COMP261 (2021) - Algorithms and Data Structures


This course covers a range of algorithms and data structures building on the fundamental structures and algorithms from COMP 103. The major areas covered are: graph algorithms, graphics algorithms and advanced data structures. This course takes a practical approach focusing on the implementation of a wide variety of algorithms.

Course learning objectives

Students who pass this course should be able to:

  1. Select, adapt, and implement a wide range of standard algorithms and data structures to construct software solutions to complex problems (BE 3(a), 3(d), 3(f), BSc 1, 2).
  2. Understand algorithms described in pseudocode and to use analysis of an algorithm's time and space requirements to determine applicability to a problem (BE 3(a), 3(b), BSc 3).
  3. Recognise the distinction between "easy" problems, 'hard' (NP) problems, and uncomputable problems and the consequences for constructing algorithms and programs for such problems (BE 3(b), BSc 3,4).
  4. Know and be able to implement important algorithms related to graphs, searching, parsing, basic graphics rendering, and B-Trees (BE 3(a), BSc 2).

Course content

The course is primarily offered in-person, but there will also be a remote option and there will be online alternatives for all the components of the course for students who cannot attend in-person.
Students taking this course remotely must have access to a computer with camera and microphone and a reliable high speed internet connection that will support real-time video plus audio connections and screen sharing.  Students must be able to use Zoom; other communication applications may also be used. A mobile phone connection only is not considered sufficient.   The comuputer must be adequate to support the programming required by the course: almost any modern windows, macintosh, or unix laptop or desktop computer will be sufficient, but an Android or IOS tablet will not.
If the assessment of the course includes tests, the tests will generally be run in-person on the Kelburn campus. There will be a remote option for students who cannot attend in-person and who have a strong justification (for example, being enrolled from overseas). The remote test option will use a system for online supervision of the tests. Students who will need to use the remote test option must contact the course coordinator in the first two weeks to get permission and make arrangements.

Withdrawal from Course

Withdrawal dates and process:


AProf Alex Potanin (Coordinator)

Dr Yi Mei

Teaching Format

This course will be offered in-person and online.  For students in Wellington, there will be a combination of in-person components and web/internet based resources. It will also be possible to take the course entirely online for those who cannot attend on campus, with all the components provided in-person also made available online.
During the trimester there will be up to three lectures and a tutorial for you to sign up and attend during the week.

Student feedback

Student feedback on University courses may be found at:

Dates (trimester, teaching & break dates)

  • Teaching: 22 February 2021 - 28 May 2021
  • Break: 05 April 2021 - 18 April 2021
  • Study period: 31 May 2021 - 03 June 2021
  • Exam period: 04 June 2021 - 19 June 2021

Class Times and Room Numbers

22 February 2021 - 04 April 2021

  • Monday 10:00 - 10:50 – MT228, Student Union, Kelburn
  • Thursday 10:00 - 10:50 – MT228, Student Union, Kelburn
  • Friday 10:00 - 10:50 – MT228, Student Union, Kelburn
19 April 2021 - 30 May 2021

  • Monday 10:00 - 10:50 – MT228, Student Union, Kelburn
  • Thursday 10:00 - 10:50 – MT228, Student Union, Kelburn
  • Friday 10:00 - 10:50 – MT228, Student Union, Kelburn

Other Classes

There are tutorials as shown in the Timetable page of the course home page hosted by ECS.


There are no required texts for this offering.

Mandatory Course Requirements

There are no mandatory course requirements for this course.

If you believe that exceptional circumstances may prevent you from meeting the mandatory course requirements, contact the Course Coordinator for advice as soon as possible.


The two tests will take place in the lectures during weeks 7 and 12 respectively. The first four assignments will be due during the normal 12 main teaching weeks while assignment 5 will be due towards the end of the "assessment period".

Assessment ItemDue Date or Test DateCLO(s)Percentage
Assignments 1-5 (10% each)TBCCLO: 1,2,3,450%
Test 1Week 7CLO: 1,2,3,425%
Test 2Week 12CLO: 1,2,3,425%


Policy for Late Submissions:
Each student will have 3 "late days" which you may choose to use for any assignment or assignments during the course. There will be no penalty applied for these late days. You do not need to apply for these - any late days you have left will be automatically applied to assignments that you submit late.
The submission system will give you 72 hours worth of "seconds" to use throughout the five assignments, so this gives you more leeway and it will be automatically calculated and reported to you by the ECS Student Marks system.
After the 3 late days have used up, any assignment submitted up to 24 hours after the deadline will be penalised by 20% of your marks, and any assignment submitted between 24 and 48 hours after the deadline will be penalised by 40% of you marks. Any assignment submitted 48 hours or more after the deadline will not be marked and will get 0 marks.


Individual extensions will only be granted in exceptional personal circumstances, and should be negotiated with the course coordinator before the deadline whenever possible. Documentation (eg, medical certificate) may be required.

Submission & Return

The assignments will be marked in person: you will need to sign up for a 15 minute session with one of the markers for you to demonstrate your program and to talk about key details of your program with the marker. The marking slots will be announced closer to the time and will be posted outside the lab where the marking will take place. Please check the course web page for more information.
If you do not get your assignment marked in the marking slots assigned for that assignment, you will automatically get 10% penalty and if the assignment is not marked by the end of the course, you will get 0% for that assignment. If you have any special circumstances you need to contact the course coordinator a.s.a.p. to see if alternative arrangements can be made if appropriate.
The policy on late submission is as follows:

  • Each assignment will be marked out of 100.
  • Each assignment that is late (ie, submitted on the submission system after the deadline) will be penalised by 20 marks if it is up to 24 hours late, and penalised by 40 marks if it is between 24 hours and 48 hours late. Any work submitted more than 48 hours after the deadline will receive 0 marks.
  • Each student will have 3 "late days" which you may choose to use for any assignment or assignments during the course. There will be no penalty applied for these late days. You do not need to apply for these - any late days you have left will be automatically applied to assignments that you submit late.
  • The late days are intended to cover minor illnesses or other personal reasons for being late. You should only ask for extensions in the case of more significant or longer lasting problems (and you may need documentation). Do not waste "late days" on procrastination!


In order to maintain satisfactory progress in COMP 261, you should plan to spend an average of 10 hours per week on this paper. A plausible and approximate breakdown for these hours would be:

  • Lectures and tutorials: 4 hours,
  • Review and readings: 1 hour,
  • Assignments: 5 hours.

Teaching Plan


Communication of Additional Information

The main means of communication outside of lectures will be the COMP 261 web page at There you will find, among other things, this document, the lecture schedule and assignment handouts, timetable for the lectures/tutorials/helpdesks, and the COMP 261 Forum. The forum is a web-based bulletin board system. Questions and comments can be posted to the forum, and staff will read these posts and frequently respond to them.

Offering CRN: 18314

Points: 15
Prerequisites: COMP 103, ENGR 123 or MATH 161
Duration: 22 February 2021 - 20 June 2021
Starts: Trimester 1
Campus: Kelburn