Sept 12, 2019

What is CS398 all about?

This course covers cutting-edge education algorithms used to model students, assess learning, and design widely deployable tools for open access education. The goal of the course is for you to be ready to lead your own computation education research project. Topics include knowledge tracing, generative grading, teachable agents, and challenges and opportunities implementing computational education in diverse contexts around the world.

Assignments and Final Project

During the course, there will be three core assignments and a final project. The core assignment questions are designed to be done individually but we encourage you to teach each other (see the learning with honor section). The final project and any extension work can be in groups of 1-3.

This class has no midterm, no final.

Your final project will be either be: recreating an advanced idea in computational education, producing a novel idea or making a new tool. We will help you along the way. You will present your final project on the last day of class (Dec 5th) and a corresponding write-up is due on Dec 12th. Lets make some impact! In CS398 you will get mentorship on how to get your ideas spread more widely -- which is of course optional. One way to make impact is to submit your final paper towards a peer reviewed conference. Educational Data Science has its submission deadline on Dec 16th, is hosted at Stanford, and the best paper will win a $2000 prize.


Grading in CS398 is based on a set of disiterata that we value: Your personal growth, your contribution to the community, your ability to "complete", your ability to be creative. As a research class, we have more authority to grade based on the progress that we make as opposed to grading on a curve. As such, in CS398 we are not competing against one another. We are competing against the challenges in education and are collectively training.

The different components of the class are weighted as follows:

  • Assignments: 40%
  • Final Project: 30%
  • Class Contribution: 20%
  • Personal Growth: 10%

As you know, the variance of scores on each item largely impacts their "effective weight" on your overall grade. So here is a subjective interpretation. If you do all of the assignments, participate in class, put genuine effort into your final project you would get an A. If you are short of expectations on one element: A-, etc. If by the end of the course you have created something "publishable" (either in a journal or as a tool): A+.

How do you measure class contribution and personal growth? Class contribution will largely be showing up to, and participating in class. But if you do go out of your way to help the class community in other ways -- eg through teaching each other or helping on slack -- we will credit that too. Personal growth (how much you learn) is vitally important but tricky to measure in a way that doesn't create perverse incentives. We imagine all students will get these points: zero variance? but we reserve the right to reward exceptional effort.


We have a classroom with tables and a small group of students! Given those resources we are going to use class in a few ways: at times we are going to give talks on great ideas in the field. At times we are going to have you work on parts of your assignments in class. At times we will give you space to work in teams or to do some individual exploration.

Show up, bring a laptop . Lets have a good time and learn together.

One clear policy: please be concious that other people in the class can see your screens: laptop or phone. If you are visibly off-task during class (facebook, shoping, etc) it can make it truly hard for others to pay attention. We kindy ask that you be considerate to your fellow students. Thank you all in advance.

If you don't have access to a working laptop there are great resources at Stanford and we would be happy to link you up with them.

Staff Contact

One of the special elements of a small class is the chance to get to know the teaching team. Your first point of contact is class -- we will take time to work on challenges and answer questions there. If you want help outside of class there are a few options:

For logistical questions or general class conversations, please use the class slack channel. If you have more private questions you can send us direct messages on slack or email ( goes to all of us). If you have a personal concern feel free to email Chris directly.

For in-person help come to our office hours. We love chatting with you about anything: questions you have about the assignments, ideas on computational education, life thoughts, jokes, etc.


Lateness is an interesting issue: On one hand, flexibility is important for many good reasons. Things do come up and not everyone needs to go at the same pace. On the other hand, deadlines are motivating and provide clear goals. Without a believable deadline, would I do my work? Here is how we handle lateness in CS398:

1. Worked turned in by the due date will get a 5% on-time bonus. The 5% is small enough that will be unlikely to change anyone's grade, it's just a token reward for people who start the work early enough to finish on time, even given minor unexpected circumstances.

2. After the due date, each assignment will have a full-credit "grace period" documented on the assignment. You do not have to email us to use the grace period.

3. After the grace period, we will still grade work that is submitted within one week. But we will cap how many points you get at 80%. We ask you to get in touch with us if you are in this group.


This is a 4 unit class which roughly translates to 12 hours of course related work per week. We expect classtime and homework to take less time than this. The extra space is meant to give you room to be playful and inquisitive with the material.

Textbook and Readings

There is no textbook for this course! In fact we are going to be using this course to scope out parts for a future book. Instead of text-books we will be sharing handouts with the material you need to complete your work, as well as papers you can optionally read.

Learning with Honor

Value your own personal integrity -- it is of more importance than anything we learn in this class. We of course expect every student to abide by the letter and spirit of the Stanford honor code. CS398 has some individual and group work, so lets take a moment to outline expectations:

In CS398 we teach each other! There is no better way to learn than by teaching, and if a peer is willing to teach you, that is an amazing resource. But what makes for useful teaching? And at what point is the recipient's work not their own? We trust both parties to navigate these questions with honor: if you "give away" the answer to an assignment, the recipient loses out and the classes integrity is compromised.

A few rules of thumb: (0) Everyone should be able to recreate and understand the work that they produce (1) Teach each other concepts without looking at each other's solutions. (2) Give credit to people who have helped you.

Students with Documented Disabilities

Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). Professional staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare an Accommodation Letter for faculty. For students who have disabilities that don't typically change appreciably over time, the letter from the OAE will be for the entire academic year; other letters will be for the current quarter only. Students should contact the OAE as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations. The OAE is located at 563 Salvatierra Walk (phone: 650-723-1066, URL:

First of its kind

As you probably know, this is a brand new course at Stanford. In fact, a course like this that teaches modern AI and education to computer scientists is, to the best of our knowledge, a first of its kind anywhere. That means you get to be part of a cool moment in time, and that we will put exceptional effort into this quarter, but please be understanding if there are any rough edges.

The teaching team has been working hard to make a great learing experience for you all. And we will put in a lot of time throughout the quarter to continue improving. But as I firmly believe, there is always a better way! If you have ideas about what we could do in the future, groovy. Let us know.

We are looking forward to a wonderful quarter!