficiency

So if you feel like you’re struggling, you may well be at the “bottom” part of that yellow curve, just before the moment when it all comes together.

Having said all that, it’s a good thing to get help. Ask questions on Piazza, or in your lab groups, or you can even get in touch with Ben directly if you’re really not feeling up to it for whatever reason. We really want to help you get the most out of this course, wherever you’re at right now. You don’t have to stress out in silence.

Which brings me to…

How do I get help?

Getting help is so important that it has its own page.

What’s with the arty bollocks in this course?

This course isn’t like other programming courses—just look at how often art is mentioned in the Learning Outcomes. Getting a good mark isn’t just a matter of writing a program which successfully passes a bunch of unit tests.

To do well in this course, you need to create compelling interactive art. For some people, that’s incredibly liberating, but for others it’s incredibly frustrating.

This means that you must think through all your work from a viewer’s perspective—what do you want to communicate, how do you want them to feel, what questions do you want to leave them thinking about? We’ll explore techniques for doing this throughout the course.

In terms of assignment marks, you won’t get a separate mark for your artist statement (in fact, you won’t get separate marks for any part of the assignment). However, your artist statement is crucial for showing us what you’re aiming for with your sketch, and therefore your overall mark.

But I hate how vague that is…

If you hate thinking artistically/creatively then I really suggest you don’t take this course (you can’t say that you weren’t warned). However, I hope that you learn to enjoy the fact that this course is more open ended than the other CS courses you might take at uni, and use that freedom to make stuff not just to get good marks in assignments, but to express yourself creatively and make things you’re really proud of.

Updated:  27 Jul 2017/ Responsible Officer:  Head of School/ Page Contact:  Ben Swift