Summer 2020 — Syllabus

Do users look at web apps the way they are? Or do users look at web apps the way they think?
Note: This is an initial course description and may be updated without prior notice.

Contact information

Instructor: Upsorn Praphamontripong
Office Hours: Wednesday 3:30pm-4:30pm, Friday 2:00pm-4:00pm (please refer to Collab's Online Meetings)

TA: Logan Hylton (website)
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 1:00pm-2:30pm (please refer to Collab's Online Meetings)

We have a fantastic teaching assistant for this course. Get to know him!

Our TA is a student too. Please only contact him via Piazza or Zoom during his scheduled office hours, do not contact him via email.

Class hours

Monday — Friday 10:30AM - 12:45PM  (Summer 2020 CS 4640 will be a web-based course)
Zoom link: please refer to Collab's Online Meetings (meet during class hours)


The way web software is built has been rapidly changing. As use of the world wide web has shifted from information presentation to information gathering to direct customer sales (e-commerce) to enterprise applications, the amount and complexity of software has steadily been increasing. Many new technologies and frameworks have emerged everyday. Have you ever wondered what technologies, frameworks, or architectural styles you should use? What programming languages you should be familiar with? After you graduate, what languages will be popular or will be in great demand? How will you keep up with web development technologies? According to the UVA CS Industrial Advisory Board meeting, companies prioritize the foundation of web development over any specific technologies or frameworks.

This course will help you see how fundamental concepts of web development can be applied to develop reliable and usable web software regardless of the technologies or languages or frameworks. Although we put our emphasis on the concepts, you will develop dynamic web software with several commonly used programming languages and technologies.

You will work on user interface design, front end development, back end development, and web-based information retrieval and processing. Over the semester, you will work on each programming assignment with a partner. Each assignment will be a step in creating a web application. You will be able to choose what to build, with the assignment constraining the features that must be used. By the end of the semester, you will have built a dynamic web application, hosted on Google Cloud Platform. With a large portion of the process that involves team work, interpersonal skills and conflict management, and time management, this course will help you practice and prepare for your professional development.

Learning objectives

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the client-server, message-passing computing models, data persistence and sharing, and the quantitative engineering principles for how to build web-based software by developing usable, reliable, and effective web applications
  • Realize that usability is more important than efficiency for almost all modern software projects, and often the primary factor that leads to product success
  • Evaluate your project for compliance with client requirements and the usability evaluation criteria
  • Apply usability concepts to real-life scenarios and suggest potential improvement from an engineer's perspective
  • Apply skills and concepts to learn new web development frameworks, technologies, and languages
  • Collaborate with your project partner professionally and contribute fairly
  • Communicate ideas with others through project demonstration and within a group learning environment


You must have passed CS 2150 (Program and Data Representation) with a grade of C- or better. Programming skills are required and you are expected to know HTML or learn on your own.

You are expected to work on a project — deciding on an architecture of your system and implementing a web application that interacts with a database to provide services. While developing a web application within approximately 3 weeks may seem challenging, it is doable — you must be willing to learn and do it; everyone can be successful in this course.


You do not have to purchase any textbook for this course, unless you want to (the book information will be provided on the handout). Where appropriate, additional references that can be relevant for further reading will be provided on the Schedule page.

You are expected to read the relevant material before class meeting. The schedule for the readings is given on the Schedule page. The lectures may not cover everything in the readings and will often include material not found in the readings (based on class discussion).

Learning activities

To facilitate your learning process, the course structure consists of four main activities: in-class exercises, lab-style activities, homework assignments, and a final exam.

1. In-class exercises

Five main purposes of this activity are to help you to (i) understand the underlying concepts and apply them to develop a web application, (ii) introduce specific languages or technologies, (iii) get ready to work on homework assignments, (iv) prepare for the final exam, and (v) practice skills web engineers need (such as technical skills, software evaluation, collaboration, and communication).

You are encouraged to work in small groups, allowing peer learning and imitating industrial software development and quality assurance scenarios. Each exercise is designed to get you to think about some specific aspect of the material we are learning that day. All exercises are hands-on and practical, and require programming.

There will be five in-class exercises, scheduled on most Wednesdays and Fridays, and some Mondays. Some will be done in small groups and some may be individual exercises. They will be graded on a "done / not done" basis. Credit can only be received if submitted by the deadline. If you miss class, you should do the posted exercise on your own to learn the material.

