Course Organization

CS 265 (Introduction to Database Management Systems) is scheduled 8:10 am to 9:25 am Tuesdays and Thursdays in FGH 211, but required class-wide meetings during these times may be rare (e.g., for first week of classes, exams, etc). Rather, there will be two other types of meetings in lieu of lectures where you will be spending your “in-class” time.

The first of these other meeting types are  “study groups,” which are student-only meetings at set locations and at regularly scheduled 75-minute time slots per-week (presumably on Tuesday or Wednesday).  The goal of study groups is to cover each week’s assigned concepts (i.e., as an in-class lecture might otherwise), by discussing assigned reading (and optionally video) material addressing those concepts and working through problem sets. Study group attendance is required, and at least one study group option will include Tuesdays from 8:10-9:25. See more on study groups below.

The second meeting type are “project meetings” (see the Projects tab), in which two project teams (of three students each), meet with the instructor, Doug Fisher, and TA, Jaymes Winger, for 60 minutes at a regularly scheduled time. The goal of project meetings are to discuss DB concepts within larger DB designs, giving each project team a place to discuss intermediate project results and goals. You can think of project meetings as a “lab.” These will be scheduled for Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The remainder of the 150 minutes allotted for in-class time per week will be for weekly quizzes. You can take weekly quizzes at any time after their release (no later than Monday 12:00 Noon) and Tuesday before 8:00 AM. They will cover the concepts assigned the previous week. Quizzes will be available online, you will print out the quiz, sign an honor code pledge, take the quiz and turn it in to the CS office, slide under my door, or upload a pdf to Oak.

In sum, a week is roughly scheduled as follows:

  • Mondays (until Tuesday early morning): take a quiz on material assigned the previous week
  • Tuesdays and Wednesday Mornings: study groups exercise recently assigned material (that you were just quizzed on)
  • Wednesday Afternoons/Evenings and Thursdays: Project meetings with Doug and Jaymes further exercise material in context of larger projects
  • Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays (and any time really): work through newly assigned readings, project teams meet and prepare deliverables, etc.

Each week you will have an assigned reading from the course textbook (Ullman and Widom, Optionally, you can watch lectures (which I highly recommend) by Professor Jennifer Widom, the textbook’s coauthor, which are online and available through COURSERA ( Assigned readings and optional videos are given in the course “Schedule,” and you should complete them BEFORE  you take the Monday (to early morning Tuesday) quiz.

Because readings are expected to be done ahead of time (accompanied by optional lectures), study group time will be spent on problem sets, database designs and implementations, and open discussion on the material; problem sets and designs will be made available ahead of corresponding study group meeting times.

More on study groups

Rather than meeting for a plenary lecture-based class, students will meet in groups of approximately 5 or more students (ideally) during alternative REGULARLY SCHEDULED times (in 75 min slots) to discuss material. In the first week of classes a Doodle poll will be set up so that students can indicate availability from selected times, to include times nominated by students. These candidate times will be anytime Tuesdays and Wednesday mornings of each week. The Doodle poll will be private, so that only the instructor can see the results. From the Doodle poll results, several alternative meeting times, for which meeting space is available, will be posted and students will sign up for a “home” study group, which will meet as a 75 min slot per week. [Study group
times have been fixed]

In short, students need not attend “class” during the 8:10-9:25 meeting time, but they must regularly attend a study group of equivalent time each week.


1) while students should have one home study group in mind when they take the poll, a student may attend another group in addition to (at any time) or in lieu of (presumably from time to time) their “home” group ; this is one reason that it is important that groups meet at designated times and in designated locations that are arranged by the instructor

2) at least one study group will be scheduled for 8:10 – 9:25 Tuesday in FGH 211; a student that doesn’t want to or can’t make any other study group, will be assigned to this (default) group. As indicated in (1), members of other groups can attend the default group at any time.

3) Other 75 min slots can be at any time on Tuesday through Wednesday, so long as they occur in locations open to all CS 265 students.

