Cyber for Future Policymakers

CS 12 / 201, DHP D291

Syllabus, Fall 2021, v1.0

Course Description

Computer technology runs modern societies, underlying virtually every activity we do, from how the foods we eat arrive on our table to how we receive and consume information. Because cyber technology has such a profound influence on society, policymakers frequently face decisions on technical issues. Cyber for Future Policymakers is designed to provide students interested in policy, political science, and international relations aspects of cyber technology with an understanding of how these technologies work and the underlying issues of the policy debate. This course will cover Internet architecture and basic networking, the Web, cloud architectures, cryptography, security and privacy, open source systems, AI and machine learning, and other new technologies; it has a heavy emphasis on labs. It assumes no more previous exposure to computer science than a single programming course.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • explain cyber technologies of current policy interest, both verbally and in writing
  • discuss technical topics with people who lack a technical background
  • write briefing papers on current and new technologies
  • deliver presentations on current and new technologies
  • CS 201 / DHP D291 students will also be able to discuss policy decision-making relevant to cyber technologies.

Course Topics

  • Communications Networks
  • Internet Architecture
  • Understanding the World Wide Web (WWW)
  • Cloud Computing
  • Intellectual Property and Open Source Software (OSS)
  • Cybersecurity and Privacy (e.g., cryptography, malware, cyberattacks, protection measures, etc.)
  • Identity Management
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
  • Quantum Computing

Prerequisites

An introductory course in programming: CS 10 or 11 or equivalent. The introductory programming course can include programming in C++, Python, or Java, but should not be JavaScript based. The course needs to teach not only programming, but also introduce algorithmic thinking and data structures.

This requirement is a prerequisite; the programming course may not be taken simultaneously.

Which section should I register for?

  • If you are an undergraduate student, register for CS 12. Undergraduates are not permitted to take the graduate-level sections.
  • If you are a student in the Fletcher School, register for DHP D291. DHP P201 will also study the U.S. government structure related to cyber issues.
  • If you are a graduate student in the CSPP program, Computer Science, or are otherwise not in Fletcher, register for CS 201.

Course Materials

  • Required textbook:
    • Kernighan, Brian W. Understanding the Digital World: What You Need to Know about Computers, the Internet, Privacy, and Security. Princeton University Press, 2017.
    • There are two editions of this book (first and second). Since the new edition is less than a year old, we’ll allow you to use either one.
  • Laptop with the following software installed:
    • At least two web browsers (e.g., Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge, Brave)
    • Wireshark — this is an open source and platform-independent network protocol and traffic analyzer.
    • A command line terminal software (built-in on Mac and Linux laptops; for Windows 10, use the Linux subsystem, use Ubuntu as distribution).

Class Times & Location

This class will be held in-person for fall 2021. (Keep an eye on your email for announcements form the university or AS&E/Fletcher schools — whichever you are enrolled in — about COVID-19 precautions, as well as for announcements from the course instructor.)

  • Tuesdays & Thursdays, 10:30 – 11:45 AM in East Hall 016 (all sections)
  • Wednesdays, 9:00 – 10:15 AM in East Hall 016 (CS 201 and DHP D291 sections only)

The first class will be Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 for CS 201 / DHP D291 students, and for everyone on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. The last day of class will be Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021.

Instructors & TAs

Dave Lillethun is the head instructor and will teach the Tuesday & Thursday classes. Patricia Vargas-Leon will teach the Wednesday classes. (An additional TA is TBD.)

Office hours and contact information will be posted in Canvas.

Assessments

Labs

There will be five lab assignments to complete at home. These will be graded as Meets Expectations / Needs Minor Improvements / or Needs Major Improvements. Labs that do not Meet Expectations may be resubmitted using the resubmission policy below.

Short Briefing Papers

There will be five short briefing papers to write at home. These will be graded as Meets Expectations / Needs Minor Improvements / or Needs Major Improvements. Briefing papers that do not Meet Expectations may be resubmitted using the resubmission policy below.

Large Briefing Paper

There will be one large briefing paper to write at home. This one will be substantially longer than the short briefing papers. The length and expectations will be more for CS 201 / DHP D291 students than CS 12 students. These will be graded as Exceeds Expectations / Meets Expectations / Needs Minor Improvements / or Needs Major Improvements. Briefing papers that do not Meet Expectations may be resubmitted using the resubmission policy below. (You will get one bonus resubmission token that can be used only on the large briefing papers, so everyone is guaranteed at least a second draft, even if you’ve spent your tokens already. See the resubmission policy for details.)

Presentation

There will be one presentation on the same topic as your large briefing paper. The length and expectations will be more for CS 201 / DHP D291 students than CS 12 students. These will be graded as Exceeds Expectations / Meets Expectations / Needs Minor Improvements / or Needs Major Improvements. Although the presentation cannot be resubmitted, you will have feedback on your large briefing paper before you have to give the presentation, and you will have the opportunity to submit your slides for feedback in advance. So you will be able to know how good your content and slides are in advance, and make improvements before the presentation if necessary.

Debate

CS 201 / DHP D291 students will engage in a debate activity. These will be graded as Exceeds Expectations / Meets Expectations / Needs Minor Improvements / or Needs Major Improvements. The debate will occur during one of the Wednesday classes, so CS 12 students are not required to participate.

Final Exam

The final exam will take place at 3:30 pm on Friday, Dec. 17 in the usual classroom. It will consist of 6 questions, and each question will be graded as Meets Expectations / Needs Minor Improvements / or Needs Major Improvements. CS 12 students may (or may not) have different questions than CS 201 / DHP D291 students.

