CSC 1035

Databases for Many Majors

Spring, 2020

Home Page and Syllabus


Times and Location

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:00-11:15, MSC G90


Table of Contents


About the Course

Welcome to CSC 1035 - Databases for Many Majors! Although databases is one of the hottest and most ubiquitous computer technologies, it's still possible to acquire an understanding of some of the underlying ideas without too much background. Furthermore, there are some user-friendly tools around that will let you actually design and use databases fairly painlessly. The major goals of this course are to help you with understanding, designing and using databases. There's a blurb on the departmental website that is a little more detailed than the online catalog. Note: Although you will be acquiring good practical skills (see the paragraph about the term projects), this course is more than just a "how to" one: it's important to have a good understanding of the conceptual aspects of databases, as well as the practical ones.

Much of your learning will be done in class, in your group settings (see below). However, in order to do more than just pass this course, you'll need to spend a fair amount of time outside class, especially on some of the more challenging material.

A major component of your deliverables this term will be constructing actual databases. One of these will be the group project, in which you'll be on a team that develops a database. The other will be an individual project, in which you'll develop one that deals with your particular interests. Both projects consist of a number of phases submitted over the course of a major portion of the semester.

Pretty much on a weekly basis, you'll be asked to do some reading outside of class to prepare for the next week's lectures. You'll also be given some specific questions on the reading. One of those questions will be the contents of a very short quiz on the due date. See the discussion of attendance below.

Our department expects about two hours work outside class for every hour of in-class lecture. Most weeks you'll have project submissions (both group and individual), an in-class graded lab and a quiz on the readings. There will also be three hourly exams (but no final! - see the relevant link below).

So here are some good strategies for getting the most out of this course and achieving a good grade at the same time:


Course Objectives

When you complete this course, you'll be able to


News Bulletins and Deadlines

  • May 4) PowerPoint presentations due today. Upload on Blackboard. See next item.
  • May 5) Final Exam slot is 11:30-14:00, so we'll use the time to have the group presentations (g14). Here too, there have been some updates to the specs. Check them out.
  • May 7) No class, but g15 is due. Note bonus for early submission, penalty for late submission, and final date for submission. You'll be getting email from me in a day or two about it. Remember, this phase is done by email and is private between you and me.

  • Cooperative Learning

    We'll be using some innovative pedagogical techniques in our class, primarily cooperative learning. This boils down to doing lots of group work, where the group sizes are three and four, and learning from your peers as well as from me. If you're interested in the primary sources and inspirations of this approach, take a look at this site, and chase some of the links. It's a challenging method of education, but, if you read some of that material, you'll be relieved to find that not only have students experienced cooperative learning and survived, they've even managed, on the whole, to learn better than in a conventional setting.

    We'll start off on day one with temporary groups. By the end of the second week of the course, I hope to have set up your permanent ones (I will make the splits based on a number of factors - see the Felder bibliography on the site linked above for details). The groups will be doing work both in and out of class. Since your group will be depending on you, it's important to be a constructive member of it. I'll try to give some guidance on this. One thing to keep in mind is that, while the beginning of the term is a time when students make schedule adjustments, it wouldn't be classy to drop this course once the group work is underway.

    A successful group will help your grade in three ways:

    1. Periodic labs will be done in groups and submitted for a grade.
    2. Each group will be doing a team project, a major piece of database development. Almost every week will involve submitting some phase on this project.
    3. If every one in your group does well on an exam, then every one in it gets a bonus point or two.


    Instructor

    Dr. Don Goelman
    158 Mendel Science Center
    Voice:(610) 519-7346
    FAX: (610) 519-7889
    email: don.goelman@villanova.edu
    Office hours: T 2:00-4:00, Th 3:00-4:00 and by appointment.


    Text and Other References


    Grading


    Microsoft Access

    As our text mentions, there are many DBMS's (that's "Database Management Systems") around. One of the easiest ones to find and to learn is Microsoft's Access product. It's part of MS-Office, and the user interface resembles software you're very familiar with, like MS-Word and MS-Excel, so we'll be using it in this class. Our textbook also has a much-expanded treatment of this software in the current edition. Some labs and project phases will help you get acquainted with MS-Access.

