INFO/STS 4240: Assignments

Assignments Overview

All homework assignments will be submitted through the on-line Course Management System. If you log in and do not see our course listed, please email Palashi at send a private message to the course instructors on piazza and request to be added to CMS.


The foundation for your work in this class are the course readings, which contain the core course content. You are expected to have thoughtfully read the day's reading prior to coming to class and taken notes on ideas in the reading and your thoughts in response. Course reading varies considerably in discipline and difficulty; be aware that reading length does not greatly correlate to expected reading time. You should bring the readings and your notes to class to ground our discussions.

Design responses

Over the course of the semester, you will document your thoughts and ideas in response to the readings in the form of design responses. A design response is an informal document which identifies a specific idea from the reading that caught your attention, and explores its implications through a rough design sketch, annotated with thoughts about how the design relates to, extends, challenges, or otherwise explores the idea you chose to respond to. Every Monday starting Sept 16, you will submit 2 design responses to readings from the week. One will respond to a reading of your choice for the upcoming Tuesday, the other to a reading of your choice for the upcoming Thursday. For days when there are no readings assigned, there are no corresponding design responses due. You should expect each design response to take about 20-30 minutes to execute. If you find it taking significantly longer, please visit office hours for aid in tuning up your strategies for writing responses.

In the first unit of the course, we will build up to full design responses through writing responses, in which you identify an idea of your choice from the text and briefly explain its role in the overall argument in simple written form. You will also hand in writing responses rather than full design responses on the Monday after you have a miniproject due.

Class participation

Your participation in class is essential to your success in the course. In class we will analyze, build on, and debate about the course readings; practice design skills; work on homeworks; and engage in other activities to aid your facility in the course material. We cover material in lecture and section that is not available through any other means. If you miss class, you are strongly recommended to review not only the class slides (which are often minimalist) but also notes from one of your co-students, and take advantage of our office hours to ask any clarifying questions that remain.

We assess your participation qualitatively, incorporating our knowledge of your attendance and engagement in both lecture and section.

In class, we have frequent, brief in-class writing assignments. The primary purpose of these assignments is to (a) give you a chance to develop your course understanding by applying it immediately, (b) seed course discussion with your ideas without having to necessarily speak in front of others, and (c) evaluate how well the class as a whole is understanding specific aspects of course content. These assignments are not directly calculated into your grade but will influence your participation grade. At their discretion, the TAs reading these assignments will also award extra credit for superlative answers, things that make them say "wow!" and really show engagement with the class. Extra credit from lecture activities will boost your participation grade.

We do not excuse individual absences in this course. We understand that people will sometimes have family conflicts, job interviews, religious commitments, illnesses, and other reasons why they cannot come to class, and our baseline for good attendance allows for missing up to 2 sections and 4 lectures. If you have a serious situation that will potentially force you to miss a significant number of classes, please contact instructor Vera Khovanskaya at vdk9 @ to make an alternative plan for covering course material.

Design mini-projects

Over the course of the semester, you will have 5 design mini-projects which will help you develop facility in the design methods we are learning about in the course. For example, you may develop a design activity, try it out in class on your classmates, and then document the results.

Final exam

The final exam will be a written exam involving a critically engaged design analysis and exploration on an assigned topic in current events. The exam questions, minus the topic, will be released in November so that you can prepare for it.

Grade breakdown

Grading is not just a matter of numbers, but also of judgment. The instructors reserve the right to adjust grades by up to half a letter grade based on knowledge of your performance not summed up in this tidy formula.

Academic Integrity

My expectation is that you are generally aware of the need for academic integrity and self-motivated to achieve it. Issues with academic integrity that have come up in my courses in the past have been frequently due to students being unaware of the specific requirements of academic integrity at Cornell, rather than students trying to "game the system" for their own advantage. Some examples of situations I have encountered include:

I am required by the university to prosecute for such violations; doing so is particularly sad because they could have been avoided with a bit of pro-active education. I would therefore strongly encourage you to take Cornell's (brief) on-line tutorial on how to avoid unintentional plagiarism if you have not done so already. I particularly encourage taking this tutorial for students whose prior primary education was at a non-US institution as well as students who come from a substantially different disciplinary orientation than the sciences, social sciences, and humanities (e.g. art, journalism, law). You are responsible for understanding what constitutes academic integrity violations in Arts and Sciences at Cornell. Please contact me if you have any questions about how to achieve academic integrity in the context of this class (e.g., proper use of citations).