2. Lab-style activities

The best way to learn web development is to do it, and do it often. To help you practice and maximize hands-on experience, we will do lab-style activities almost every class meeting. These activities serve the same purposes as in-class exercises. The difference is that they are not graded.

You will have multiple opportunities to explore the usability of existing web software and share your opinion through discussion or writing. You will also experience a variety of web development concepts. Lab-style activities will help you get started with web development languages or technologies, and explore web-specific features.

You are the main driver of your learning success. Your engagement and participation is the most important aspect of your learning experience. You are encouraged to do all the activities although no submission is required.

3. Homework assignments

Homework assignments are the main mechanism to help you learn web software development and apply the concepts to build a portfolio-worthy web application piece-by-piece. Some homework assignments will be written and most will require programming. All will allow collaboration with one partner to help you practice teamworking skills.

The UVA Honor Code is in effect. Please refer to the collaboration and Professionalism sections of the course policies.

Assignments will be posted on the class website and discussed in class. You will submit your homework assignments electronically. More details on submission guidelines will be provided on the assignment pages. Most assignments require demonstration to an instructor or course staff for grading purpose – allowing you to practice your presentation and to "sell" your project.

Homework assignments help you develop competency in basic and advanced concepts. Each homework is a step toward your course project and your professional development. It is important that you manage your time wisely. All homework assignments must be submitted before class on the day they are due. Any submission received after this time will be considered to be late. Changing an assignment after the due date without prior permission will be treated as a late submission.

At the end of the Summer session, we will have a "Showtime." You will demonstrate how your system works, and explain your design decisions and features that improve the usability of your system. You are encouraged to discuss your classmates' design and implementation. You may find something interesting from their systems. This is a great opportunity to share ideas and opinions; you may learn something useful for your future projects. The fun part is, we will vote for "the best usable project" and "the coolest project."

You are expected to have a backup disk (or storage somewhere) for every assignment you turn in. In this way, if there is any problem with the copy that is handed in the backup can be used for grading purposes.

4. Final Exam

We will have a take-home final exam. Final exam is comprehensive, open book / notes / web / IDE, no collaboration. Details will be provided on the final exam guide.

If you know in advance that you are unable to make an exam for a valid and unavoidable reason (such as a scheduled surgery, etc), you must notify me at least one week before the scheduled exam date to make arrangements for a make-up. Appropriate documentation (as determined by instructor) is required. If you miss an exam due to a university-accepted excused absence, you must notify me within 24 hours of your absence to make arrangements for a make-up, and submit approved documentation. Failure to follow either of these policies will result in a zero grade on the exam.


The grade you will earn for this course will be based on how well you demonstrate your understanding through the following assessments.

Assessment and evaluation

  • In-class exercises: 25% (5 in-class exercises, 5% each)
  • Homework assignments: 50% (course project)
    • (  4%) Assignment 1: Project proposal
    • (12%) Assignment 2: Client-side — frontend
    • (16%) Assignment 3: Server-side — backend and data persistence
    • (18%) Assignment 4: Final deliverable — frontend and backend
  • Exam: 25% (comprehensive)
Your overall score will be mapped to a letter grade as follows:
You getIf you score
A+ >= 98
A   >= 93
A-  >= 90
B+ >= 87
B   >= 83
B-  >= 80
C+ >= 77
C   >= 73
C-  >= 70
D+ >= 67
D   >= 63
D-  >= 60
F    < 60

By default, grades will not be rounded in this course.

Per the University grading policy, the GC/CR/NC grading option for undergraduates introduced in the Spring 2020 semester will NOT be available in summer.

Discussion board

We will use Piazza for a discussion board. This is the place where you can seek help, offer help, share your thoughts and discoveries, or discuss technical difficulties and potential troubleshooting. Information for accessing our class Piazza site will be provided on the first day of class. Ask all technical questions about the material or the assignments on Piazza.

