CS 321 Syllabus

Data Communications

Fall 2005

CIS Department

Saint Vincent College

General Information


This course covers the basics of data communications and networking. The layered approach to data communications is used as a guide, with TCP/IP as the primary example. Course topics include local and wide area networks, network protocols, the Internet, etc. Routers and switches are examined in detail, especially Cisco ones.

Why Take This Course?

Data communications and networking form an important and growing subfield within computing. All computing professionals should have some familiarity with this area. A number of jobs require good abilities in data communications and networking, sometimes even well beyond what this course provides. Students are encouraged to study for some of the well-known, vendor-sponsored certification tests in networking, particularly the Cisco CCNA certification.

The Prerequisite/Corequisite

CS 230 is listed here so that students will have (or be in the process of acquiring) some knowledge of computer hardware (CPU, multiplexers, registers, ports, etc). No knowledge of assembler language itself is needed for CS 321.

The Text

We will follow the text for most of the course. However, additional material will be provided so as to broaden the coverage.


It is important to get some hands-on experience in a course involving networking. Students will be required to complete all of the labs on the Network Simulator CD that accompanies the textbook. Students will also complete some small labs on TCP/IP, probably using computers in the instructor's office. In addition, each student will have a choice among the following project possibilities:

Each project requires some type of report to the class. The purpose is twofold: First, the report should explain the topic to others who did not do this particular project. Second, the report gives the student the chance to develop good presentation skills. The report could be oral and/or written. See the instructor for details.

Core Goals

This course contributes especially toward the following core curriculum goals, listed in order of emphasis:

  1. To form habits of ordered inquiry, logical thinking, and critical analysis
  2. To develop mathematical skills and quantitative literacy
  3. To develop effective communication skills

CIS Department Goals

This course contributes to the following departmental goals, listed in order of emphasis. Note that software engineering is not emphasized in this course, as this is not a software development course. Problem-solving, however, is key to this course.

  1. The CIS graduate should demonstrate the ability to manage the complexity of a technical problem through the use of good problem solving skills and software engineering skills, as well as ethical and decision-making skills.
  2. The CIS graduate should have a broad knowledge of the field of computing.

Course Goals

Specific course goals include the following. These goals will be assessed through the use of assignments, projects, labs, and tests.

  1. By the end of the course, the student should be able to explain the main features of the TCP/IP protocol suite.
  2. By the end of the course, the student should be able to trace the operation of common network activities.
  3. By the end of the course, the student should be able to explain the operation of typical network devices.
  4. By the end of the course, the student should be able to configure Cisco routers and switches.

Grading and Course Policies

Letter grades will be assigned according to the scheme found in the current College Bulletin. Exams will be announced in advance. Due to the technical nature of the course, the exams will be of the open-book, open-notes variety. Calculators may be used on the exams. Cell phones and pagers should be turned off and put away during exams. On a test students may only use the test itself, books, notes, calculators, pens, pencils, and erasers. Calculators may not be passed between students. No laptops or other computers may be used on an exam.

Both the instructor and students are expected to do their best to produce a good class and to treat each other with respect. This includes many factors, such as listening when someone else is speaking, trying to understand what others are saying, being of assistance to others, etc. It definitely does NOT include making fun of others. On a practical level, do your best to improve your grade: read the text, attend class, do the work, ask questions, and try to answer questions in class! If you begin to feel lost, consult one of the tutors, see the instructor, or work through the difficulties with the help of another student in the course. Do not let yourself get behind. Note in particular that attendance is expected. Student performance is bound to deteriorate when classes are missed. In order to emphasize the importance of attendance, the policies outlined right after this paragraph will be used.

Make-up exams are strongly discouraged. If possible, take the regularly scheduled exam. For an excused absence for a significant reason, the instructor may agree to give a make-up exam. Whenever possible, see your instructor ahead of time if you know you must miss an exam (e.g. due to sports). Normally some type of written documentation is required (such as a note from the coach, doctor, etc.). Students participating in sports teams are required to provide the instructor at the start of the semester with a schedule of games that might conflict with class. If the documentation or reason for missing an exam is poor, the student can count on receiving a significantly more difficult exam, if one is given at all! Do ask about a makeup exam if you have a good reason to miss an exam, as it is understood that illnesses and other complications do happen.

Intellectual honesty is important at Saint Vincent College. Attempts to pass off the work of another as one's own, or group work as one's individual work, will result in action appropriate to the seriousness of the situation. All cases of apparent intellectual dishonesty are referred to the college administration. In this course, students are expected especially to do entirely their own work on the exams. Other work can be done together unless explicitly stated otherwise. Some students learn better when working mostly alone. Others do better when working together. However, never simply copy someone else's work as that does little to help you to learn the material. Remember that you are responsible for knowing how to solve the homework problems and that you will have to face the test questions on your own.

Be sure to read and follow the CIS Department Policies, available under the CIS Department Web Page. (This statement covers especially the proper use of departmental computing facilities, policies concerning your Web pages, etc.) In addition, read the Regulations section of the College Bulletin (which covers such things as grading, academic honesty, etc.) and the Student Handbook (especially the section on academic honesty and the section on the misuse of computers or computer networks).

Students with disabilities who require academic accommodations and support services please consult Mrs. Sandy Quinlivan, Associate Director of Academic Affairs. You may contact her by telephone at extension 2371 or by SVC email (sandy.quinlivan@email.stvincent.edu) or by scheduling an appointment in Academic Affairs (located directly above the post office). Reasonable accommodations do not alter the essential elements of courses, programs or activities.

If the instructor needs to cancel class, every effort will be made to post a note to this effect on the course web page and on the door to the classroom.