CSc 050
Computers and Computing


Prof Hours Office Phone Email Web Page
and by appt.
Steinmetz Hall
Room 229

This course provides an introduction to computers and information technology and assumes no previous experience with computers. In addition to learning about the basic concepts of computer systems, students will gain considerable hands-on experience with databases, spreadsheets, and web page design. We also discuss some of the ways in which information technology is impacting today's society.

Course Goals


Basic Computer Architecture
Hardware, Software, operating systems and core functions. (1 week)
Computer Networks, The Internet, and the World Wide Web
Fundamentals of networks; Students design & publish their own web page. (1 week)
Database use and design
Creation, use, and layout of modern databases using Microsoft Access. (1 week)
Spreadsheet use and design
Developing and managing spreadsheet tables using Microsoft Excel. Coverage of design techniques to improve performance. (1 week)
Introduction to a programming language
Project design and implementation using Visual Basic. Use of a programming language to implement simple interfaces. (4-5 weeks)

Who should take this course

This course is targeted to the non-engineering major who needs to function in an ever increasingly computerized society. More than just a survey course, students will be required to work in some detail with various applications in order to develop skills they can apply in other classes or in their careers. The idea is twofold. First, to provide enough practical knowledge such that they will be comfortable with using the types of applications presented. And second, to provide enough theoretical knowledge about why things work so that they can solve problems they encounter in the future. No previous computer knowledge is required. No prerequisites are needed except a desire to work and learn.

A word about class computers

Class time will be a "hands-on" computing environment. There will be lots of time for you to practice with the applications through various demos. During class time, using the computers for other classes' work or for doing unrelated functions (like Web surfing) is NOT permitted.

Materials Needed

  • Computer Confluence, 7th Edition by George Beekman [CC]
  • Microsoft Office Excel 2003 (Illustrated Introductory) by Reding and Wermers [Excel]
  • Microsoft Office Access 2003 (Illustrated Introductory) by L. Friedrichsen [Access]
  • The Visual Basic Coach, by Jeff Salvage [VB]

Some way to keep what you create
You'll want to keep copies of everything you hand in for reference purposes. I recommend either two (2) high-density (1.44 MB) 3.5 inch floppy disks, a zip disk, or a USB drive. You can also email copies of what you create in class to yourself so you can download them at home, or else upload files to your IDOL account using the SSH Secure File Transfer program (for PCs). Always keep a backup copy somewhere. Do not expect the work you do in our Olin classroom to be there the next day.


Homework Assignments. Weekly assignments given involving each application covered. Assignments are based around a theme to illustrate how applications are used collectively toward a common goal. Each assignment must be turned in both on paper and electronically via
Blackboard. Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the due date. Late penalty is 20% per day late. Do not expect to be able to print out your assignment in our Olin classroom right before class starts. Make time to print it out earlier.

Exams. There will be two midterm exams and one final. The midterms will be on Fri, Sept. 30th and Fri, Oct. 28th. Exams are cumulative, closed book, and closed notes. You may bring one page of notes (single-sided) to the second midterm and two pages of notes (single-sided) to the final. No notes are allowed on the first midterm. If you can't be at an exam for a good reason (illness, for example) please come talk to me so we can make other arrangements.


Academic Dishonesty

Students often have some confusion about what might or might not be considered "cheating" in a computer class. In general, you should feel free to ask questions of your fellow students. However, I also need to make sure that you are actually learning, and not simply using other people as a crutch. As with writing a paper for an English class, there is a point at which working together becomes plagiarism. As a rule of thumb, feel free to discuss general solutions to problems, but the writing down of an actual solution must be done solo by you. For example, it is fine to have someone else look at your spreadsheet to help you figure out why a formula isn't working. It is not fine for two people to create their spreadsheets together so that they end up with similar layouts and formulas.

What you need to do

To prepare for class, you are required to do the following:

The Bottom Line

Ask questions and seek help. This is the most important point of all. I live to answer questions. Don't be afraid to come to my office every single day if you want. It's better for everybody (you AND me) if you understand things sooner rather than later. More often than not, there's a line of people waiting to see me on the day before a project is due. You'll get the help you need faster by starting on projects sooner rather than waiting until the last minute.

Any student with a documented learning disorder is welcome to come talk to me privately about options for completion of exams and homework assignments.

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