    For accessing Access, here are the most recent instructions. However, they may need to be updated this term, so stay tuned. You would typically do it through vDesktop. You might find it even more convenient to have it on your own laptop. Windows users can purchase Microsoft Office Professional Plus (which includes Access) through the University (last year's price was $9.99). We're looking into options for Mac users. Either way, you should probably figure on bringing your laptop to class as a matter of habit, since many labs will involve practice with that system.

    Resources to assist you with MS-Access are

    That said, you should watch for differing versions of MS-Access (just like MS-Word). Our graduate assistant will be able to assist you with any challenges related to such version changes.

    There are a couple of other things to get used to:

  • Some Villanova resources now require a two-stage process for accessing them from home.
  • If you do some MS-Access work on one system at the University, you'll probably want to continue it elsewhere (on another computer; or even at home; ...). One way to do this is to save the database file on your N:\ drive (which follows you everywhere at Villanova.)
  • The TA and I can help you negotiate these various processes.


    Graduate Assistant

    The TA for this course will be YaminiPriya Lingamaneni, beginning January 27. Her email is ylingama@villanova.edu, and office hours will be Mondays from 4:00 to 5:00 and Wednesdays from 3:00 to 4:00 PM and by appointment. The location will be MSC 158.

    She can help you in a number of ways, especially in understanding some of the more challenging material, in explaining difficult concepts of the text, in helping you with upcoming project phases, in helping you with MS-Access, and in rounding up copies of handouts you may have missed.

    Remember to cc her on any email that you send me (unless if it's of a personal nature), all project phases and questions of any type, unless those phases are being uploaded to Blackboard, which she will have access to.


    Other Gurus: Peer Tutoring

    The department also has a "peer tutoring" system, where students who've taken particular courses can help field questions about them. See this site for details.


    About Email and Blackboard

    The TA and I will frequently be sending important messages to your Villanova email address, so you should be checking it several times weekly. If there's a problem with this, you should contact us to solve it. Other communication, of course, will be via Blackboard, which includes this website.


    About Hourly and Final (there is none) Exams

    In this course your learning will be assessed by the term project, quizzes, and three hourly exams, with the last one to occur on the second last day of class. There will be no final exam! This will allow us to use the 150-minute slot allotted for the final for another purpose, namely the team presentations of their database term project. More information about this appears in the links to Grades, Project and elsewhere.


    Students with Disabilities

    Students with disabilities who require reasonable academic accommodations should schedule an appointment to discuss specifics with me. It is the policy of Villanova to make reasonable academic accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities. You must present verification and register with the Learning Support Office by contacting 610-519-5176 or at learning.support.services@villanova.edu. For physical access or temporary disabling conditions, please contact the Office of Disability Services at 610-519-4095 or email Stephen.mcwilliams@villanova.edu. Registration is needed in order to receive accommodations.


    Academic Integrity

    All students are expected to uphold Villanova's Academic Integrity Policy and Code. Any incident of academic dishonesty will result in an "F" for the assignment and will be reported to the appropriate university officials, per regulations in the (Liberal Arts and Sciences) Catalog. You can view the Academic Integrity Policy and Code, as well as other useful information related to writing papers, at the Academic Integrity Gateway web site. You should also familiarize yourself with the details that you can find on these sites:
    The department's academic integrity overview page
    The department's academic integrity policy

    Additionally, you might also want to take a look at the ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

    Finally, the University has asked all faculty to include this reminder about presentation materials used in courses.

    Other Useful Links


    Other Policies (late submissions, extra credit)

  • Project phases can come in up to midnight on the due date, after which "late fees" are imposed.
  • There won't be any opportunities for extra credit in this class. The reason is that it's too difficult to administer this in a consistent manner that is fair to everyone.

  • Last updated: May 3, 2020