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CIS 110 is a challenging course that requires a substantial amount of time for most students. Many of you are learning a new kind of abstraction (algorithmic thinking), a new way to express procedures (programming), and a new level of discipline in thought (precision and rigour). Working through the assignments, encountering errors and bugs, and finding the solutions yourself are absolutely essential to learning these skills. To this end, CIS 110 institutes and enforces a strict collaboration policy to ensure that all students are learning effectively. Suspected violations of this policy are systematically referred to the Office of Student Conduct, and generally incur both a disciplinary sanction and a grade deduction.

This semester presents many additional challenges for students, so the course staff is taking steps to design a remote learning environment that offers students enough support and structure without exceeding a workload that would be expected during a more typical semester. We urge students to take advantage of the support available (Office Hours, Review Sessions, or reaching out for additional support if needed) so that the incentive to violate collaboration policies remains as low as possible.

On the homework assignments, we use automated “cheat-checking” software to help detect plagiarism and inappropriate collaboration. This software is very, very effective. We are able to reliably detect all sorts of violations beyond just direct copying from another student or source. According to the Annual Report of the Penn Office of Student Conduct, there were 127 referrals for undergraduate academic misconduct in 2013–2014. 55 of these cases, or nearly 45%, were referred from CIS 110. By taking the collaboration policy as seriously as the course staff does, you will not only help reduce this number, but you will also help yourself and your fellow students learn more effectively.

Collaboration Policy

Penalties for Violation of Collaboration Policy

The role of the CIS 110 course staff is to educate students about Computer Science. The following penalties are designed to disincentivize plagiarism and improper collaboration. The basic principle is that you will not receive credit for work that you did not individually generate.

The staff is not invested in or responsible for investigations of the cases beyond the details that we first detect. Neither is the instructor interested in notions of punitive justice. To that end, CIS 110 leans heavily on the Office of Student Conduct for contested or repeated cases. You can learn more about their processes, and their emphasis on restorative practices on their website.

Collaboration Policy (Annotated)

This annotated version of the policy includes many examples and elaborations to help you understand how to interpret the rules. It covers many situations that have come up in past semesters, but it is not exhaustive.

These restrictions may seem artificial. After all, in the real world, computer scientists and programmers collaborate freely all the time, and so do CIS majors. In many upper-level CIS classes as well as in industry, looking up answers online, debugging code together, and sharing code are all permitted and encouraged. However, these behaviors are forbidden in CIS 110: CIS 110 is not an upper-level class, and it is not the real world. These restrictions help you learn.

Appropriate collaboration

The collaboration policy sounds scary because we take it very seriously. But it is not meant to prohibit all discussion and collaboration. It is intended to limit only the forms of collaboration that undermine the learning goals of the course. Here are some ways that we encourage you to work together and to get help: