Introduction to UCWISE

What is UCWISE?

UCWISE is a web-based tool that we are using in CS3.  You will primarily use it in the labs, viewing and working on the on-line materials.  The software was first developed in a research project looking at the ways that on-line curriculum and other tools can support and change traditional computer science courses.  This research is on going.

There are two main areas of UCWISE: the course portal and the curriculum view.  Each time you start with UCWISE, you will see the course portal; from here, you can view the lab materials organized on a calendar, read the latest announcements, work with your files, and so forth.  The course portal is discussed further below.

When you want to work on the curricular materials, a new window will open up with the curriculum view.  Here, you can step through page after page of activities, which vary from simple reading, taking quizzes, through contributing to group discussions.  This is discussed in more detail below.

How to get started

The UCWISE system is available at  The first time you visit, you will need to set up an account and enroll in the course; on subsequent visits, you need only give your username and password at this page, and you will be taken to the course portal.

Your TA will help you get an account on the first day, but we will summarize the process here.  In CS3, you will be given a Unix account of the form CS3-XX, where XX is a set of two letters.  You will also need a separate account for UCWISE; we recommend simplifying your life by using the same username (i.e., CS3-XX) and password for both.

In any case, to create a UCWISE account you need to visit and click on the new student account link.  You will be asked for some information, including your choice of username and password.  When logging in with your new account for the first time, you will need to enter an enrollment code.   Your TA will give this code to you.


To use UCWISE, you will need a recent Mozilla browser and a recent Java VM.  The easiest way to satisfy both is to download the current browser at  You may have problems if you rely on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.  On Macintoshes, you should also use the latest Mozilla; however, there are some reports of Safari working well enough.

The UCWISE system is available at anytime.  That said, there are two reasons that you will do most of your work in lab: first, you are required to take most of the quizzes while present in the lab, and second, you will find that the TAs, lab assistants, and your fellow students can offer a great deal of support while you are physically present.

The Course Portal

The course portal window has a menu at the left; most of UCWISE’s features are available via links off the menu.  We have highlighted a few below, but feel free to explore:


When the course portal first opens, the top half of the main screen will contain any announcements your instructors may have made.  This list will get quite long over the semester; by clicking on the Announcements link in the left menu, you can see them in the entire screen and change the way announcements are read.


When you first visit the course portal, the lower half of the main screen will contain a weekly calendar view of the on-line materials.  Within each day, you will see the main headings and activity sub-headings for the materials.  To open the curriculum view starting at a particular activity, click on the link in the calendar.

At the lower portion of the calendar, and reading assignments are listed.

You can move forward or back a week by clicking on the “>>” or “<<” icon at the top left of the calendar (in the blue bar).  There are also links to change the view to a monthly view, or to a full semester view.  Also note that links in the main menu, under the Calendar heading, give you more options.

Resources and Help

There is an “ask a TA” help system available via links off the main menu; click on Help Forum under the Help heading.  Questions submitted here are answered quickly (we promise!) and will be available for other students to view.  As such, you might check to see what other students have asked, and what answers they have received.

Many additional pages are available via the Resources and Help links off the main menu to help with technical problems and to get information about the course.


The UCWISE system has a graphical file viewer that corresponds to a portion of your Unix directories (specifically, your “ucwise” sub-directory).  As such, you can manipulate or view your files either via Unix or via the web in UCWISE. 

To view your files via UCWISE, click on the My Files link in the main menu.  For each file listed, you can click on the filename to edit the file in a java editor; use the radio buttons and the command links below to rename, delete, and so forth; upload files from your local computer; create new directories; etc. 

There are two ways to create a new file, but you do neither in the My Files area!  First, you can click on the Editor link under the Scheme menu in the course portal main menu.  Second, from within Unix you can start up Emacs, or some other editor, and save the file in your “ucwise” sub-directory.

The “Launch terminal” button is experimental.  Using it, however, you can get terminal access to your Unix account from within the browser.  This might be convenient for certain quick tasks, like submitting assignments (see below).

