Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)


Department: Computer Science


Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Not available in 2018/19 Module Cap
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.


  • Fundamentals of distributed systems: mechanisms of communication; architectural models; relevant issues.
  • Theory: Distributed transactions, Time, Consistency, Replication, Concurrency and synchronisation.
  • Networking and distribution: RPC, RMI, CORBA, Protocol definition, Web Services.
  • Concurrency and synchronisation in Java.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Obtain a good understanding of the core concepts in concurrency and distributed systems.
  • Understand underlying concepts and technologies and their advantages and disadvantages.
  • Obtain an understanding of different techniques to reason about and implement concurrent and distributed systems.
  • Understand concurrency mechanisms and their use.
  • Obtain an understanding of the issues in developing distributed systems.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Be able to apply the techniques for reasoning about concurrent and distributed systems.
  • Be able to understand and apply different distributed systems technologies where suitable.
  • Obtain the ability to use the concurrency mechanisms.
  • Be able to apply the techniques to the implementation of a distributed system.
Key Skills:
  • The module is analytical and has a significant amount of critical thought and problem solving.
  • The project report will focus on written communication and presentation skills.

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

  • The module comprises of intensive directed reading and laboratory exercises, lectures and tutorials. 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 6 First 2 weeks 2 hours 12
Tutorials 4 Second 2 weeks 2 hours 8
Preparation and Reading 130
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Laboratory report Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Coursework 2500 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment in the second week of the module.

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