Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2007-2008 (archived)


Department: Computer Science


Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2007/08
Tied to


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • Distributed systems design is based on a number of core principles; the module is designed to address those which are not normally found in undergraduate Computer Science programmes. A modelling approach is taken in this module. This is then set in the context of modern advanced software engineering lifecycle approaches.


  • Principles and mathematics: advanced structures - sets, functions, relations, graphs; specifications - propositions, predicates, quantifiers
  • Modelling computation: languages and grammars; finite state machines
  • Modelling performance: combinations and probability; MArkov chains
  • Modelling information: information theory; coding
  • Networking and distribution: RPC; protocol definition
  • Modelling distributed transactions: time; consistency; concurrency and synchronisation
  • Advanced software engineering lifecycle concepts for the internet: open source with examples such as Apache; XP and other 'rapid' techniques; evaluation and metrics

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Specialist knowledge: mathematical modelling of distributed systems, including synchronisation, performance, and information. Networking fundamentals
  • Management: modern software engineering methods for the internet
  • Design integration: integration of theory with practical methods
  • Engineering of software systems: application of theoretical concepts to distributed problems. Software engineering lifecycles; evaluation
Subject-specific Skills:
    Key Skills:

      Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

      • The module comprises 1 week's intensive directed reading and laboratory exercises; 5 days of lectures, tutorials, and reading, and two weeks undertaking a major laboratory assignment. The overall workload conforms to the standard SLAT requirement of 150 hours equivalent to 15 credits.

      Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

      Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
      Lectures 25 5 per day in week 2 1 hour 25
      Tutorials 4 weekly 1 hour 4
      Practicals 5 daily in week 1 6 hours 30
      Laboratory 10 daily in weeks 3 and 4 6 hous 60
      Preparation and Reading 31
      Total 150

      Summative Assessment

      Component: Laboratory report Component Weighting: 100%
      Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
      Laboratory report 100%

      Formative Assessment:

      Staged written feedback of laboratory and practical work by staff/demonstrators.

      Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University