About the Course

Course description

Welcome to CSE 8A! We are excited to have you in this course. In this class, our goal is to help you experience the thrill of getting a computer to solve a problem of your choosing – by expressing that solution in a programming language. In this course you will do interactive in-class exercises and programming assignments to help you master the basics of computational problem solving and programming.


CSE 8A is designed for students with no prior programming experience.   We do not expect you to have any prior programming experience, just a willingness to learn.

Learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete CSE 8A will be able to:

Course Resources



We will be using the following freely available online resources

NOTE: You need NOT purchase any textbook for this course! Readings will be assigned from the above FREE ONLINE TEXTBOOKS and other online sources.

Course Website

Our course website can be found here:

The course webpage contains basic information, syllabus (that you are reading right now!),  schedule (including office/lab hours), materials (notes, slides, etc) and staff contact information. You should check our course website often!


We will be using Canvas ( for publishing your grades for this course. The grades you see on canvas is YOUR OFFICIAL GRADE, and it is your responsibility to CHECK THEM REGULARLY to make sure they are recorded correctly.


You will use Gradescope ( for submitting your programming assignments. We will use Gradescope for grading your PAs, quizzes and exams. You will be added to our course on Gradescope automatically sometime during week 1.


We will use Piazza as our course discussion board.  Please ask all course content related questions via piazza.  Make your post public unless it contains personal information.  This will help you get the fastest response possible to your post. DO NOT POST YOUR CODE as a public post on piazza as it will be considered as an Academic Integrity (AI) violation.

Course Components

1. Problem Sessions (a.k.a. Lectures)

Most course content will be presented asynchronously through videos and readings, with associated interactive activities. Lectures will involve problem solving with your classmates. Classroom participation is not required but is highly encouraged to to practice solving problems and to get your questions answered.

Lectures will be held in-person during the normally-scheduled lecture times in the normally-scheduled rooms, led by the instructor. These sessions will be recorded through UCSD podcasting but will not be available remotely while they are ongoing. Since these may be mostly student discussion, these are mostly an archive of any live demos that come up rather than a presentation of core content.

If you are unable to attend any of the lectures, make sure to watch the pre-recorded lecture videos and do the problem session exercises on your own while watching the lecture recordings.

2. Stepik Exercises (i.e. Reading Quizzes/RQs)

To prepare you for these interactive class sections, there will be reading assignments to be completed before each class session (except the first one). At the end of each week, there will be a Stepik Exercises, which will be due at 10:00 PM PT (Pacific Time) on Fridays. The Stepik exercises will cover topics from the reading assignments, lecture videos, and lecture discussion. You have to ensure that you do the readings and attend/watch lectures before doing the exercises.  For any given week, you will find a link to the Stepik chapters that are due by the end of the week in our course schedule. The Stepik exercises will be on Stepik. You should create a Stepik ID to access the readings and exercises. We will provide a form to capture your Stepik ID (a ~9 digit number that can be found in your Stepik profile). The Stepik exercises must be done individually. There will be 10 RQs in total and you can attempt the Stepik exercises multiple times until you get them correct! 

3. Programming Assignments (PAs)

There will be a total of 8 Programming Assignments, two for almost every week. The release dates and due date for each PA is posted on our course schedule. Each PA will focus on the content covered in the lectures during the week the PA was released. For example, PA3 will be released during Week 3, so it will focus on content covered in the lectures of Week 3. Along with each PA, we require a short video recording of you explaining your PA and/or a short writeup in which you will be answering some conceptual questions about the PA. More details about what to include in each video/writeup will be shared in individual PAs. One PA with the lowest score will be dropped.

You must score at least 55% (average) on the highest 7 programming assignments of this course (add the top 7 PA percentages, divide by 7). If you average lower than 55% on the assignments, you will receive an F for the course, regardless of your overall average. 

Pair Programming on PAs

We encourage you to work together with a partner using a Pair Programming approach.  If you choose to work with a partner using pair programming, you will submit only ONE assignment between the two of you and both the partners will receive the same grade. You can have different partners for different programming assignments. You cannot change partners for the same programming assignment. For example, you may partner with one student for PA1 and a different student for PA2 but you should not work with one student for a part of PA1 and with a different student for the rest of PA1. Working with two different partners on the same PA will be considered as an academic integrity violation. 

For details on what is Pair Programming and how it works, read this guide: Guide on Pair Programming. More details about Pair Programming will be shared during the first lecture.

Star points

A few programming assignments may have some additional challenges that you may implement to earn star points. Star points are not extra credit. If you do "enough" star points and are "close enough" to the boundary while calculating letter grades, you may be moved up to the higher letter grade, but do these star point extensions because you are intellectually curious and want a challenge.  Not for the grade.

In addition to the Star Points that can be earned on the weekly assignments, we will also reward the top student answerers on Piazza with a Star Point.  If you are among the top set of students who answer questions on Piazza, you will earn a Star Point. (We won't get specific about what "top" means, but every quarter there's a few students who rise well above the others in terms of their Piazza response activities).

4. Exams

There will be two in-person exams in this course: a midterm and a final exam. The exam dates/times are shown below:

The final exam will be cumulative and will cover all topics discussed in the course. You must pass the final exam to pass this course. You must score at least 55% on the final exam to pass the final exam.

If your final exam score (in percentage) is higher than your midterm score, then your midterm score will be replaced by your final exam score!

