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NUS Computing Review: IS1103 Computing and Society

Grading

I forgot the weightage. The module was closed at the time of writing. But the components are as below:

1. Weekly missions (50% ???)

2. Finals (50% ???)

Workload

Low workload. Just be consistent every week to do the missions (and do them properly).

There are some weeks where the missions are slightly tougher and that could take you an entire day. For my batch, we had a hacking mission and that took me an entire day to complete. But that was the only mission that took me an entire day to do since I did not have any prior experience in using command line interface to listen to and capture keystrokes etc. The website we used to facilitate this learning was via https://linuxzoo.net/ and it is highly recommended for you to do it first so when that week comes, you have your answers prepared and do not need to spend an entire day doing it. The parts we did were as follows:

Week 1A: Gentle Revision

Week 1B: Essential Grep

Week 1C: Initial Penetration Testing

Week 3A: Active Scan

As for other missions, they can be done in a few hours each week so don’t slack on it.

Structure

Each week, there will be a mission component (had weightage) and a Policy evaluation component (no weightage). Marks were also awarded when students login every week (please be aware to turn off your adblocker for the script to detect your login activity, as the professor will likely send a mass email to inform every student about).

The mission component changes every week along with the topics. However, the common theme for all missions is that the students are expected to use logical reasoning to substantiate their answers. In my semester, there was one week where the mission involved actual technical skills and that was the one where many students struggled in. We were supposed to learn how to hack and create listener events to swipe passwords etc. All in all, I think the missions component was well implemented as they were very enjoyable every week as it kept us entertained and curious.

The other component was the Policy evaluation component. This had no grading weightage but it served as good practice at the end of every week to familiarise yourself with the topics tested. At the end of each session, the answers are shown to allow students to learn from their misconceptions etc. The policy questions were structured in such a way where there was 7 parts to each question:

a 3-choose-1 question on whether the policy is ethical,

3 parts asking on the components of each moral pillar,

3 sub parts asking on how the policy is evaluated under each of the components

Advice

If you want to do well for this module, it is highly recommended to consult both professors to understand what are the expectations for this module. This is essentially a philosophy module hence one student’s answer can be completely different to another student’s answer for the same question and both students can get it correct, unless that question is a morally straightforward question.

Some of the later topics (Chapters 3 and 4) were more nuanced as every component had dependencies with each other thus conclusions cannot be made for each component without regard for another.

Also, it is advisable to do a hard pass on the textbook unless you are really interested in doing research in this field on ethical questions regarding computing. The course materials are more than sufficient.

Afterthoughts

This is a module many CS students dislike because it involves a lot of heavy writing and understanding. If you were proficient in General Paper in the A levels (and actually understood what you were doing), this module should not be too much an issue (thus low workload) as the way to go about learning this is very similar to learning how to write good essays in GP. If you were bad at GP but know how to work smart, it should also be a low workload module because the module only requires students to have the key points in their answers for it to be considered an acceptable answer (although whether it is correct or not depends on the question asked and how strong your justification is).

The key to scoring well for this module is to understand the words used in the answer key and why are they used in such a manner. I consulted both professors and only understood the importance of this closer to the end of the course.

There was a negative sentiment amongst the students taking the module which I think created an unhealthy feedback loop amongst both the students in the module and between the students and the professors which resulted in hesitancy from students to seek consultations with either of the professors and preferring to S/U this module. One of the professors also shared how half of the students taking this module had not even started on the first mission even though it was one of the last weeks of the semester at the time when I consulted with him/her. The lesson here is that if you are consistent with your work and consulted both professors to understand the exam approach and key words that must be present in every answer, you should have no problem getting an A- and above and save your S/U for other modules with steeper bellcurves.

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