4) Each week, a study group “leader” will facilitate discussion of the week’s problem sets and database design challenges. The leader will be responsible for summarizing the study group’s findings and discussion on the course-wide discussion board (which will typically simply entail uploading the group’s answers to exercises). The role of “leader” rotates each week. For larger study groups, there may be more than one leader each week. For each study group meeting, the leader will post the summary “On behalf of <list of students in attendance at THAT meeting>”. Attendance at a study group meeting can be occasionally through Web-based video (e.g., Skype, Google hangouts). Though the week’s leaders will post a summary, all students are encouraged to participate in Discussion Board forums at all times.

5) The final 15 min of each study group meeting should be used by all group members to help the leader(s) put together the final group submission, so it can be uploaded by the end of the study group

6) On occasion attendance by everyone at the 8:10 – 9:25 class in FGH 211 will be required. In these cases, members of all groups will be credited for 75 min that week (i.e., no study groups that week).

More on project groups and meetings

There are two primary team projects. Each project team, which will typically remain the same throughout the semester (exceptions possible), will include three students. I’ll meet with two teams at a time (6 students each meeting) weekly in my office, for a total of 5 meetings a week of an hour each. We’ll assign groups based on your preferences for teammates, as well as schedule compatibility. Each team will be assigned a meeting time that will remain the same throughout the semester; we’ll schedule after the first week’s Doodle poll. Wednesday afternoons and evenings, as well as possibilities on Thursday, will be the options on the poll.

It is possible that many students are so constrained by their schedules that the only time that they could participate in project meetings is during the Thursday morning regularly scheduled class time. One of the project meeting options will be 8:15 AM – 9:15 AM on Thursday, and in the unlikely event that there are so many students who can only make this Thursday morning slot (or that simply strongly prefer it), then we will “overload” that slot and meet as a larger group. My experience, however, is that most students will prefer a smaller meeting, particularly in a design course.


The factors that go into grading and the weight given to each are:

  • Quizzes : <= 10%
  • Study-group, project meeting, class attendance:   >=5% (<=25%)
  • Exams:    <= 50%
  • Projects (deliverables):  <= 35%

The bounds above are defaults that will likely apply to almost all students, but note that the Study-group/project-meeting/class attendance bound is a lower bound and that the other categories are upper bounds. There are 28 scheduled 75 min class meetings in a regular 14 week semester. If we remove the two days when exams are given (no need to penalize you twice) and eliminate the first day (before you know the guidelines) that leaves 25 “meetings” (study groups, project team meetings, plenary classes).  If a student misses NO MORE THAN 5 “meetings” then the participation weight remains 5% (and there is no per-meeting penalty, thus allowing for interview days that many of you will be using, and the like); in contrast, if a student misses more than 5 meetings, there is a per meeting penalty (of 1/25) and the attendance weight rises in increments (and other weights are lowered accordingly). The full schedule of meeting attendance weights is:

  • from 0 to 5 meetings missed:  5% of final grade total (no per meeting penalty)
  • 6 to 10 meetings missed: 10% of grade (with a 1/25 per meeting penalty)
  • 11 to 15 meetings missed: 15% of grade (with a 1/25 per meeting penalty)
  • 16 to 20 meetings missed: 20% of grade (with a 1/25 per meeting penalty)
  • 21 to 25 meetings missed: 25% of grade (with a 1/25 per meeting penalty)

Remember that in the case of study groups, you can go to meetings of other, non-home study groups as needed to avoid missed meetings. I am also certainly open to the possibility of “excused” absences in cases of emergencies and the like.

BTW, I have some sympathy for the view, which some may hold, that your grade should stand only on your exams, project, and quiz performance, regardless of how many meetings attended, but remember that your participation helps others learn, as well as facilitating your learning. In this regard, recognize the relevance of the 10th tenet of the IEEE Code of Conduct: ”to assist colleagues and co-workers in their professional development and support them in following this code of ethics.” So I want you to attend and participate, even if (especially if) you know the material unaided.

See related tabs on Motivation and Honor Code.


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