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Please continue to monitor information distributed by the department and university in the coming weeks.  It is subject to change, as we are dealing with an extremely fluid situation. 

(This page was last updated Thu Jul 16 12:32:32 EDT 2020.)

Here are some decisions regarding classes, scheduling and grading that are specific to the Computer Science department and are in addition to the rules and guidelines issued by the Dean of the College here: https://fall2020.princeton.edu/info/undergraduate-students/faqs

If you have questions or suggestions, please send them to JP Singh or Brian Kernighan (directors of undergrad studies) or to Colleen Kenny (undergrad manager).


For all students, including those who are in residence on campus:

  • All COS classes will be online only.
  • All precepts, office hours, and other interactions will be online only.
  • Pair programming or team programming must be done online, not in person, even if some or all of the participants are physically on campus.

Grading (for undergraduate students)

  • Almost all COS classes will be PDF-optional; a handful may be PDF-only.  (BSE Prerequisites see below) 
  • All independent work, including senior theses, will be graded regularly, i.e., with letter grades,
  • Grad courses will have the same rules as undergrad courses.
  • We strongly recommend that students take COS courses for a grade where possible, to maximize their engagement with and learning from the courses. We do not know how employers or graduate programs will assess your work during unprecedented semesters like last spring and this fall.


Can you P/D/F B.S.E. prerequisites? Courses taken to fulfill B.S.E. general math, physics, chemistry, and computing requirements will normally be taken on a graded basis. We recognize that individual circumstances may create a challenging remote learning environment, which may make it advisable to take one or more of these courses on a P/D/F basis. You can request such consideration by contacting the SEAS associate dean for undergraduate affairs. (bogucki@princeton.edu) Eventually, there is a form you will need to fill out. What are the risks of taking a BSE math-science-computing course P/D/F? If you take a basic math-science-computing course P/D/F, then the risk is that you won't make it a priority and not master the material fully, so that will have consequences in courses that rely on such knowledge. So the workload doesn't really go down. 

What is the time period in which you can choose to elect P/D/F? You can elect to take a course P/D/F between October 14 and November 4. After November 4, no changes are allowed.



More to come on this topic, but some classes may have a precept marked "NSM." That "precept" will be scheduled after students have signed up, trying to take into account time zones, etc. It may, of course, be split into multiple actual precepts.

Course changes

  • COS 484, Natural Language Processing, will be offered in Spring 2021.
  • There will be a somewhat different set of IW seminars, and you will have to give your new preferences, sometime in August.

Comments and Suggestions

There were a number of excellent comments and suggestions during the first town hall, shown below. Please keep these coming!

  • I really liked 126's sway precept option in the spring. Having the ability to go at my own pace through the content was really helpful (kind of the same idea as the recorded lectures) and the interactivity of it was also beneficial.
  • Based on my experience last semester, videos (with animations and the professor's voice in the background) were significantly better than recorded zoom lectures. It was done for COS 302 and COS 324.
  • Sometimes it's difficult to ask questions over Zoom, especially in a larger class. Also, if lectures are recorded, questions obviously can't be asked in real-time. It'd definitely be helpful to ensure that each class has some sort of discussion forum set up so students can ask questions on lectures and other topics.
  • One of my classes had a Google form to fill out for attendance and it had a spot for any questions that popped up during lecture that you had and they would be answered as a Piazza post before the next lecture.
  • https://joinglimpse.io/ is a great virtual networking platform that could be used for events.
  • I thought the graphics TA office hours queue worked well! The graphics office hours queue was implemented by Will Sweeney and Riley Bova.
  • Having a discussion platform (like ed) available for each class was really helpful last semester to ask questions easily with recorded lectures.
  • As far as what to think about: if COS 333 is held, posting ideas for web apps that might help the student population in this new online format would be helpful (i.e., partner finder)
Frequently Asked Questions: 

If Tigerhub is reopening and you don't plan on changing your courses, are your current spots in your classes guaranteed or is it a complete re-selection?

Answer: Your current course selections remain valid and you don't have to do anything.

Can you offer a little more detail into what IW seminars will look like online?

Answer: We're still working on the list, but in general the hope is that they will be smaller. Details of how to make each one suitably responsive and interactive are up to whoever is running the seminar. We are also rethinking how the oral presentation part should be handled.

Are any new departmental courses being added?

Answer: No. In fact, there will be somewhat fewer, as we double up instructional staff to make existing courses work better.

Will the PDF option be elected mid-semester or available throughout the whole semester?

Answer: It will be available until the end of the 9th week of classes, as it was before last spring.

For certain classes that were full (e.g., intro to ML), will there be more openings now as there aren't room capacity restrictions anymore and that you're hiring more TAs?

Answer: 324 in particular will open up, and probably others.

Given that courses are online and likely recorded, can we register for courses that have schedule conflicts?

Answer: Jill Dolan said no during the USG town hall.

Given that people will be in different timezones, will lectures still be synchronous? Will they also be recorded?

Answer: This is up to individual faculty members and still unclear. It seems likely that lectures will be synchronous but (at least partly?) recorded.

For classes that are moved to spring, would you be given priority if you were already enrolled in the fall?

Answer: Good question. We will figure this out.

Will we be obligated to attend in person precepts or will precepts be recorded for us to watch on our own time (given that time difference can cause conflicts for some of us)?

Answer: Unclear at this point, but there has to be flexibility for people who are in difficult time zones.

Are all the exams going to be take-home now?

Answer: Exam format is up to the individual faculty member, but we want to avoid things like assuming that your Internet connection will remain up for a particular period.

With regards to exams, especially because I have a somewhat unstable internet connection, having timed exams can add another dimension of stress especially if the exam is designed to take close to the full 3 hours.

Answer: See above. It seems like the fairest mechanism might be to have a fixed window like 24 hours during which you can do the exam in a single say 3-hour sitting. Several comments supported this general idea.

Scanning the images -- I don't have access to a printer and was trying to scan on my phone, but the pages were not super legible, etc.

Answer: We have to make sure that operational issues like connectivity, format, paper copies, etc., are convenient for all. Scanning time should not come out of the exam time itself.

Since it was mentioned that pair programming in person will be prohibited will the expectations for collaborative programming assignments change?

Answer: We're still puzzling this out; it may depend on the specific course.

Could faculty hold virtual lab tours/discuss their research (either pre-recorded or over Zoom)? It'd be very interesting and useful for students thinking about research!

Answer: Excellent thought; this sparked an extended discussion after the meeting. Short answer: yes, and with other possibilities for both technical and social events too.

Certain things like finding partners for projects (like 333) are going to become more difficult. Perhaps there could be some kind of organized way of doing this now that we're not on campus?

Answer: We are looking into a platform for helping with this.

If we have more questions/thoughts later, who should we be reaching out to?

Answer: We will set up an email address as soon as possible; meanwhile, mail to bwk or jps or ckenny will work fine.
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