William L. Bahn

Spring 2015

Course Policies

(Last Mod: 08 May 2015 15:46:03 )


The following are generic course policies that apply to all courses that I teach during the indicated term. Individual courses may have policies that override some of these and, if so, will be noted or linked to on that course's homepage.


Except as required by higher authority (department, college, or school), attendance will not be tracked nor will it affect your grade directly. Students are deemed to be adults with the ability to make decisions and accept the consequences of those decisions. It is fully recognized that students have many demands on their time and that choices have to be made as to what constitutes the most effective use that time. One side effect of not tracking attendance comes into play when, under some circumstances, a last date of attendance must be reported to the school; the date reported will then usually be the due date of the last assignment (or exam) submitted by the student. 

Homework Grading

Homework and projects will normally receive a grade consisting of two parts. The first part, worth 20% to 25% of the total points, is based on the fraction of the overall assignment that was completed with a "good faith" effort without regard to correctness. The remaining part, worth 75% to 80% of the total points, is based on the quality and correctness of the submitted work. In some cases, only selected problems will be graded, usually to fit within the budgetary constraints for grading resources. The selection of problems for grading will normally be done AFTER the homework as been turned in and may be done at random (though every person will have the same problem(s) graded).

Under severe budget constraints it is possible that only a single problem will be selected. It is important to bear this in mind when doing your homework. For instance, if there are five problems assigned and you do four of them perfectly, but the one that you didn't attempt is the one chosen for grading, then you will receive a score of 20% on this assignment (4/5 of the 25% for effort and 0% of the 75% for quality/correctness). Of course, this is not a concern if you make the effort to complete (or at least meaningfully attempt) the entire assignment.

In general, turning in an assignment that shows evidence of any honest level of work will receive at least 1 pt (or whatever the smallest grading increment happens to be), even if penalties (other than cheating-related) would have otherwise reduced it to zero. The reason is two-fold: First, it is reasonable that someone that makes any effort should receive at least a small amount more credit than someone that makes no effort. Second, this allows a grade of zero to indicate an assignment that was not turned in at all such that a person that turns in an assignment will know that it was, in fact, graded as opposed to being accidentally overlooked (or possibly just not-yet graded).

It is extremely important that you carefully study and adhere to both the format guidelines and the units expectations since disregarding either can and will quickly result in very low scores on both homework and exams. At the end of the day, however, there is really no excuse for losing any points for either of these types of infractions.

Generic Homework Format Grading Rubric

For homework done by hand, the expectation is that the work will adhere closely to the Homework Guidelines. History has shown a rather strong correlation between students that adhere to these guidelines and students that do well in the course. This is likely for several reasons. First, students that take the time to do their work in a well structured and organized fashion tend to make fewer mistakes. Second, mistakes that do get made are much easier to detect, track down, and correct. Third, the grader is in a position (and a more receptive mindset) to award a larger degree of partial credit when the exact nature and scope of errors can be easily identified and their impact tracked through the remainder of the work. Finally, students that develop an attention to detail in following rigorous guidelines will naturally apply that attention to detail in their problem solving.

As a general rule (meaning that any given assignment or problem may differ) the grading guidance given to the grader is contained in the table below. As you can see, if you completely ignore the format guidelines entirely, you can lose 100% of the value of the assignment before your actual work is even looked at. However, if you choose to so flagrantly ignore the guidelines, it will be taken as an indication of the value you place in your work and your grade and this penalty will allow the grader to rapidly move on to the work of someone that does place value in their work.

