ICS 421: Database Systems

(Spring 2009)

Final version of this syllabus will be distributed in class

Instructor: Luz. M. Quiroga, Assistant Professor
Class Meetings: Asynchronous online class; weekly lessons will be released on Saturdays, 9am
Discourse site: http://discourse.ics.hawaii.edu
ICS 421
Website: http://www2.hawaii.edu/~lquiroga/courses/ics421/ics421.htm
Office hours: After class or by appointment
Office location: POST 305E
Office Phone: phone: 956-9988
E-mail: lquiroga@hawaii.edu
Listserv: ics421sp08@lists.hawaii.edu

Course Description (from UH catalog)
This class covers principles of database systems, data modeling, relational models, database design, and web-driven databases. This is a project-driven course; the project will address a real life information need / problem to be solved with a database system. Fundamentals on systems analysis and the database application lifecycle will be the framework for the project.
For ICS students: ICS 311 and 321
For LIS students: Any of these courses: LIS647, LIS663, LIS670, LIS672, LIS678
For other students: Instructor consent
Course Learning Objectives
At the end of this course students will have learned database fundamentals, including:

  1. Basic data modeling principles
  2. General architecture for database systems
  3. The relational model and languages
  4. Phases of database design: conceptual, logical and physical database designs
  5. The Entity Relationship (ER) model; UML notation; modeling tools (e.g. Microsoft Visio)
  6. Database Management Systems (Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL)
  7. Web technologies; CSS, XML; programming tools (ASP, ColdFusion, PHP)

Students will also gain practical experience and will be able to:

  1. Act as a contributing member of a database design team.
  2. Identify user needs and requirements; convert them to specifications for the database system, applying system analysis and data gathering methodologies.
  3. Apply various software tools for database design
  4. Implement a web-enabled database prototype which meets the users requirements
Course structure and activities
Class sessions will combine lectures, demos, tutorials, quizzes, exercises, assignments, presentations and discussions. Each week's session will be posted on WebCT every Saturdays at 9am. Before each class session, students should have completed the assigned readings, bringing questions and comments to the class. Early in the semester, students will form teams and actually get involved in a real - small database project of their choice, which will start with requirement analysis, followed by a prototype design and implementation. Each team will periodically present progress reports and will have online or f2f meetings with the instructor to discuss the progress reports. Final reports on your projects will be presented to the class, both orally and in written forms at the end of the semester. Students will use WebCT to form teams for the project and to discuss the team's progress.
Required Text Supplemental Material
Additional readings will suggested by the instructor and / or the co-teachers. In those cases, students will receive copies or links to the chapters in advance. Selected chapters from following books might be assigned as reading:
Teaching Philosophy
I believe in collaborative learning, where we all learn from each other. I also believe that students will benefit from exposure to real life situations, as it will foster their critical thinking. Working in a group helps students to improve their communication skills, which is something highly appreciated by most organizations. I also believe that it is everyone's social responsibility to contribute in developing solutions to some of the problems in our community. As a result, this is project-driven course -- rather than lecture-driven. Students are encouraged to work as a group solving real world, community needs.
Grading summary
Evaluation will be partly individual and partly team based, according to the following formula:

Class exercises, participation, leadership 15%
Homework (4) - 7% each 28%
Quizzes 12%
Mid-semester assessment 15%
Group project (30%)  
  Team assessment (21%)  
    Project progress reports (4) - 2.5% each 10%
    Final project report 6%
    Final project presentation and Poster 5%
  Individual assessment (9%)  
    Project journals (4) - 1% each 4%
    Contribution to the group project 2.5%
    Client's evaluation 2.5%

Class exercises, participation, leadership:
Students should have completed the assigned readings for each week. Class participation includes contributing actively in asynchronous discussions in the forums, asking and answering questions or providing comments about issues related to the readings, and sharing ideas on WebCT about class exercises. The class exercises are short and are based on the readings due.
There will be four (4) homeworks that must be completed individually. Each homework is worth 7% of the grade. Nevertheless, additional homework may be assigned if necessary (there will be class announcements if that happens). Academic dishonesty will result in the grade F for the homework and will be reported to ICS/LIS Department for further actions.
Mid-semester assessment:
The mid-semester assessment covers all the material included in the assigned readings, sessions 1-6 .
Group Project
Students will work in a team for the course project during the whole semester and the final product will be a database prototype. The number of students per group will depend on the complexity of the project. Students will identify a "client" with a problem that can be at least partially solved with the creation of a database. Students will meet with the client (f2f, chat, audio or video conference, etc.) in order to gather information to define the problem, identify specifications, analyze data, and come up with a database solution. Analysis of the user needs and user-based design will be emphasized, which means that the technical solution will have to be adjusted to the client's specifications and requirements.

Each team has to be ready to spend at least four hours per week working in the project. The client will have to be willing to frequently meet with the students to facilitate their data collection and to discuss their ongoing and updated proposals. Hopefully, the client will be actively involved as part of the design team.

The final report should include an executive summary, a description of the problem, requirements, specifications, limitations and the database solution. Modeling tools and diagrams may also prove useful appendices. The appropriateness of the solution and its justification will be the primary factors in grading. Clarity of expression (including proper use of English, aptness of illustrations, logical organization, etc.) will also be of major concern. Appearance (layout, font selection, paper, print quality, binding, etc.) will also be taken into account. Projects will be presented during the last week of the semester. Examples of projects developed in the previous semesters will be made available. The final project report will be submitted and presented to the class during the final examinations week (May 12-16). Exact day-time will be negotiated with the instructor.
Project progress reports:
To make the task more manageable, the final project report has been broken down into four project reports (PR) written by the team. Each report will help you build the final project report part by part. With every project report due, you must also provide a project documentation. A project documentation refers to information collected while working on the project, such as field notes, comments, etc. The documentation section is used only for the development of the project and should not be given to the client. Therefore, you should always keep the project documentation separate from the project report. Nevertheless, they must both be turned in at the same time. After submission of each progress report, each team should schedule a meeting with the instructor to discuss progress and next steps. Meetings can be held face to face, online or using audio conferencing.
Project Journals:
With each project progress report, students will turn in an INDIVIDUAL, project journal. The project journals are used to evaluate the student's progress and how well each student is doing. A journal is due at the same time the project progress report is due. Since project journals are individual and confidential work, they should not be read by other team members. Therefore, each student MUST turn in his/her own journal.
Project Poster:
Your group should provide a new Power Point file that will contain a single slide that summarizes your project. It can be a collection of well organized slides from your project presentation Power Point file, along with additional pictures, and more. Your creativity will be needed to make it appealing, yet still informative.
Grading Scale:
100 + outstanding work: A+ 100-94 A 93-90 A-
89-97 B+ 86-83 B 82-80 B-
79-77 C+ 76-73 C 72-70 C-
69-67 D+ 66-63 D 62-60 D-
Communication Technology Requirements
You will receive instructions for downloading the required software to your own computers.
Students with special needs
Students with special needs as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, should discuss their needs with the instructor at the beginning of the semester, in order to make the necessary arrangements early in advance.
Missing class policy:
Missing a session affects overall class participation; it will also affect the grade if there happens to be an exercise or quiz during the class. With a valid excuse (e.g. health problems, attending a professional meeting) the student will be asked to post in disCourse a class review or a a brief summary (no more than 2 pages) of the meeting attended if it pertains to the course concepts.
Late assignments, exercises policy:
With no valid excuse: the grade for the assignment will be reduced by 20% per each late day.
With a valid excuse: a fair deadline will be negotiated.
Format for ALL Deliverables: Take the following into consideration:
Course Schedule
See the course schedule at