CS 349 Contemporary Issues in Computer Science
Alan Cline

Elaine Rich


This class satisfies the University’s requirements for the writing flag.  The goal of this requirement is to assure that students learn not just the content of the areas they choose to study but also the communication skills that are required to share what they know with others.  In the Internet age, these skills include more than just writing.  They include using graphics, video and sound in ways that that are suitable for publication on the Web.


A major part (53%) of the grade in this class will be the completion of a term project.  During the first few weeks of class, we will survey the topics that we will be discussing during the semester.  We’ll briefly mention ethical theories, privacy, intellectual property, free speech on the internet, risk, security and hacking, the digital divide, and the future impact of technology on the job market, among other things. Any of these areas can serve as the basis for your project.


Your project will be submitted in two parts: 

·       A paper.

·       A short video.


You may work alone or in teams of up to three people.  If you do work in a group, each person must contribute substantially to both the paper and the video.  We will ask each group member to submit a statement that describes his/her contribution to the joint effort.


Paper and video length:




2-Person Team

3-Person Team

Paper length

At least 4,000 words

At least 7,000 words

At least 10,000 words

Video length

2 to 5 minutes

4 to 10 minutes

6 to 15 minutes


Notice that, if you work in an n-person team, the total number of pages required is fewer than n times the one-person requirement.  But that is because you’ll only write some parts (e.g., the intro and the conclusion) once.  While you may write fewer words if you work in a team, we will expect significantly more depth in your coverage of your topic.



More about the Videos:


For many of you, this will be your first experience at producing a video.  You may find it stressful but our experience has been that, by the end of the semester, students are really glad that they had the experience.


We’ve posted some examples of really good videos from past classes.  Click here to watch them to get some ideas.


As you’re working on your video, you may need a camera that’s better than any that you have.  In that case, you can check out camera kits at the Fine Arts Library.


Your video can be a documentary or a drama.  Many good documentaries rely heavily on interviews.  You may be able to find experts who are willing to talk to you.  Don’t be bashful.  It never hurts to ask.  You may also find it interesting to conduct “man in the street” interviews to convey a sense of public attitude toward your topic.  Remember that, if you conduct interviews, you should be sure to get permission from your interviewees before you distribute your video or post it on the web.  You should also send a copy of your completed video to anyone you interviewed.


Your video may include images and clips, if properly cited, taken from other people’s work. But we want the bulk of the material to by yours.  So:


1. The video may have up to 40% material from outside video sources.  However no more than 25% may come from a single outside video source. ("Outside" meaning material you did not produce.)

2. No more than 90 continuous seconds can come from a single outside video source.

3. The material you produce is not limited to video you shot with a camera. It may come from video-producing software, as well.





There are several project milestones, spread out over the semester.  See http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/ear/cs349/Syllabus.html for specific dates.


Initial discussion about topics

Outline and annotated bibliography (for both paper and video)  (See Note 1 for details.)

First draft of paper (at least 1,000 words)  (See Note 2 for details.)

Written video progress report (less than one page)  (See Note 3 for details.)

Final video turned in   (See Note 4 for details.)

Final paper turned in   (See Note 5 for late policy.)



The paper first drafts that you turn in will be reviewed by our TAs.  We will also swap the papers and ask each of you to read someone else’s paper and provide feedback on it.


We will spend the last three weeks of class watching everyone’s videos.  You’ll be expected offer a short introduction to your video and then to host a short discussion after we watch it.


Note 1: You should turn in four things: (1) A statement of the thesis of your paper.  This can be short.  One sentence may suffice.  It should take no more than a paragraph.  (2) An outline of your paper.  It should be at least a page.  More is okay.  In fact, if you have written any of your paper, you may include the written sections, leaving the unwritten sections in outline form.  We want to see that you’ve begun to think about exactly what your topic is and how you will present it.  (3) An annotated bibliography.  It needn’t be complete, but we want to see that you’ve begun to do research.  For each source, write a couple of sentences summarizing the key ideas.  The sources that you mention must be substantively different.  For example, we do not want four news articles, written within a week of each other, all of which say approximately the same thing.  (4) An outline of your video.  It may be as little as half a page.  We want to see that you have the beginning of a plan.  Clearly indicate whether you’ll be doing a documentary, a mockumentary, or a drama.  If you are planning to do interviews, indicate who your interviewee(s) will be.


Note 2: You should turn in a draft that contains some complete paragraphs.  In particular, you should have written your topic paragraph and your concluding paragraph.  We want to see at least 1000 words.  The parts of your paper that are not written yet should appear in outline form so that we can see the flow of the entire paper.  You should turn in your draft electronically, as usual.  But you should also bring a copy of your draft to class. Everyone will take home and then comment on someone else’s paper.  We hope that this additional feedback will be helpful as you work on turning your first draft into your final paper.


If your grade on this draft is below 80, it is important that you make substantial changes.  So we encourage you to read the comments, meet with us, and then revise and resubmit.  We will accept a new submission any time up to a week after the grades for the draft have been posted.


Note 3: You should do two things: (1) Revise the outline that you submitted earlier if you have made changes to it.  (2) Annotate the outline to show your progress.  Indicate the parts that you have filmed, the parts that you have edited, and the parts that you still need to work on.  If there are issues, like trying to track down interviewees, indicate what they are.


Note 4: To submit your video, you should do two things.  (1) Upload the video to YouTube.  (2) Fill out this form, pdf it, and submit it on Canvas.  The video is due by midnight on the due date.  That means that it must have a YouTube time stamp on that day.  We don’t know what time zone they operate on.  Don’t push this.


We need to get the videos on time so that we can put together a coherent play list for all of us to watch. However, we recognize that in some cases, your video will not be completed on time.  And if you don’t turn in a video at all, it will be hard to pass the class.  Therefore, we will allow late submissions, but with a fairly hefty penalty as follows:


Up to   2 hours late:            -  5%

Up to 24 hours late:            -10%

Up to 48 hours late:            -25%

Up to 72 hours late:            -50%


If you plan to submit your video late, please, however, turn in the video submission form on time.  You just won’t have a YouTube url.  We need to have the other information to help us set up the playlist.


Note 5: The late policy for the paper is the same as the late policy for the video, as shown above.




We have posted the evaluation sheets that we will use in grading both papers and videos.