5. Discussion Sections

Every week, Teaching Assistants (TAs) will hold in-person Discussion Sections, in which they will review course concepts to try to help students overcome the learning breakdowns they may have encountered throughout the week. TAs will also review and offer help on how to get started on the PAs. Discussion sections are optional but you are highly encouraged to attend/watch discussions as they will be extremely helpful for your learning. 

The following is the schedule of the discussion section. 

6. Lab Assignments

Every week, there will be two mandatory 1 hour lab sessions. There will be a lab assignment that will be due at the end of every lab session. Attendance will be checked. One Lab with the lowest score will be dropped.

The following is the schedule of the lab.

You must score at least 50% (average) on the highest 9 lab assignments of this course (add the top 9 lab percentages, divide by 9). If you average lower than 50% on the lab assignments, you will receive an F for the course, regardless of your overall average. 

Late Policy

Programming Assignments

Lab Assignments

Stepik Exercises (i.e. Review Quizzes)

We have already built in ways for you to submit work late and make up for lost points, but if you feel you have a legitimate reason why you need additional accommodations please talk to your instructor right away to see what might be arranged.  There will be no exceptions to these policies unless for very compelling personal reasons. 

Grade Components

Grading cutoffs 

We will not round grades up. We may adjust the above scale to be more lenient (depending on a number of factors that we will not publicize), but we guarantee that we will not adjust the scale to make it harder to get a better grade. We will not adjust the scale for individual students.

Important Grading Policies

Academic Integrity

All students must submit the Academic Integrity Form at the start of the course. 

You will not receive any course credit until you submit the form. By submitting the form, you are agreeing to its terms, so be sure to read it carefully. We encourage you to study together and discuss concepts from this class, but all PAs must be written only by collaborating with your partner or completely independently. You should not collaborate with anyone on your reading quizzes and exams. If you are found cheating, you will receive an automatic F in the course, and you may face even stricter sanctions from the University. In short, do not cheat!

The basic rule for CSE 8A is: Work hard. Start early. Make use of the expertise of our amazing CSE 8A staff to learn what you need to know to really do well in the course. Don't cheat.

If you do cheat, we will enforce the UCSD Policy on Integrity of Scholarship. This means: You will get an F in the course, and the Dean of your college will put you on probation or suspend you or dismiss you from UCSD.

What counts as cheating?

In CSE 8A, you can read books, surf the web, talk to your friends and the CSE 8A staff to get help understanding the concepts you need to know to solve your PA problems. However, you must write your program only with your partner if you are pair programming or on your own if you are working alone.

In CSE 8A, using or even looking at program code or the write up of algorithms that someone else has written (unless it was explicitly provided as part of the assignment), or providing program code or detailed algorithms to someone else, or turning in code that you have written with someone else other than your partner, is considered cheating. Yes, we do electronically check every program that is turned in. In recent quarters, we also found out that people unintentionally post their codes on public github repos and it is a violation of the AI policy! We report all these cases to the academic integrity office.

Receiving a grade on a PA doesn't mean that you have passed the plagiarism checking. We can report cheating cases any time during the quarter, even after we submit your final letter grade. So the safest bet is not to cheat!

How can I be sure that my actions are NOT considered cheating?

To ensure you don't have a problem with this, here are some suggestions: 

In CSE 8A, you must write your own answers on the review quizzes and exams. Getting quiz or exam answers from someone else, or providing answers to someone else, is cheating. Failing to follow this policy will result in an F for this course.

Getting Help

We expect that all students will need help at some point in this course. If you find yourself needing help, this is not cause for embarrassment: it is completely expected, and our goal is to ensure that you are able to receive the help you need. Please be sure to seek help early and often through any (or all!) of the following resources:

Diversity and Inclusion

We are committed to fostering a learning environment for this course that supports a diversity of thoughts, perspectives and experiences, and respects your identities (including race, ethnicity, heritage, gender, sex, class, sexuality, religion, ability, age, educational background, etc.).  Our goal is to create a diverse and inclusive learning environment where all students feel comfortable and can thrive. 

Our instructional staff will make a concerted effort to be welcoming and inclusive to the wide diversity of students in this course.  If there is a way we can make you feel more included please let one of the course staff know, either in person, via email/discussion board, or even in a note under the door.  Our learning about diverse perspectives and identities is an ongoing process, and we welcome your perspectives and input. 

We also expect that you, as a student in this course, will honor and respect your classmates, abiding by the UCSD Principles of Community (  Please understand that others’ backgrounds, perspectives and experiences may be different than your own, and help us to build an environment where everyone is respected and feels comfortable.

If you experience any sort of harassment or discrimination, please contact your instructor as soon as possible.   If you prefer to speak with someone outside of the course, please contact the Office of Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination:  

Students with Disabilities

We aim to create an environment in which all students can succeed in this course.  If you have a disability, please contact the Office for Students with Disability (OSD), which is located in University Center 202 behind Center Hall, to discuss appropriate accommodations right away.  We will work to provide you with the accommodations you need, but you must first provide a current Authorization For Accommodation (AFA) letter issued by the OSD. You are required to present their AFA letters to faculty (please make arrangements to contact your instructor privately) and to the OSD Liaison in the department in advance so that accommodations may be arranged.

Basic Needs/Food Insecurities

If you are experiencing any basic needs insecurities (food, housing, financial resources), there are resources available on campus to help, including The Hub and the Triton Food Pantry.  Please visit for more information.