Vanderbilt’s CS 265 (Introduction to Database Management Systems) in Spring 2015 is taught by Doug Fisher (see Personnel and Office Hours), and is scheduled from 4:00 pm to 5:15 pm Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Kissam Multipurpose Room a & b. Some class meetings will be held virtually (e.g., via Shindig) — I regard this as part of professional development. Attendance (or virtual participation) in class is required. Course grades are computed from scores on a midterm exam, a final exam, two group projects, and attendance in class (see Grading).
The course follows one variation of the flipped (or inverted) class model, with three basic components represented each week: (1) pre-class introduction to basic concepts; (2) in-class remediation on and exercise of basic concepts; and (3) post-class followup and reinforcement of material. In particular, each week students will watch video lectures on basic concepts before Tuesday’s class, submitting evidence that this was done at the start of Tuesday’s class. Tuesday’s class will answer questions students might have on the material, as well as contextualize and exercise the concepts in small-group projects with help from the instructor. After Tuesday’s class, students will typically return to the online material, and complete homework, then return to Thursday’s class for further contextualization and exercise of concepts in small groups (see Flipped Classes; Projects).
The great majority of out-of-class lectures are done using Professor Jennifer Widom’s Self-Paced Database mini-courses, offered by Stanford University as an online reference. We are using the material free of charge in CS 265 with the blessing of Professor Widom and Stanford University. Completing and submitting online materials on time has big benefits for your exam grades, and therefore your overall grades (see Flipped Classes).
In addition to learning from me, the online material, and each other, you can optionally engage in other online communities created explicitly to benefit the learning and professional networking of CS 265 students. Hopefully, these communities will include some of over the 500 alums who have taken CS 265 over the past 20 years (see Communities).
Finally, a comment on your workload. 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. You can search for it yourself on the Web, but 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”, about what I do, and a 15 credit hour semester would have you working about 45 hours per week on classes). For a 3 credit course like CS 265, that is approximately 9 hours of work per week, including class time (or 6.5 hours outside of class per week). Of this 6.5 hours, I estimate the time to watch videos and do exercises outside of class will be approximately 4.0 hours per week, leaving about 2.5 hours per week for work on team-based projects for class (on average). I have tried to schedule things so that you will have something of a break the week before Spring break, as well as a break the last week of classes — you’ll still be doing work in CS 265 (coming to class at a minimum!), but I expect the workload will be less during those crunch weeks (so if the average is 9 hours per week, that means it will be more during “non-crunch” weeks). We will be spending considerable in-class time on exercises and project based work as well.