Relational Databases and SQL

Vassar College, Fall 2020
Syllabus / Course Wiki

Welcome to our course wiki. It will be updated throughout the semester with important course information, so check here regularly.

Professor: Marc Smith
Office: SP 104.5 (teaching fully remote)
Office Hours: Tue/Thu/Fri 4-5pm; and by appointment Zoom
Phone: 845 437 7497
Email: mlsmith (best way to contact me!)
Time (when) Mon 3:10-5:10pm
Zoom (where) Zoom link available in Moodle

We are using a zyBook this semester.
Here are the instructions to access/purchase your zyBook:

  1. Sign in or create an account at
  2. Enter zyBook code: VASSARCMPU381SmithFall2020
  3. Subscribe (subscription cost is $39)

Database Management Systems (DBMSs) emerged in the 1960s with the development of mainframe computers. In a sense, DBMSs could be considered one of the first killer apps. In 1970 a new DBMS model was introduced that endures today: the relational database model. One of the strengths of the relational model was that it provided a declarative Structured Query Language (SQL), including a Data Definition Language (DDL) for creating, modifying, and updating databases. This Intensive focuses on relational database design, database normalization techniques and normal forms, entity-relationship diagrams, and querying databases using SQL. Students work individually or in pairs on projects throughout the semester involving the design, creation, and querying of databases.

  • CMPU-145
  • CMPU-203

We will follow the initial chapters in the zyBook to get enough background in relational databases, sql, and database design. Then we will begin work on individual or group database projects. Here's is the organization of our zyBook:

We have a local PostgreSQL server VM accessible from campus via ssh client using your CS account login credentials. It is also accessible though the DBeaver Community native IDE (which runs on Linux, Mac, and Windows), and from a browser via pgadmin4.

You are also welcome to–and encouraged to–install your own PostgreSQL server to run locally on your own computer.

This Intensive course is officially ungraded this semester. What that means for your transcript is the only possible grades are “SA” or “UN”.

In practice what this means is you have the opportunity to explore relational databases without the pressure of earning a grade or affecting your GPA. It is my hope you will take full advantage of this opportunity!

We are a community of learners, but we must be present to learn from one another. You provide a unique and valuable contribution to every class. The questions you ask help everyone better understand the course material. Missing class deprives the entire class of your insights and understanding. Moreover, since we only meet once a week, missing a class means going two weeks without attending class. So, please notify me before any classes or labs you know you will miss. I take attendance every class, and I worry about you when you're not present.

Academic accommodations are available for students registered with the Office for Accessibility and Educational Opportunity (AEO). Students in need of disability (ADA/504) accommodations should schedule an appointment with me early in the semester to discuss any accommodations for this course that have been approved by the Office for Accessibility and Educational Opportunity, as indicated in your AEO accommodation letter.

Vassar College is committed to providing a safe learning environment for all students that is free of all forms of discrimination and sexual harassment, including sexual assault, relationship abuse, and stalking. If you (or someone you know) has experienced or experiences any of these incidents, know that you are not alone. Vassar College has staff members trained to support you in navigating campus life, accessing health and counseling services, providing academic and housing accommodations, helping with legal protective orders, and more.

Please be aware all Vassar faculty members are “responsible employees,” which means that if you tell me about a situation involving sexual harassment, sexual assault, relationship abuse, or stalking, I must share that information with the Title IX Coordinator. Although I have to make that notification, the Title IX office will only provide outreach by email. You will control how your case will be handled — you don’t have to read or respond to the email, and it is completely up to you whether to pursue a formal complaint. Our goal is to make sure you are aware of the range of options available to you and have access to the resources you need.

If you wish to speak to someone privately, you can contact any of the following on-campus resources:

The SAVP website ( and the Title IX section of the EOAA website ( have more information, as well as links to both on- and off-campus resources.