Comp 11:
Office Hours — The Comp 11 Help Center

Purpose, Where, What, How, Who

The Comp 11 Help Center

When you have questions about class material, the reading, or homework assignments, come to the COMP11 Help Center. Course teaching assistants are scheduled to be available in Halligan Hall to help you understand the ideas and solve the homework problems. We refer to the help center as office hours, but there is no office. The TAs will be in Halligan, probably the Halligan Extension, but their location will be posted on Piazza.

Using Office Hours

If you need help:
  1. Check the schedule on the course Administration page. Find a time when TAs are scheduled to be in Halligan.
  2. Check Piazza for the location of the TAs. TAs on duty will edit the pinned post on Piazza to say where they are.
  3. Go to the TA location, and bring your question(s)!

Who are the TAs?

Most teaching assistants are undergraduates who have taken the course you are in and often have taken some more computer science courses. We also have some graduate students who already have at least a bachelor's degree in CS. The TAs know the material well, they like the subject, and they like and are good at helping people.

Writing Programs: Planning then Coding

Writing a paper for other courses requires
  1. making an outline, then
  2. translating the outline into a paper.
Writing programs works the same way.

Step 1: Help with planning

Start by understanding the problem. TAs can help you understand the problem and they can also help you design a plan. They will ask you to write an outline in plain English (or pseudocode). You might find a flow chart or other diagram useful.

Testing your outline on some sample data is an essential technique for seeing if your plan is reasonable.

If you already have a plan the TA can review it, offer suggestions, and help you make test data.

Step 2: Help translating a plan

Once you have a reasonable outline, it's time to translate that outline into a program that a computer can execute. A TA can help you here, too. A TA can help you with syntax and compiling.

In particular, the TA can help you select variables, functions, and a design that follows your plan. The TA can also help you understand syntax errors and logic errors.

Does it get crowded?

Yes. If you start early on your assignment, you are sure to find lots of available TA hours. If you wait until the last minute, you may wait a long time until a TA is free. If you come at the last minute, then you are implicitly accepting this.

What if I want to code without a plan?

This is a free country. You are free to write a history paper without making an outline. You are free to start building a house without drawing up blueprints. You are free to drive to California without looking at a map and planning your general route.

Coding without planning wastes a lot of time and effort. You are free to waste your own time and effort, but you are not free to waste our time and effort or make other students wait longer for help because you didn't plan.

If you want to use the COMP11 office hours, you must work on your plan first, then your code. TAs will ask to see your plan, and if you don't have one, they'll ask you to come back when you do.


The rules for Comp 11 office hours are:
Much of this document is taken from instructions originally written by Prof. Bruce Molay.

Mark A. Sheldon (
Last Modified 2019-Jan-14