Fall 2021

Instructor: Anya E. Vostinar

Room: Olin Hall 310

Prefect: See Moodle

Course materials:

Required: Data Structures and Abstractions with Java by Frank M. Carrano and Timothy M Henry, 5th Edition

Some additional reading materials will be linked through Moodle

Drop in student hours:

M: 12:20-1:20pm W: 3-4pm Th: 1-2pm F: 1-2pm

Anya’s Office: Olin Hall 323

Remember that you are always welcome to schedule an appointment with me outside of these times. To schedule an appointment, please see my calendar, find a time that isn’t marked ‘Busy’ within 9-5 M-F and either send a calendar invite to an event or email me.

Overview and Learning Goals

Welcome to Data Structures! In this course, you’ll be learning about how to work with data, how to design solutions that are efficient for a particular application, and developing more complex programs than in the introductory CS course. Whether or not you’re interested in taking future computer science courses, this class should help you to develop your problem solving and analysis skills as well as learn coding skills that you can apply in a variety of domains. If you are interested in more computer science courses, data structures will prepare you for the upper level courses and give you a foundation in some of the ideas underlying much of the field.

By the time you complete this course, you’ll be able to do the following:

  • Read a problem description and think through the pros and cons of different data representations and implementations.
  • Work with basic programming building blocks (data structures and abstract data types), including lists, arrays, stacks, queues, trees, maps, and graphs.
  • Analyze the efficiency of an algorithm to understand how the time and space the algorithm needs varies with the size of the data it’s working on.
  • Create non-trivial Java programs.

Prerequisites: CS111 (Introduction to Computer Science) or an introductory computer science course completed elsewhere. Please talk to me if your background is something other than CS111 or AP CS in high school.

Course expectations

While we’re back in person this year, we’re not yet out of the pandemic. In these unprecedented times, we will need to exhibit flexibility and patience with each other throughout the term. I have done my best to design the course so that everyone can be successful, regardless of personal circumstances. Communication will be key; please keep me updated about your situation in addition to reaching out to the other relevant offices on campus. If you experience significant technological problems that limit your ability to participate, please contact the ITS Helpdesk at 507-222-5999 or helpdesk@carleton.edu. For announcements of known technical issues, visit the Helpdesk portal. If your personal situation (due to COVID-19 illness or other circumstances) begins to impact your ability to engage with the course, please contact the Dean of Students Office and also let me know.

I expect you to attend every class session and log in to Moodle every day for updates on activities and assignments. I will show you civility and respect and expect you will do the same to me and each other in both asynchronous and synchronous discussions, at the whole class level, and when in small groups. Whole class synchronous activities will only be scheduled during designated class meeting times, but opportunities for small group or one-on-one synchronous engagement may be scheduled flexibly at other times.

All out of class written communication will happen via the Moodle announcement forum. Please make sure you are reading your emails regularly. Each class day will have activities for you to complete and a section on Moodle to guide you through what you should do. All materials will be released at least 48 hours before they are due.

Types of Engagement and Collaboration Policies

We’ll have lots of different ways of engaging with the course material:

  • Readings written by me and from the textbook, which will introduce ideas and provide details.
  • Mini-lectures at the start of class that will include discussions to check your understand of the reading and give you a chance to ask questions.
  • Labs for writing somewhat longer code with significant guidance from the instructions in order to make ideas from readings more concrete.
  • Homework where you complete more extended projects to provide opportunities to design solutions and see the ideas from class applied in real contexts.
  • Weekly in-class quizzes, that provide you with a check on whether you’ve understood the key ideas from the previous week and are summative.
  • Final project, where you pull together everything you’ve learned to create something that interests you.

I believe each of these types of activities will give you a different lens on the core class ideas and help you to deeply learn and understand the material. In many of these activities you’ll have the option to work collaboratively, and throughout the course you’ll have assigned programming partners who you will complete the labs and homework with. You are required to work with your assigned partner to complete these assignments using pair programming. Please see the Collaboration guidelines for more details.

Evaluation and Grading

I want you to know that I recognize that the continuing global pandemic is likely to affect your ability to focus and work on this class. However, mastery of this material is important: if you go on to future CS courses or intend to interview for CS internships and jobs, you’ll be expected to know this material (CS201 is widely cited by more senior students and alumni as having the key material for doing well in job interviews). For this class, I will be grading as follows: At the end of the term, I add up your numerical scores for each component, multiply them by the weight for that component, and add up all components. I’ll then check what your percentage is compared to this breakdown:

Percentage Letter Grade Meaning
93-100% A Demonstrated mastery of all course concepts
90-93% A- Demonstrated near mastery of all course concepts
87-90% B+ Demonstrated near mastery of all required concepts and most additional
83-87% B Demonstrated strong competence in all required concepts and some additional
80-83% B- Demonstrated competence in all required concepts and some additional
77-80% C+ Demonstrated adequate understanding of required concepts and some additional
70-77% C Demonstrated adequate understanding of required concepts
60-70% D Not yet completely prepared for a course for which this is a prereq
0-60% F Not yet prepared for a course for which this is a prereq

Note that there is overlap; I will always go with the higher letter grade in the extraordinary circumstance that someone is at exactly 93%. If someone is really really close to a cutoff, I’ll bump them up, so don’t worry about being at 89.99% and getting a B+ instead of an A-.

