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Course Overview

Welcome to CSCI 325, Distributed Systems!

Catalog Description: This course studies the key design principles of distributed systems, i.e., collections of independent networked computers that function as single coherent systems.

Topics covered include

Classroom work will consist of lecture, discussion, and lab experimentation. Written work will consist of several homework and programming assignments, paper reviews, one exam, and several projects.

After taking this course, you should be able to

Instructional Staff

Sara Sprenkle
Office: Parmly Hall 410
Office Hours: W 3:30-5 p.m., R 1:30-4:30 p.m., and by appointment
E-mail Address:
Phone Number: (540) 458-8309 (it is better to email me than to call)

Course Information

CSCI 325, Section 01
Lecture: MWF 12:20-1:15 p.m.


Distributed Systems by Maarten van Steen and Andrew S. Tanenbaum. The textbook, released in February 2017, seems to only be available in (paperback) printed version from Amazon. But, students can download a copy of the book at the Book's Web Site

Optional textbook: Distributed Systems: Concepts and Design, 5th edition

Course Policies

Student Responsibilities

Instructor Responsibilities
I will try to make this course and its material as exciting for you as it is for me. I will be respectful of student questions and misunderstandings. I will try to give prompt, constructive feedback from assignments. I will be available during office hours and by appointment. I will do my best to respond to questions via email within 24 hours.

Honor System
You may discuss individual programming assignments informally with other students. However, sharing a solution, in the form of experimental results or the design or implementation of a program, is an honor violation. Students should know where to draw the line between getting legitimate outside assistance with course material and outright cheating. Students who obtain too much assistance without learning the material ultimately cheat themselves the most. If you have any uncertainty about what this means, consult with me before you collaborate. All written assignments should be done individually.

Participation and attendance
To receive full credit for class participation and attendance, you must have less than three unexcused absences from class and you must be actively engaged in the classroom by answering and asking questions each class when appropriate and by being respectful of other students. The average grade for participation is a B-.

The schedule, including important dates, is posted at the beginning of the semester. You should plan accordingly. If there are acceptable conflicts, tell me at the beginning of the semester and then remind me about a week in advance.

If you cannot make an exam, you must arrange a time prior to the scheduled exam to take the exam. If you miss the exam period, you will receive a 0 for the exam. If you are ill, you must email me with a phone number where you can be reached and speak with me in person. An email informing me that you are not taking the exam is NOT acceptable. In fairness to your peers taking the exam early or at the scheduled time, you must provide a note from the health center.


Grades for the course will be computed as follows:

General grading policies
Programs turned in with syntax errors will receive no credit. "Roll back" your program (using version control management software) into a state where it does not have syntax errors.

Late policy
All assigned work is due on the date specified. Any assignment turned in after the due date/time but on the same day will be penalized 10%. Any assignment turned in after the day on which it is due will be penalized an additional 10% for each late day. No assignment will be accepted that is more than three school days late. If you turn an assignment in late, you must indicate this somehow (in comments, on paper, etc.).

Washington and Lee University makes reasonable academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. All undergraduate accommodations must be approved through the Title IX Coordinator and Director of Disability Resources, Elrod Commons 212, 458-4055. Students requesting accommodations for this course should present an official accommodation letter within the first two weeks of the term and schedule a meeting outside of class time to discuss accommodations. It is the student's responsibility to present this paperwork in a timely fashion and to follow up about accommodation arrangements. Accommodations for test-taking must be arranged with the professor at least a week before the date of the test or exam, including finals.