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UW-Madison CS 540 Fall 2020

Introduction to Artificial Intelligence

Course format announcement

Aug 28 · 0 min read

Welcome to CS 540! This website is the home page for both section 001 and section 002 of CS 540 in the Fall 2020 semester. Because of the online format, the web site, Piazza discussion, and Canvas resources have been merged. Each section will still have its own office hours and grading. We’re excited to begin the semester with you.


Course Information

Course learning outcomes: Students gain principles of knowledge-based search techniques; automatic deduction, knowledge representation using predicate logic, machine learning, probabilistic reasoning. Students develop applications in tasks such as problem solving, data mining, game playing, natural language understanding, and robotics.

Number of credits associated with the course: 3

How credit hours are met by the course: For each 50 minutes of classroom instruction, a minimum of two hours of out of class student work is expected. This course has two 75-minute classes each week over approximately 15 weeks, which amounts to the standard definition of a 3-credit course.

Prerequisite: (COMP SCI 300 or 367) and (MATH 211, 217, 221, or 275), mathematical maturity.

Optional Textbook: Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach (4th edition). Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig. Pearson, 2020. ISBN 978-0134610993.

Lecture Delivery

During lecture hours: Each lecture will be a series of short pre-recorded videos posted to Canvas before class. The lecture will be divided into three blocks. In each block, the instructor will broadcast a short video using BBCollaborate Ultra, pause for interactive Q&A, and deliver short quiz questions to clear up any confusion before proceeding to the next block. All video content will also be available to watch asynchronously outside of the lecture time. We suggest watching the content during class time, posting questions on Piazza during the lecture, and participating in the quiz. However, we acknowledge that your time constraints may not allow synchronous participation.

We will use Piazza for real-time Q&A during lectures. Please follow these rules:

  • Please check if someone has posted the same / similar question before you; it’s much easier if we build on the thread.
  • Use an informative “Summary” line to help others.

To summarize: In class you watch videos with the instructor, ask / discuss questions on Piazza, and take short quizzes as poll.


  • Midterm Exam: about 15%
  • Final Exam: about 15%
  • Homework Assignments: about 70%

Note: The distribution of CS540 final grades has been as follows. This is an approximation, and changes from semester to semester. The median student’s course grade is usually a low B or high BC. The percentiles refer to ranking based on the final weighted score.

  • A top ~20% of class
  • AB next ~20%
  • B next ~20%
  • BC next ~20%
  • C next ~15%
  • D next ~3%
  • F next ~2%

Homework Policies

Homework assignments will include written problems and sometimes programming in Python. Frequently-asked questions (FAQs) on homework assignments will be e-mailed to the class mailing list. Homework is always due the minute before class starts on the due date. Late submissions will not be accepted. Assignment grading questions must be raised with the TAs within 72 hours after it is returned. Regrading request for a part of a homework question may trigger the grader to regrade the entire homework and could potentially take points off. Regrading will be done on the original submitted work, no changes allowed.

We will drop TWO lowest homework score from your final homework average calculation. This drop is meant for emergency. We do not provide additional drops, late days, or homework extensions.

We encourage you to use a study group for doing your homework. Students are expected to help each other out, and if desired, form ad-hoc homework groups.


There will be a midterm exam and a final exam. All exams will be conducted online through Canvas. Students are allowed to choose their own exam schedule within a window of 24 hours. Makeup exams will not be scheduled. Please plan for exams at these times and let us know about any exam conflicts during the first two weeks of the semester. If an emergency arises that conflicts with the exam times, email us as soon as possible. Emergency exam conflicts will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Exam grading questions must be raised with the instructor within 72 hours after it is returned. If a regrade request is submitted for a part of a question on the exam, the grader reserves the right to regrade the entire exam and could potentially take points off.

Office Hours

Instructors / TAs / peer mentors will hold office hours in BBCollaborate Ultra, where the 250-student limit should not be an issue. In Canvas, go to the CS540 course, on the left menu you will find BBCollaborate Ultra. We set up an “Office hour test” session, you can join that session at any time to get familiar with the system. That session is not monitored, though, so don’t expect someone to chat with you – use the actual sessions that will be set up later. Students should attend the office hours for the section in which they originally enrolled.

Website template from Just the Class by Kevin Lin.
Website content derived from Jerry Zhu and Hobbes LeGault’s CS 540 Spring 2020 site.