Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are some typical questions student have about CSE131.
If your question isn't answered here, please ask!
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How is the lecture-free version of this course different
from a traditional version of this course?
Follow the above links.
- Why should I study computer science at Washington University?
- Computer science is a discipline that has roots in mathematics,
logic, philosophy, and engineering. Computer science and computation are
an integral aspect of almost all areas of study. The issues looming largest
for our society today (health,
environment, and energy) all have interesting and challenging applications
within computer science.
The study of computer science teaches
and fosters a logical approach to solving problems, and students
in computer science say the discipline teaches them to think
in a different way.
- Computer science lends itself well to studies abroad, with students
traveling to Israel, England, Australia, Scotland, and New Zealand.
- Our students intern, coop, or are employed at the foremost
established companies, the most exciting start-ups, and all points in
The future is bright for those who study computer science, with all of our
graduates receiving strong offers of employment.
- Our department is well situated to get you started, having received
funding from the National Science Foundation in recognition of our pioneering
approach to pedagogy. Our prerequisite chain is short, so that you can
soon take courses that most suit your interests. Our curricula are
flexible, with most of our students earning majors or minors in other
disciplines of interest along with their computer science major or minor.
- Our department eagerly attracts and involves undergraduates in research.
In this way,
as you learn the basics of our field, you also contribute to solving its
- How is this course different from a typical lecture class?
- A 3 unit lecture class typically consists of 3 hours of lecture per week. This
course is quite different, in that it uses
active learning for most of the material you will study.
Each week generally consists of the following:
Thus, you spend 1.5 hours in lecture, but 3 hours working in much smaller
groups to learn the materail for this course.
- A single lecture (or online videos and exercises) to introduce the topic(s) studied.
- A studio session in which you work collaboratively with
other students to extend and enhance the material covered in lecture
- A lab/recitation/quiz session in which you work on lab assignments,
review the current week's material, and take a quiz on the previous week's
- If I am struggling with the course material, how do I get help?
- We recognize that the material you are studying is nontrivial. It
is challenging and at times you will need help.
We have a myriad of resources at your disposal:
- Weekly recitation sections
- Your TAs hold office hours
- Your instructor holds office hours
- Tutors can be arranged through your school.
Contact Assistant Dean Chris Ramsay
to arrange for a tutor
- How do I earn participation credit for this course?
- There are exercises included with each module, interspersed between
the video segments. You earn participation credit by completing those exercises
as best you can.
- What is the difference between CSE131 and CSE131R?
- CSE131 is the standard course, and CSE131R is an optional 1-unit pass/fail
seminar associated with CSE131 offered in the fall semester.
is intended for students who may intend studies in computer science: a
major, a minor, or a second major from another school.
Credit is given for CSE131R based on attendance.
The seminar features:
- Guest lectures by
Computer Science and Engineering faculty about their research.
- Further exploration of certain topics covered in the main course.
- I cannot access my SVN repository
- First, make sure you have a repository. If you added the class after the first day
of classes, then ask the instructor to make sure you have a repository set up. The information
on how to access your repository is included with Lab 0.
The most common problem is that you are not authenticating correctly with the server.
For your username, be sure to supply your WUSTL key name but spell it completely in lower case.
For example, if you are used to typing John.Doe as your user name, type it in
For your password, be sure to supply the password you use for logging into WebSTAC, and spell
it just as you type it in to WebSTAC.
For example, if your password is NobodyWillGuessThis, then type in
- I have installed eclipse on my Windows 7 computer. However, when I follow the instructions
to set up subversive (SVN), the relevant menus don't seem to be there.
- For reasons we have not yet fathomed, this problem occurs only when your eclipse files are
in the special program files folder in Windows 7. So don't put the files there,
just put them on your desktop (the folder will be called eclipse, and the thing you
click to run eclipse is inside that folder).
In other words, re-download the eclipse project from the website, but this time unzip the files
to your desktop.
- I am on the waiting list for CSE131 or for the lab section I need.
Will I be able to take the course?
- Almost certainly!
Be sure to attend class on the first day.
In the past, we have been able to accommodate everyone from the waiting
- I in one lab/studio section and need to switch to another.
What should I do?
- Stay registered where you are, to make sure you keep your seat in
the course. Then come to the lab section that works for you and we will
Feel free to do this whenever necessary.
- Do I need any computer science background to succeed in CSE131?
- No. The only prerequisite for this course is that you be
comfortable with algebra and geometry at the high school level.
