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Click the links that follow for more content about Andy Van Dam and CS15

The process of Brown CS TA hours has improved greatly over the years. With innovations such as Sign Me Up and Google Sheets, students can now sign up electronically and remotely check their place in line. While this is a step up from writing names on whiteboards, it doesn’t change the prevalent issue of long lines during hours.

CS15, an intro level class taught by Andy Van Dam, is notorious for its long TA hour lines. “Historically lines have been very long for CS15 due to our strict collaboration policy, meaning that students are forced to come into hours to get help with their code,” says former head TA Sophia Hsiao. “Andy believes that this improves learning in an intro class, as it is very easy to get help from a friend and quickly find that they have changed your code to the point where you no longer know what your own code is doing. But as a result TA resources are very strained and it can take a long time to get help.”

According to Andy, this has been a problem for decades, and each year changes are made to try and improve the situation. Review sections were added where students could ask questions so TA hours would no longer be the only available solution. CS15 also uses Piazza, which allows students to ask questions to their TAs online. “This past year we made more of an emphasis on de-bugging, hoping this would teach students the skills they need to solve a majority problems with their code before needing to go to TA hours,” said Andy. “Unfortunately this still was not enough, and we are planning on trying to incorporate even more de-bugging practice next year.”

They are also planning for next Fall to add more TAs during crunch times before an assignment is due, but Andy is not convinced that this will solve the problem of long lines. “I believe a contributing factor to last-minute overcrowding is students waiting too long to get started, and that they have to be part of the solution as well” says Andy.

For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communications Outreach Specialist Jesse C. Polhemus