Violation Penalty
1) Assignment not turned in on green E-2 paper, one side only (the front side, not the "graph paper" back side). 20%
2) Assignment not properly stapled in the upper left corner. 10%
3) Assignment "dog-eared" or similar in place of stapling. 10%
4) First page header contents not according to format. 5% to 30%
5) Subsequent page headers not according to format. 10%
6) Problems not properly identified and/or stated. 10%
7) Answers not properly identified and/or called out. 10%


Item #1: There are times when it is quite reasonable to turn in specific pages that are not on E-2 paper. For instance, if you have a code, spreadsheet, or graph printout as part of your answer. You may print this on standard white paper (though printing it onto E-2 paper such that it fits in with the overall layout nicely may get you a bit of extra credit), but be sure to add the header information in the proper place (by hand is fine). Such inserted pages should be either within or just behind the problem they are associated with and NOT simply tacked on to the end of the overall assignment.

Item #2: If, for some reason, you don't have the assignment properly stapled, then turn it in unstapled and accept the penalty. The grader will staple them for you. Do NOT dog-ear the pages in an attempt to bind them together -- this will only increase the penalty (see Item #3). Using a paper clip to hold them together is acceptable and will likely cut the assessed penalty in half.

Item #4: As you go across the first page header, you will see that there are six identifiable items. Each of these that is missing, incorrectly presented, or in the wrong place will constitute a 5% penalty. The Assignment Description shown in the example is the preferred presentation, but it is sometimes not a good match for the assignment. In particular, if the homework is given as a handout with a single problem, then "Handout" is suitable. If the Handout has three problems, then "H/O.(1-3)" would be good. The more descriptive the better, but it is recognized that there is limited space.

Item #6: Problem identification should normally include the tag "Problem" or "Prob." and be followed by an identifier that is closely related to the information in the first page assignment description. This should be underlined with a line that is preferably two inches long, though this is not critical. Think of this as the "title" of that problem -- it should standout clearly and be easily understood. Problem statement refers to how the original problem is presented. The entire problem, including relevant figures, should be copied through a suitable means and appear immediately following the problem identifier. Suitable means include scanning and printing the problem directly onto the E-2 paper, hand copying the problem, and taping or gluing the a copy of the problem. Using horizontal strips of tape at the top and bottom that span the full width of the problem go a long way toward reducing feed jams when copying/scanning work for the ABET files. One method that is NOT acceptable is stapling a copy of the problem to the paper (or any other means that would preclude running the page through a copier/scanner once the overall staple in the corner has been removed).

Item #7: Answers should normally be double underlined and have a labeled arrow extending from the right margin inward to the answer.

Generic Units Grading Rubric

Consistent and thorough tracking of units throughout all phases of your work is perhaps the single most effective error detection strategy available to an engineer. Simply put, we all make mistakes on a regular basis and most (not all) mistakes made in setting up or working a problem will adversely impact the units allowing the mistake to be caught immediately or in short order thereafter.

Violation Penalty
1) Occasional units mishandling will be treated the same as simple math blunders. Examples might be leaving the units off in one equation or messing up an exponent in one equation but having the units correct in the next step. However, units mishandling that result in units errors that persist and are readily catchable but that don't get addressed rise to a higher level. 10%
2) Equations that have units errors that persist for more than a few steps. 20%
3) Systematic disregard for units in a significant portion of the work. 25% to 50%
4) Errors made and not caught because units were not used. 50% to 75%
5) Errors made as a result of not properly tracking units. 75% to 100%

The above penalties will be prorated such that the actual penalty will be soft at the beginning of the semester and become increasingly harsh as the semester progresses. On the first assignment, the total penalty for units will be multiplied by 0% (i.e., they will only be brought to your attention). On the first assignment submitted after the first assignment has been returned will have the units penalty multiplied by 25%. Similarly, the first assignment submitted after this assignment has been returned will have the units penalty multiplied by 50% and, finally, the first (and all subsequent) assignments after this one has been returned will be assessed the full units penalty.

Academic Integrity Grading Rubric

As stated elsewhere, the grading implications for instances involving academic dishonesty are simple and straightforward. A first offense will result in an assessed grade equal to -50% of the value of the entire assignment. This applies even if only one part of one problem is involved. A second offense will result in an F in the course and a referral to the Department Head for review and possible further action. Any time the grader suspects an occurrence of academic dishonesty, they will bring it to the instructor who will decide if it warrants a penalty.