You may post any reasonable class-related topics.
  • Real-life software problems: Start a discussion about a problem with a real-life web application that is related to our class (good or bad usability, design, construction, etc.)
  • Real-life troubleshooting: Start a discussion about your experience, tutorial, suggestion, and troubleshooting that is related to our class
  • Start a thread about an error in the handouts or slides, or about a topic that goes beyond what we discuss in class
  • Post questions to an appropriate thread and they will be answered by the instructor or classmate
  • Give an answer to a classmate's question

Posting program source code publicly will usually be considered an honor code violation. If you need to include a "fragment" of your code in your post, please make your post "private" and tag instructor.

Updates to the course web page will generally be noted on the Piazza page.

Academic Integrity

The School of Engineering and Applied Science relies upon and cherishes its community of trust. We firmly endorse, uphold, and embrace the University’s Honor principle that students will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor shall they tolerate those who do. We recognize that even one honor infraction can destroy an exemplary reputation that has taken years to build. Acting in a manner consistent with the principles of honor will benefit every member of the community both while enrolled in the Engineering School and in the future.

Students are expected to be familiar with the university honor code, including the section on academic fraud. Each assignment will describe allowed collaborations, and deviations from these will be considered Honor violations. If you are in doubt regarding the requirements, please consult with me before you complete any requirement of this course. Unless otherwise noted, exams and individual assignments will be considered pledged that you have neither given nor received help. (Among other things, this means that you are not allowed to describe problems on an exam to a student who has not taken it yet. You are not allowed to show exam papers to another student or view another student’s exam papers while working on an exam.) Send, receiving or otherwise copying electronic files that are part of course assignments are not allowed collaborations (except for those explicitly allowed in assignment instructions).

Assignments or exams where honor infractions or prohibited collaborations occur will receive a zero grade for that entire assignment or exam, as well as a full letter-grade penalty on the course grade. Such infractions will also be submitted to the Honor Committee if that is appropriate. Students who have had prohibited collaborations may not be allowed to work with partners on remaining homeworks.

SDAC and Other Special Circumstances

The University of Virginia strives to provide accessibility to all students. If you require an accommodation to fully access this course, please contact the Student Disability Access Center (SDAC) at 434-243-5180 or If you are unsure if you require an accommodation, or to learn more about their services, you may contact the SDAC at the number above or by visiting their website at

If you have been identified as an SDAC student, please let the Center know you are taking this class. If you suspect you should be an SDAC student, please schedule an appointment with them for an evaluation. Students who need academic accommodations should see me and contact the SDAC. All academic accommodations must be arranged through the SDAC.

If you need counseling services, please contact CAPS.

If you have other special circumstances (athletics, other university-related activities, etc.) please contact instructor and/or TA as soon as you know these may affect you in class.

Religious Accommodations

It is the University's long-standing policy and practice to reasonably accommodate students so that they do not experience an adverse academic consequence when sincerely held religious beliefs or observances conflict with academic requirements. Students who wish to request academic accommodation for a religious observance should submit their request in writing directly to me by email as far in advance as possible. Students and instructors who have questions or concerns about academic accommodations for religious observance or religious beliefs may contact the University's Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights (EOCR) at or 434-924-3200.

Accommodations do not relieve you of the responsibility for completion of any part of the coursework missed as the result of a religious observance.

Statement on Violence

The University of Virginia is dedicated to providing a safe and equitable learning environment for all students. To that end, it is vital that you know two values that I and the University hold as critically important:

  1. Power-based personal violence will not be tolerated.
  2. Everyone has a responsibility to do their part to maintain a safe community on Grounds.
If you or someone you know has been affected by power-based personal violence, more information can be found on the UVA Sexual Violence website that describes reporting options and resources available -

As your professor and as a person, know that I care about you and your well-being and stand ready to provide support and resources as I can. As a faculty member, I am a responsible employee, which means that I am required by University policy and federal law to report what you tell me to the University's Title IX Coordinator. The Title IX Coordinator's job is to ensure that the reporting student receives the resources and support that they need, while also reviewing the information presented to determine whether further action is necessary to ensure survivor safety and the safety of the University community. If you would rather keep this information confidential, there are Confidential Employees you can talk to on Grounds (See The worst possible situation would be for you or your friend to remain silent when there are so many here willing and able to help.

Top Acknowledgments:
This course is generously supported by Google by giving us access to their Cloud Platform.
Thanks to Professor Jeff Offutt and Professor Mary Lou Soffa for the input and material provided for this course.