Checking your Grades

To view your grades, click on the Grading link in the main menu.  The My Assignments link will show you your grades for anything that can be graded: homework assignments, quizzes, midterms, finals, projects, and so forth.  Of course, you will only see scores for assignments that have already been graded! 

The My Course Grade shows how your assignment grades combine into a course grade; this tool has been known to render things incorrectly, however, so take it with a grain of salt.

Scheme listener and editor

UCWISE provides two tools to help you program solely from within the browser, both available from the Scheme heading in the main menu.  First is an easy to use editor that can create, edit, and save files.  The second is a Scheme “listener”, a window in which you can write and test programs. 

Some students have had problems with these tools, many have not.  We recommend using tools from Unix to do programming and editing (specifically, STk and Emacs); they are harder to learn, but will be more useful in later classes and may cause you fewer problems.  Your TAs will discuss this with you in Lab.

Remember to Log Out

Once again, remember to log out.  You can do this by clicking on the Log Out link in the main menu, or by simply closing all of your browser windows and logging out of your Unix account.

Lab Materials

When you click on a link inside the calendar, a new window will open containing CS3’s online materials.  There is a menu on the left side to allow you to quickly jump to any step in the project for that day; this menu has two levels of headings, and collapses and opens headings as you move between steps.  Above the menu are a few icons to tools that are always available, including a journaling tools and a show-all-work tool; both are discussed below.

There are several types of steps in our on-line curriculum, and you will become familiar with all of these over time.  Here is a summary of the five types of steps:


Display pages

These are pages of static text; you simply read these!


This is a two-part step: first you answer a question, and second you look at other student’s answers.  You can’t see the other answers until you make an answer! 
      These are most often anonymous, but may not be; there may be additional things to do, like rate the other student’s answers.


These are threaded discussion activities, similar to many forums on the web.  Top-level can be started, a comment can be replied to, and replies can be replied to, etc (creating a “thread”).
      Generally, you will get these types of activities as homework, and will be required to initiate a comment as well to reply to other student’s comments.


Quizzes are one or more pages, each with one to three questions.  You type answers into a text box, and click submit.  Once you have submitted, you can’t change your answers!  (You can view your answers using the show-all-work icon, however.)

      There is generally a quiz to start each day.  In past semesters, students have taken overly long on quizzes, ignoring the rest of the materials; please finish in a timely way.


Surveys are given a few times over the semester, and give us valuable feedback.  They appear much like quizzes, but have multiple-choice answers as well as fill-in-the-blanks.


Webscheme steps are relatively new; they are interactive pages into which you type or complete programs on which you can get automatic feedback. 

      The pages are sometimes slow to load.  You must wait for the green box, at the upper left corner, to be filled in before you start the page.

Show all work

The show all work icon (  ) is in the upper left of the curriculum window.  You can click on it to see all the answers that you have given.

Extra Brain

The “extra brain” icon (  ) is in the upper left of the curriculum window, and will take you to a simple journaling tool.  With the tool, you can record thoughts (or anything you want), view you earlier entries, print your entries out, and so forth.  Many students have found this tool helpful as they work through the curriculum.

Submitting Work

We are going to use a different system to submit work that we have used in earlier UCWISE semesters.  As such, there may be a few kinks to work out along the way.  As a rule, though, each assignment will have instructions on how to submit your work. 

In general, you will need to create a new directory for each assignment (either from within Unix or from within the My Files area).  Within that directory, you will need to be sure to name the files containing your work exactly as specified in the instructions.  The final step is to use the “submit” program from within Unix. 

Note: the submit program currently can’t be run from your web browser, so, until we tell you differently, you will need to be in Unix to submit assignments.  We are experimenting with one workaround: within you’re My Files area there is a button named “Launch Terminal”.  By clicking on that button, you should get a terminal to Unix from within your web browser.  This won’t help from within the labs, where you should already have a terminal ready, but might be useful from home.

For help with Unix, see the page in this reader titled “One Page introduction to Unix”.