No programming background is required. We start from the beginning. However,
the course is demanding and does move rather quickly. If you're looking
for an easy course, this isn't it.
- I have some programming experience. Will I be bored in
- Most high school computer science courses cover programming, but not computer science as a discipline.
In other words, you may have learned the nuts and bolts, but the background
and theory are likely to be missing.
However, we do not want you to waste your time! If you have had an AP
course in computer science, or some other substantive experience, please
see the instructor. We have a placement exam you can take to see if you should
place out of CSE131.
- How much time should I expect to spend on CSE131?
- CSE131 emphasises learning by doing. Most of your time outside of
class will be spent on lab assignments.
You will spend very little
time reading, since everything you need to know will be covered in
lecture, studio, or in the lab assignments. Since CSE131 is a 3 unit course,
you should expect to spend about 10 hours per week on average, including
time spent watching videos, doing assignemnts, and attending studios.
Some weeks will
require more time, some will require less.
- Is there a textbook for CSE131?
- Yes. Although previous instances of our course were offered without
a textbook, we have found it easier to teach the course consistently by
using a textbook. Also, students have felt more secure with the material
by having a textbook handy.
In addition to the text,
on-line materials will be provided or referenced.
The textbook in use for this semester is listed on the home page.
- Do I need a CEC account for CSE131?
- No. You should be able to log into our lab computers using your
standard WebSTAC authentication. Moreover, you are able and encouraged to
use your own computer
by following the installation instructions:
- Do I need to buy a computer for CSE131?
- No. You do not need to own a computer to take this course,
but most students do own their own computer and you are encouraged to do
so as well.
You are welcome to use our lab computers whether you have your own
computer or not.
Labs are reserved for classes at certain times, and open for
general use at other times. See the
schedule posted by the lab door for details.
- If I want to buy a computer, what should I buy?
This is a matter of personal preference, and you should discuss your options
with the instructor, other students, and with whoever will be paying for
- Where should I store my work?
No matter which computer you use, your work is managed
by subversion, which saves your files in a very safe place
(meaning it is frequently backed up by someone other than you)
when you commit them. This will allow you to work from any place that has
an Internet connection.
- I'm having trouble with my computer.
Where can I get help?
- Try the EIT/CEC help desk in Lopata Hall. If your computer is not working,
use a lab computer until yours is fixed so that you don't fall behind in
- I have accommodation on timed exams and quizzes. How do I arrange
to take these?
- Please present your accommodation documentation to the instructor
the first week of class. The in-term exams will have extra time for you
to complete the work. You will be allowed extra time for recitation quizzes as well.
No extra time is allowed for labs, except as provided by the
late lab policy.
- I have a conflict with one of my exams in this class.
What should I do?
- Most likely, this class is larger than your other class, and the exam
dates are set well in advance of the semester so that there
are no conflicts. However, other classes sometimes move
their exam dates in a way that causes a conflict.
In such cases, you must take up this issue with your other class.
If there are other circumstances that arise that cause a conflict for you,
please contact the instructor as far in adavnce as possible.
- What is CSE 501N? How is it different from 131?
The courses are identical in all aspects of the work you do: labs, studios,
exams, and quizzes. Some students take this course as preparation for
graduate studies in computer science, or to assist in their graduate studies in other
disciplines. Such students enroll in this course at the graduate level,
using CSE 501N.
- Eclipse says my repository is locked, what do I do?
In the package explorer, right- (control-) click on your main project name,
- choose Team →
- choose Cleanup
- When trying to commit or update I have conflicts, what do I do?
First, commit any work that you can:
- In the package explorer, right- (control-) click on your main project name,
- choose Team →
- choose Commit
- In the window you are shown, uncheck any entries marked conflicting
- Proceed with the commit
If the commit does not work, seek help from the instructor before
doing any of the following steps.
- Then, let's try to clear up the conflicts
- choose Team →
- choose Synchronize with Repository
- In the resulting window, you see the conflicts.
Documentation for resolving conflicts can be found
- My favorite choices are:
- Override and update: this indicates that you want to go with
the version of the file that is on the server, and replace your version with that one. Your local copy will be lost forever, so be certain this is what
you want if you choose this option.
- Override and commit: this indicates that you want your version
of the file
to win. Your local version then replaced the one at the server. You can
always retrieve any previously committed version from the server.
- When done, return to the Java view and commit your work as usual.
- If in doubt, ask the TAs or instructor.