Here is how activities this term will be factored into your grade:

Component Method of evaluation Contribution to overall grade
Labs and in-class activities Evaluated only on effort. You must turn them in and make an effort to complete all parts, including seeking out assistance if you’re struggling on a particular part (e.g., by reaching out to your collaborative learning group or asking on the forum). 10%
Reading checks Evaluated based on correctness but unlimited attempts allowed. You should complete them on Moodle for each day’s reading. 5%
Homework Evaluated based on correctness, including exhibiting correct behavior and good style and design choices. 50%
Final project Evaluated based on correctness, including exhibiting correct behavior and good style and design choices. 25%
Weekly quizzes Evaluated based on correctness. Lowest quiz score will be dropped. 10%

How to Succeed in this Class

  • Keep trying and ask for help: Learning a new topic can be challenging, and one of my hopes for this class is that you’ll struggle at times and learn more because you had to really work to understand something. That means you’re expected to be willing to try again when things don’t work the first time, and to seek out help when you’re truly stuck. (See below for more on seeking help!)

  • Work consistently: For all learning engaging with the material in shorter, more frequent sessions is likely to be helpful. Set aside time each day to work on the course, and make sure that you’re keeping up with the daily activities.

  • Take notes: Research has shown that writing things down in your own words helps you to remember and understand it better. Take handwritten notes when in class and reading from the textbook. Research has also shown that handwritten instead of typed notes help you retain the information better.

  • Pay attention to longer-term homework assignments and start early: When I’ve asked students what advice they’d give to future 201 students, the most common thing they said was to start the homework early! The homeworks are likely slightly longer than you experienced in intro, as the goal is to help you learn to create more complex programs and make design decisions. By starting early, you have more opportunities to work through problems that come up and time to ask for help! Even if you can’t immediately start on the homework, read over the prompt so that your brain can start thinking about it in the background; it really does help!

  • Test your code: One of the key parts of writing successful code is debugging it - testing whether it works, finding where it doesn’t, and fixing it so it does. The assignments in this class are likely more complex than what you saw in intro, so you’ll need to spend more time making sure that your code works. Learning to debug your code is essential for any later coding projects you may do.

  • Ask questions and reach out for help: If you have a question about something, chances are other people do too. By asking questions in class, on the forum, and in office hours, you’ll keep up with the course and gain a deeper understanding of the concepts.

Late Policies

Because I know that personal or tech difficulties may arise at times during the term, all homework assignments have a 48-hour, no questions asked extensions policy. If you have a tech issue, a health issue, or some other issue that impedes making the deadline, use this policy. You just need to notify me that you’re using the policy before the deadline. If you are unable to notify me, please just still let me know when you are able and I’ll work with you. Extensions beyond the 48-hour policy will only be considered in extenuating circumstances.

Labs and quizzes do not have a built in extensions policy. If something is interfering with your ability to do your work, please reach out. Generally, late work outside of the 48 hour homework extension will not be accepted unless we have had a conversation and I agree that an extension makes sense. If at all possible, this conversation should occur prior to the late work (you might have this conversation in writing via email), and if that is not possible, you should reach out to me as soon as possible after you realize that extenuating circumstances will lead the work to be late. Depending on the nature of the circumstances, I may also ask you to chat with someone in the Dean of Students office, as they can assist you in managing circumstances that may require accommodations in multiple classes.

How to Get Help

I want to see all of you succeed in this class, and I believe you can succeed if you engage with the class material and activities consistently and reach out for help when you’re confused. To learn computer science, you’ll need to be willing to try new things and experiment with different solutions. Cultivating persistence to keep trying will be helpful not only in this course, but in any other problem solving activities. Sometimes, you may need assistance - here’s how you get it:

  • Take a break: Often, taking a break from homework will help you to regroup and you’ll be able to succeed when you come back to it. Leave yourself enough time to be able to take breaks!
  • Prefect sessions: This course has a prefect. The Prefect Program offers in person tutoring and/or optional collaborative learning sessions for participating classes. Prefect sessions review course concepts and often focus on critical thinking and problem-solving exercises centered on the course material. Our course prefect(s) will use email or Moodle to inform everyone in the class about upcoming sessions and availability for 1:1 tutoring.
  • Moodle Forum: You’re welcome to post questions about readings and labs on the forum, as well as about homework. You shouldn’t post much homework code, but you can post code related to other assignments. If you’re unsure if a question contains too much detail about the homework, email me instead.
  • Talk to me: I have both drop in student hours and student hours that are by appointment (for one on one conversations). See links at the top of this document for more details. Talking to students is literally my favorite part of this job, please talk to me!
  • Other Carleton resources: There are lots of resources to help you at Carleton. Lab assistants are available on a regular basis; see the top of Moodle for details. They can help you with debugging and making progress on your homework, or if you’re having trouble understanding something about Java. The Academic Skills center is a wonderful resource for helping you develop study skills, improve your ability to prep for exams, or manage procrastination. Oscar Alarez is an academic skills coach in the office with whom you can make individual video conferencing appointments.


Attendance is not strictly required in this class, though I believe that you will do much better if you attend every session and there are consequences to missing class on Wednesdays and Fridays. Because much of the classtime is spent working with partners on lab activities, if you miss class, you will miss out on that opportunity. This is particularly important on Fridays, when you will usually have time to get started on the homework assignment. If you are absent on Friday and your homework partner is in class, you will be split up so that your homework partner can start on the homework assignment. This means that if you miss class on Friday and haven’t made prior arrangements with me and your homework partner, you will likely need to do that week’s homework individually.

On Wednesdays there will typically be a quiz in the first half of class. If you are absent and haven’t made prior arrangements with me, you will not be able to make up that quiz. If a true emergency occurs so close before class that you are not able to notify me ahead of time, please do let me know and we will figure something out.

Inclusivity and Universal Learning

I strive to create an inclusive and respectful classroom that values diversity. Our individual differences enrich and enhance our understanding of one another and of the world around us. This class welcomes the perspectives of all ethnicities, genders, religions, ages, sexual orientations, disabilities, socioeconomic backgrounds, regions, and nationalities.

My goal is that everyone should be able to learn from this class and feel comfortable asking questions and participating. In class, on the forums, and when working with one another, be respectful and inclusive. If something makes you uncomfortable or you’re concerned about an interaction, please come talk to me!

Carleton College is committed to providing equitable access to learning opportunities for all students. The Disability Services office (Henry House, 107 Union Street) is the campus office that collaborates with students who have disabilities to provide and/or arrange reasonable accommodations. If you have, or think you may have, a disability (e.g., mental health, attentional, learning, autism spectrum disorders, chronic health, traumatic brain injury and concussions, vision, hearing, mobility, or speech impairments), please contact disability@carleton.edu or call Sam Thayer (’10), Accessibility Specialist (x4464) to arrange a confidential discussion regarding equitable access and reasonable accommodations. If you’ve already arranged accommodations, please let me know if there’s anything you want me to know beyond what’s in the accommodations letter or if there are particular challenges for your specific circumstances. If you do not have official accomodations, I am still happy to discuss with you ways in which I can help you succeed in this class.

The Assistive Technologies program brings together academic and technological resources to complement student classroom and computing needs, particularly in support of students with physical or learning disabilities. Accessibility features include text-to-speech (Kurzweil), speech-to-text (Dragon) software, and audio recording Smartpens. If you would like to know more, contact aztechs@carleton.edu or visit go.carleton.edu/aztech.

Carleton College urges you to make yourself –- your own health and well-being –- your priority throughout this ​term and your career here. It is important to recognize stressors you may be facing, which can be personal, emotional, physical, financial, mental, or academic. Sleep, exercise, and connecting with others can be strategies to help you flourish at Carleton. If you are having difficulties maintaining your well-being, please contact me and/or pursue other resources, such as Student Health and Counseling or resources on the Office of Health Promotion website. Student Health and Counseling is currently offering telehealth services.

Carleton is committed to fostering an environment free of sexual misconduct. Please be aware all Carleton faculty and staff members, with the exception of Chaplains and SHAC staff, are “responsible employees.” Responsible employees are required to share any information they have regarding incidents of sexual misconduct with the Title IX Coordinator. Carleton’s goal is to ensure campus community members are aware of all the options available and have access to the resources they need. If you have questions, please contact Laura Riehle-Merrill, Carleton’s Title IX Coordinator, or visit the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response website: https://www.carleton.edu/sexual-misconduct/.

Academic Honesty and Collaboration Policy

As noted in Carleton’s policy on academic integrity, violations of academic honesty are dealt with at the college level. If I suspect academic dishonesty, I will refer the case for appropriate action to the Academic Standing Committee (ASC) via the Associate Dean of Students or the Associate Dean of the College. Please familiarize yourself with Carleton’s academic integrity policies and make sure that you have read the collaboration and academic honesty policies for this course. A possible penalty for academic dishonesty in a course is an F in the course. It’s not worth it – please seek help using the resources above instead.

This syllabus is based heavily on the syllabus from Anna Rafferty.