Submitting Assignments

Assignments are either submitted electronically or via hardcopy (the assignment will indicate which). Electronic submissions are due before 6am on the assigned due date and are to be completed on and/or uploaded to the appropriate server before then. If the server is not available, then assignments that were to be uploaded are to be e-mailed to the instructor before the deadline. Note that this is NOT an alternative to electronic submission -- assignments e-mailed to the instructor will ONLY be graded if the appropriate server was not available -- this is due to the significant overhead associated with processing e-mailed submissions. Hardcopy submissions are due at the beginning of class on the due date. Hardcopy submissions ARE NOT to be turned into the Department Office unless prearranged with the instructor.

Late Submissions

Assignments are to be submitted on time. Late submissions will not be accepted for a grade since, among other things, the goal is to post solutions very soon (within minutes, when possible) after the submission deadline.

Penalties for Academic Dishonesty

If an assignment is submitted for grading and it is believed that it can be demonstrated, to the satisfaction of the Department Head or higher authority, that the student has copied any part of the assignment from an unauthorized source, the normal penalty for a first offense will be a score of -100% of the total point value of the assignment and the infraction will be reported to the Department Head. The rationale is very simple -- a student that cheats deserves considerably less credit than a student that doesn't turn in an assignment at all. The normal penalty for a second offense will be a failing grade in the course plus a referral to the Department Head for whatever further sanctions are deemed appropriate.

Extra Credit

Some assignments, including exams, may have extra credit points available. Typically the total extra credit points available will be approximately 3% to 5% of the total course points. These points will be tracked separately, giving each student a "base point total" (without extra credit points) and a "final point total" (with extra credit). At the end of the semester, the final course grade breaks will be established based on the distribution of base points, but each student's final course grade will be based on their total points.

Course Grade Breaks

The final grades will nominally be based on the following grade breaks. The actual breaks of some or all grades may be moved downward to reflect overall distribution of the base point totals and to recognize natural gaps within that distribution -- they will not be moved up. Because of the availability of extra credit points, no adjustment of a student's grade will occur in cases where their final total fails to make a grade cut no matter how close the total is to the cut for the next higher grade. The rationale for this is simple -- either the student's base point total was close enough to the cut that the student could have made it over the cut had they taken fuller advantage of the available extra credit points, or their base point total was too far away from the cut for the student to overcome the deficit with the available extra credit.

Grade At Least Less Than
A 90 N/A
A- 88 90
B+ 86 88
B 81 86
B- 79 81
C+ 77 79
C 72 77
C- 70 72
D+ 68 70
D 63 68
D- 60 63
F N/A 60


Students are encouraged to assist each other in learning the material covered in the course, including the concepts involved in working the assigned problems; however, all work submitted for grading is expected to be the sole work of the student making the submission (or of the group in the case of group assignments). A simple way to navigate this distinction is to use an "empty hands" policy when discussing assignments with other students, meaning that the student should walk away from any discussion with "empty hands" and only take with them the knowledge gained from the discussion. A similar approach would be to rework any problem on which any assistance was received from scratch, without any assistance, and to turn in the reworked problem for grading.

Students submitting work that, in part or in whole, is not their own face severe penalties. While these penalties will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, a typical penalty for a first offense is to receive a negative score equal to the total points of the assignment. Thus, if an assignment consisted of five ten-point problems and the student cheated on one problem, the total assignment would receive a score of -50pts, regardless of whether cheating was evident on the other four problems. The rationale for this is two-fold -- first, cheating on one problem results in the forfeiture of any presumption of non-cheating on the remaining problems and, second, a student that turns in an assignment on which they cheated deserves significantly less credit than a student that receives a zero by honestly not turning in any assignment at all. The penalty for a second offense will normally be an F in the course and a referral, via appropriate channels, to the Dean of Students for academic dishonesty.