COMPSCI 305 Class Website
Course Layout and General Information


Course Description

Through a careful analysis and discussion of a range of computing issues, topics, and polices, we will explore various impacts of computers on modern society.  This class satisfies the Junior Year Writing requirement by providing directed practice and specific instruction in a range of writing genres. Students will produce approximately 20-25 pages of polished written work over the course of the semester. 


Grading scale is as follows:  F = <60; D- = 61-63, D= 64-66, D+ = 67-69; C- = 70-73, C = 74-76.49, C+ = 77-79.49; B- = 80-83.49; B = 84-86.49, B+ = 87-89.49; A- = 90-93, A= >93.49

Students must earn a C or better in COMPSCI 305 or repeat it.

Assignment categories and their respective weights are as follows:

·       Class Participation– 10%.  Class participation includes arriving to class on time and prepared for the day’s scheduled activities, including having completed any assigned readings.

·       Presentations - 20%. There will be at least two presentations - one informal and one formal.

·       Jobs Unit –20%. This unit consists of a resume and a cover letter. There will also be a scheduled peer review for this unit.

·       Special topics papers – 40%. There are four different types of writing projects related to topics discussed in class. These will include translation/technical writing-based letters, analytical/ argument essays, research/white papers and persuasive letters to decision makers. Some assignment options will require outside research. All of these projects will be peer-reviewed in class.

·       Course Reflection – 10%.  Instead of a final exam, you will write a reflection on the semester or on your experience in the computer science major.

Topics Presented

Course topics are taken from current issues in computing, and there will be some variation from semester to semester as a result. Recently, topics covered in class included a selection from the following:
  • Environmental impacts of computing, including energy consumption, e-waste, and social/global impacts of conflict mineral use in computing hardware
  • Gender in computing including sexism, online behaviors, representation of, and participation in the field by people with different gender identities
  • Access and accessibility, discriminatory design practices, concept of universal design, digital divide, and CS for all movements
  • Ethical and Social concerns related to algorithms deployed in law enforcement, criminal sentencing, and other public venues
  • Ethical issues related to software engineering including diversity, plagiarism, and intellectual property
  • Public policy issues such as net neutrality, censorship of electronic spaces, and the "right to be forgotten"

Course Attendance Policy

Please keep in mind that this is a discussion and activity based class. Participation in addition to attendance is an expectation of students enrolled in the course. Students are permitted a finite number of absences (typically 4 for a TTH class) as outlined in the class syllabus. 

Inclusion Policy

In COMPSCI 305, each voice in the classroom has something of value to contribute. Please take care to respect the different experiences, beliefs and values expressed by students and staff involved in this course.  We support UMass Amherst’s commitment to diversity, and welcome individuals of all ages, backgrounds, citizenships, disability, sex, education, ethnicities, family statuses, genders, gender identities, geographical locations, languages, military experience, political views, races, religions, sexual orientations, socioeconomic statuses, and work experiences.