Late Work Policy

There are no late penalties or “late passes” in this class. If you will not have work completed by the deadline, then email Dave (contact information is in Canvas) before the deadline and tell him when you have the work completed. You don’t need to provide any excuses, just the new date when you will submit the work. As long as you send that email before the assignment deadline, your late submission will be graded for full credit. (However, if there is an emergency situation that makes it impossible or unreasonable to contact us before the deadline, then just send the email as soon after the deadline as is reasonable.)

Note that the presentation, debate, and final exam are scheduled to occur in specific class period, and therefore the deadline cannot be extended. However, make up assignments can be provided if you miss it due to a legitimate excused absence (such as illness). Email Patricia if you will miss class on the day of the debate, and email Dave for all other assignments.

Resubmission Policy

Labs and briefing papers (both the long and short ones) that do not Meet Expectations may be revised and resubmitted. Only the grade from your last submission of an assignment counts towards your course grade. There are some restrictions on resubmissions, as follows:

  • We will only grade one resubmission per student per week. If you resubmit more than one assignment at a time, we will grade one that week, the next one the next week, and so on. If you resubmit more assignments than there are weeks remaining in the semester, then we will only grade as many of them as there are weeks left.
  • You may not resubmit until you have received feedback on your assignment. (If you know your first attempt isn’t going to be good enough before you even see our feedback, then see the Late Work Policy above.)
  • You start the semester with five (5) resubmission tokens. Each time you resubmit an assignment, you spend one (1) of your tokens to do so. Resubmitting an assignment multiple times will require a token for each resubmission. (For example, if you resubmit a briefing paper, the resubmission still doesn’t Meet Expectations, and you revise and resubmit again, then that would cost you two (2) tokens – one for each resubmission.)
  • You also get one (1) free resubmission of the large briefing paper, in addition to your five (5) tokens. This is to guarantee that everyone gets at least one chance to revise that paper. You may resubmit the large briefing paper more than once but will need to spend your tokens to do so.

Course Grades

As noted above, all students will complete the same labs, small briefing papers, and the final exam, although the exam questions may (or may not) be different for CS 12 students than CS 201 / DHP D291 students. In addition, the length and standards for the large briefing paper and presentation will be different for CS 201 / DHP D291 students than for CS 12 students. Finally, only CS 201 / DHP D291 students need to participate in the debate, so this will not be part of the grade for CS 12 students.

Your letter grade will be determined by how many assignments in each category are graded at a Meets Expectations or higher level. The scale is slightly different for CS 201 / DHP D291 students than for CS 12 students (partly due to the difference in the debate assignment). The “Projects” category consists of: the large briefing paper, the presentation, and the debate.

The way to read these is, using the CS 201 / DHP D291 grading table for example, to earn an A you need to Meet Expectations on all 5 labs, all 5 short briefing papers, the large briefing paper, the presentation, the debate, and 5 out of the 6 final exam questions (with the 6th question being no worse than “Needs Minor Improvements”). To get a C, you need to Meet Expectations on 3 of the labs, 3 of the briefing papers, 2 of the projects, and 3 of the final exam questions (with the other exam questions being no worse than “Needs Minor Improvements”). If you do not meet the criteria for a D, then you will get an F. Also, doing better in some categories does not make up for under-performing in other categories. For example, in the very unlikely scenario where you Meet Expectations on all 5 short briefing papers, all projects, and all final exam questions, but on only 2 of the labs, then you get a D. (So that might give you a hint about which assignments you should spend your resubmission tokens on.)

CS 201 / DHP D291

DCBA
Labs (5)2345
Short Briefing Papers (5)2345
Projects (3)1 *22 *3
Final Exam Questions (6)33 *4 *5 *

CS 12

DCBA
Labs (5)2345
Short Briefing Papers (5)2345
Projects (2)111 *2
Final Exam Questions (6)23 *44 *

* Indicates that an additional item in this category must be at the “Needs Minor Improvements” level or higher. For example, a 3* on briefing papers would indicate that at least 3 must Meet Expectations, and additional 1 must Need Minor Improvements (or better), and the remaining one can be any grade (even “Needs Major Improvements” or not submitted).

+ / –

Plus (+) and minus (-) on your letter grade will be determined by the number of “Exceeds Expectations” grades you receive on the Projects (large briefing paper, presentation, and debate), as well as your final exam: If you get “Meets Expectations” on all of the exam questions, then that will count as one additional “Exceeds Expectations” towards your + / –

If you get at least two (2) “Exceeds Expectations” grades, then you will have a + applied to your letter grade. If you do not get any “Exceeds Expectations” grades, then you will have a – applied. (Therefore, if you get exactly one (1) “Exceeds Expectations” grade, you will have neither a plus nor minus on your letter grade.)

Course Policies

Students in this class are responsible for reading, understanding, and following all of the course policies listed here. For fall 2021, there are also additional COVID-19 policies for the course. By continuing to take this course, you indicate your agreement to follow all the policies. If there is any policy that you do not understand, please ask. Ignorance will not be accepted as an excuse for violating any policies.

Changes

This syllabus and any policies for this course are subject to change during the semester in response to changing conditions. Such changes are at the sole discretion of the course instructor. If any changes are made, the appropriate documents will be updated and the change will be announced to the entire class in a timely fashion.

This document has a version number at the beginning to help you tell when changes have been made. When there is a new version, the changes that were made will be listed in the following Change Log. (This may help, for example, so you don’t need to re-read the entire document just to find a small change.)

Change Log

v1.0: Initial version.

Dave Lillethun, Ph.D.

Dave Lillethun, Ph.D.

Dave Lillethun teaches classes about programming (CS1), computing systems, databases, and the CS senior capstone at Tufts University.

View Full Profile →

Contact Info
You may find my contact information on my faculty profile page.