Computer Science Tutorial

Themes Goals Instructor Textbooks Schedule Course Work
Writing Labs Comp.Accts. Grading


This tutorial will consider three promising areas of current research in computer science: artificial intelligence (especially expert systems and neural networks), parallel algorithms, and distributed computing (including the World Wide Web). Each of these research areas provides perspectives on problem-solving, and this tutorial will explore each of these perspectives in some detail. Artificial intelligence studies both how the human mind might function and approachs for solving problems often associated with intelligent decision making; parallel algorithms involve problem-solving approaches which take advantage of multiple processors; and distributed computing utilizes networks of machines for the storage and processing of data. For each of these topics, discussion will cover basic concepts, sample applications, and directions of current research. In addition, the tutorial will identify factors that limit how computers may be used. Results from the theory of computation show that some problems are inherently not solvable, while practical considerations restrict the nature of the solutions that may be found for other problems.


Study of each theme will include consideration of basic concepts and approaches, directions of current research, and, whenever possible, some first hand experiences. In addition, the following goals are common to all tutorials:


Henry M. Walker

Office: Science 2420
Telephone: extension 4208
Office hours are posted weekly on the bulletin board outside my office.
Additional hours can be scheduled by appointment.
If you wish, you may reserve a half hour meeting by signing up on the weekly schedule.


Jack Copeland, Artificial Intelligence: A Philosophical Introduction, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford England and Cambridge MA, 1993.

Henry M. Walker, The Limits of Computing, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Boston MA, 1994.

In addition, numerous articles and references will be assigned. In most cases, these will be distributed in class or available at Burling Library's Reserve Desk.

The schedule

The class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from August 28 through October 16 and from October 28 through December 11. Depending on the plans for a particular day, the class will begin at 8:00 or 8:30 am; all classes will finish by 10:00 am.

While the schedule for this course may evolve somewhat, a Tentative Class Schedule is available.

Course Work

Course work will involve a combination of the following activities.

  1. Academic Honesty Exercise: Since academic work consistently must include appropriate citation and referencing, all Tutorials include work related to academic honesty and citation. An academic honesty exercise must be satisfactorily completed. Details of this exercise will be given in class.

  2. Discussion Questions: To encourage preparation for class, the tentative class schedule specifies several class periods for which students are to prepare discussion questions. For such classes, students will be expected to submit (via e-mail) two questions on the readings by 5:00 pm on the day before class. While may types of questions are appropriate (e.g., open-ended, clarifying, connective and relational, involving value conflicts), simple factual questions should be avoided (unless the facts are in dispute).

  3. Class Participation: Some classes will begin with one or two students reviewing in a few sentences the main arguments of the author of a recent reading. Students also should be prepared to indicate what conclusions they have reached regarding recent reading. All students are expected to participate actively in discussions.

  4. Oral Presentations: Several times during the semester, each student will be expected to make presentations to the class. At first, these presentations may give summaries of readings. Toward the end of the semester, these presentations may include ten-minute discussions of a student's research into a topic.

  5. Papers: Five papers will be due throughout the semester. In addition, assignments will include the rewriting and editing of papers and the reviewing of other papers.


Computer Accounts

In addition to VAX accounts which are asigned when they students register at the College, all students in this class will receive accounts on the departmental HP computers. Some class activities will involve the use of these departmental machines.


The final grade in this course will be based on both the quality of the submitted papers and the student's participation in class discussions.

Note: I would be very happy to discuss any part of the course with anyone at any mutually convenient time. Do not hesitate to ask questions or to make comments.

This document is available on the World Wide Web as

created August 12, 1997
last revised August 24, 1997