Vanderbilt’s CS x265 (Introduction to Database Management Systems) in Spring 2017 is taught by Doug Fisher (see Personnel and Office Hours).

Meeting Times and Places

Class is scheduled in the Engineering & Science Building 048, which is the new building with the Wondr’y and by Olin Hall.

  • Tuesdays from 8:10 am to 9:25 am at ESB 048 (office hours covering this material are 4:15 – 5:30 pm Tuesdays at Kissam Center C216)
  • Thursdays from in 8:10 am to 9:25 am at ESB 048 (office hours covering this material are 4:15 – 5:30 Wednesdays at Kissam Center C216)

The Kissam Center 216 meetings are my office hours, but they are also alternative meetings covering the same material as their respective regular-class hours for those who are insufficiently alert at 8:10 am. IMPORTANT: All in-class exams will take place ONLY at the 8:10 am times in ESB 048.

Materials and Logistics

Each class meeting on the schedule is associated with material that you will study in advance of class. The necessary conceptual material can be obtained in one of two ways. You can learn through watching lectures and doing exercises on Professor Jennifer Widom’s Self-Paced Database mini-courses, offered by Stanford University as an online reference ( Alternatively, or additionally, you can read from an optional textbook (A First Course in Database Systems, 3rd edition, by Ullman and Widom, U/W), which you can obtain independently.

I recommend the free and online minicourses as your primary study resource. Of all the textbooks I have ever used, this “multimedia text” is the only one that has received (apparently) unanimous and enthusiastic endorsement from students in classes over the last few years.

If you choose the online and free course as your primary “multimedia textbook”, then you can register as a user, or you can access the same material without registering, by using the “explore course” option. Read guidelines for using the online course and we will discuss these options in our first class.

Most all information regarding the course is found on these pages. Blackboard will be used for the grade book and submission of assignments, quizzes, and project deliverables. The discussion forum on Blackboard is also available.


Course grades are computed from scores on several exams, quizzes, assignments, and a group project. These assessments and their weights in computing grades are discussed at Grading.


Vanderbilt has no stated guideline (that I can find) on the amount you work per credit hour, but other universities state an expectation of an average of 3 hours per credit hour per week. This passes my sanity check (a 20 credit hour semester would have you working 60 hours per week on classes if every class were exactly at “expectation”, and a 15 credit hour semester would have you working about 45 hours per week on classes). For a 3 credit course like CS x265, that is approximately 9 hours of work per week, including class time (or 6.5 hours outside of class per week). You will see my time estimates for various activities on the Schedule, which I’ve used for designing the syllabus.

Data Diaries

Data diaries are relatively open-ended logs where students place readings, design sketches, evidence of other outside-of-class learning, and other thoughts, observations, and resource pointers. For example, over the course of the semester your data diary might include pointers to articles on cyber-security, with brief comments; similar entries for data mining articles; articles on medical and environmental applications, with your own original design sketches that reverse engineer the relevant databases; weekly progress updates on a prototype implementation of an original mobile app with a database backend; certificates showing completion of online database modules; identification of patterns in personal data on diet, exercise, music; novel and challenging SQL queries; thoughts that are triggered by formal course requirements; and other possibilities.

Data diaries are optional for CS 3265 students.

Graduate Credit

If you are taking the course for graduate credit (CS 5265) then you must submit data diary entries with at least two weekly entries for each week of the course, including exam weeks.

Only share what you don’t mind the instructor, TA, and graders seeing — you will be submitting data diary updates weekly on Blackboard.

See related tabs on Motivation and Honor Code.