General Information


Geoffrey Towell
259 Park Science Building
gtowell at brynmawr dot edu


Lecture Hours MW 11:40am -- 1:00pm
Room Park 245
Lab Hours W 2:40 -- 4:00
If it is more convenient for you, lab may also be done W 1:10-2:30. (See my office hours below)
Lab Room Park 231
Office Hours T 11am-Noon, W 1:10 -- 2:30
Also by appointment
Zoom Meeting code: 232 840 6920. Password: given in class, or ask me
Course Description This course will focus on the how to employ and deploy databases for use in real-world systems. Thus the course focuses on the practical aspects of using existing database management systems (DBMS) rather than the task of creating a new DBMS. Implementation tasks will, as a result, focus on why structures exist within databases and how those structures impact use. There will be extensive discussion and use of: relational and object-relational DBMS (using PostgreSQL); NoSQL databases (using MongoDB); text-only databases; and spreadsheet-based database-like applications. In addition we will discuss web-based approaches to data access both from the server side (node.js) and the client side (html and javascript).
Computer Lab Park 231
Instructions for using the lab computers
Remote accessible lab computer status


Database System Concepts
by Silberschatz, Korth and Sudarshan

Not required But I have found useful
Learning SQL
by Beaulieu

Not required But I have found useful
MongoDB: The definitive guide
by Bradshaw, Brazil and Chodorow

Important Dates

  • Jan 19, First Class
  • March 2Feb 28 Midterm
  • Exam period, Final Exam


There will be several homework assignments. Homework will be electronically submitted.

All assignments must be turned in on time. If there are compelling reasons why you cannot turn in an assignment on time, you must ask for permission at least 48 hours in advance of the due date.

Despite my best efforts, homeworks may have sections that are not quite correct. If you find an error, let me know. If I agree that the issue is an issue and you have told me of the issue at least 48 hours prior to the due date then I will give bonus points as follows:

3 points for the first issue reported
2 points for the second issue reported
1 point for the third issue reported
Ordering of the bonus points is based on date of email receipt. One bonus per person per assignment.

Homework 1 Jan 27 A lot of setup steps, making sure that everything works for you.
Homework 2 Feb 13 Some fairly complex SQL queries
Homework 3 Feb 23 Your own dataset and writeup thereon
Homework 4 April 6 Putting your data into databases
Homework 5 April 28 A web site for access to your data


Labs will often look like programming assignments, just smaller. All labs can be done on the CS department lab machines or on personal machines (assuming you have installed the appropriate software.) Labs Labs are due by midnight Thursday.


This course is intended to be fairly free-flowing with a lot of discussion. Therefore, I will not normally publish powerpoint lecture notes. I will try to restrict my commentary to topics covered in the text.

Course Policies


Attendance and active participation are expected in every class. Participation includes asking questions, contributing answers, proposing ideas, and providing constructive comments.

Please stay in touch with me, particularly if you feel stuck on a topic or assignment and can't figure out how to proceed. Often a quick e-mail, or face-to-face conference can reveal solutions to problems and generate renewed creative and scholarly energy. It is essential that you begin assignments early.


Grades will be awarded based on the number of points earned and according to the percentage breakdowns shown.
Homework 30% 34%
Class Participation 10%
Lab 5% 6%
Midterms (1) 15% 20%
Class Presentations (2) 20% 25%
Final exam 20%
Presentation on Hw5 Project 5%
Midterm Answers
The mid-term exam will be on a class day and timed to take a class period. However, it will be self-scheduled. You may take it any time starting about 9am. You must complete it before midnight.

All exams will be open everything. The only restriction is that you may not discuss the exam, in any way, with anyone until 24 hours after the exam (unless you are told otherwise).

Incomplete grades will be given only for verifiable medical illness or other such dire circumstances. Incomplete grades must be approved through the Dean's office.

ALL work submitted for grading should be entirely YOUR OWN (except for labs) and group work. Sharing of programs, code snippets, etc. is not permitted under ANY circumstances. That said, I encourage you to discuss assignments at an algorithmic level with other students. That is, talk about the problem, and general approaches to problems. Do not share or discuss actual code.


Learning Accommodations

Students requesting accommodations in this course because of the impact of disability are encouraged to meet with me privately early in the semester with a verification letter. Students not yet approved to receive accommodations should also contact Deb Alder, Coordinator of Accessibility Services, at 610-526-7351 in Guild Hall, as soon as possible, to verify their eligibility for reasonable accommodations. Early contact will help avoid unnecessary inconvenience and delays.

This class may be recorded.

Creating a Welcoming Environment

All members of the Instruction Staff are dedicated to the cause of improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field of computing, and to supporting the wellness and mental health of our students.

Diversity and Inclusion

It is essential that all members of the course community – the instructor, TAs, and students – work together to create a supportive, inclusive environment that welcomes all students, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, or socioeconomic status. All participants in this course deserve to and should expect to be treated with respect by other members of the community. Class meetings, lab sessions, office hours, and group working time should be spaces where everyone feels welcome and included. In order to foster a welcoming environment, students of this course are expected to: exercise consideration and respect in their speech and actions; attempt collaboration and consideration, including listening to opposing perspectives and authentically and respectfully raising concerns, before conflict; refrain from demeaning, discriminatory, or harassing behavior and speech.


Additionally, your mental health and wellness are of utmost importance to the course Instruction Staff, if not the College as a whole. All members of the instruction staff will be happy to chat or just to listen if you need someone to talk to, even if it’s not specifically about this course. If you or someone you know is in distress and urgently needs to speak with someone, please do not hesitate to contact BMC Counseling Services: 610-526-7360 (610-526-7778 nights and weekends). If you are uncomfortable reaching out to Counseling Services, any member of the Instruction Staff will be happy to contact them on your behalf. We understand that student life can be extremely difficult, both mentally and emotionally. If you are living with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, or other conditions that may affect you this semester, you are encouraged to discuss these with the Instructor. Although the details are up to you to disclose, the Instruction Staff will do their best to support and accommodate you in order to ensure that you can succeed this course while staying healthy.

Created on January 2021. Subject to constant revision.