CS 50 Office Hours To Move To Annenberg

Starting this semester, Computer Science 50: “Introduction to Computer Science I” office hours will be held in Annenberg to facilitate interaction between students and the course staff.

The course has also restructured its office hour process. Students will still “raise their hands” virtually through the click of the button, but the queuing system has been incorporated this year into the course’s discussion tool on its website, allowing students to use the same interface to ask questions whether or not they attend office hours.

The changes come after mixed reviews of CS50’s past office hours, which would rotate between the dining halls of Pforzheimer, Leverett, Quincy, and Lowell.

This year, students seeking aid will flock to the freshman dining hall, where they can find between 20 and 30 assigned teaching fellows and course assistants on Mondays through Thursdays from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.

While other Harvard professors and teaching fellows have reported spending office hour sessions alone in their offices and classrooms, the numbers of students at CS50 office hours has taken off with the course’s rapid growth.

“Overall, the houses worked out wonderfully last year, thanks to the [House] Masters and HUDS. But with peaks of 150 students on the busiest of nights, the dining halls would get a bit crowded, to the exclusion of some of the residents, which certainly wasn't our intention,” course instructor David J. Malan ’99 said.

Students said the large number of peers CS50 office hours attract has helped erase the stigma attached to asking for help. At the same time, students pointed out the down sides to high attendance.

Caleb Q. Cook '15, who took CS50 last year, said that the one time he went to office hours, the sheer number of people limited the effectiveness of the entire process.

“The number of students was too much for the routers to handle. The internet kept going down for almost everybody,” Coo said. “It was hard to really get help.”

Course staff members said they hope that that the new location will provide more flexibility and space for students.

“The hope is to decrease wait times for students by answering FAQs electronically so that we can more effectively help in person students who have more complex questions or would prefer one-on-one assistance,” Malan said.

Students said that the new changes have made it easier to navigate the process of seeking help.

“I think the centralized location is a good decision. Instead of having to look up the location every day, we always know where it is,” said Deborah B. Alves ’15, a CS50 teaching fellow who took the course last year.

“Moreover, a lot of the students in the course are freshmen, who will benefit greatly from Annenberg’s proximity to the Yard,” she added.

“For upperclassmen or students that live far away, it may be a little bit of a hindrance,” Cook said. “There’s always a trade-off.”

—Staff writer Akua F. Abu can be reached at aabu@college.harvard.edu.

CORRECTION: Sept. 17

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed quotations to Matthew B. Sheets '15. In fact, the speaker was Caleb Q. Cook '15.

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