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A bold experiment in distributed education, "Introduction to Databases" will be offered free and online to students worldwide during the fall of 2011. Students will have access to lecture videos, receive regular feedback on progress, and receive answers to questions. When you successfully complete this class, you will also receive a statement of accomplishment. Taught by Professor Jennifer Widom, the curriculum draws from Stanford's popular Introduction to Databases course. A topics list and many of the materials are available here. More information about the Stanford course can be perused here. Details on the public offering will be available by late September. Sign up below to receive additional information about participating in the online version when it becomes available.

Official registration will open later this summer. Your information will be kept private and used only to contact you once registration is available.

About The Class

The online class runs from October 10 through December 12, 2011. The curriculum draws from a popular Introduction to Databases class offered at Stanford University. The instructor will be available for online discussions.

A high speed internet connection is recommended as most of the course content will be video based.

About The Instructor

Professor Jennifer Widom is the Fletcher Jones Professor and Chair of the Computer Science Department at Stanford University. She received her Bachelors degree from the Indiana University School of Music in 1982 and her Computer Science Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1987. She was a Research Staff Member at the IBM Almaden Research Center before joining the Stanford faculty in 1993. Her research interests span many aspects of nontraditional data management. She is an ACM Fellow and a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences; she received the ACM SIGMOD Edgar F. Codd Innovations Award in 2007 and was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2000; she has served on a variety of program committees, advisory boards, and editorial boards.

Why Learn About Databases?

Databases are incredibly prevalent -- they underlie technology used by most people every day if not every hour. Databases reside behind a huge fraction of websites; they're a crucial component of telecommunications systems, banking systems, video games, and just about any other software system or electronic device that maintains some amount of persistent information. In addition to persistence, database systems provide a number of other properties that make them exceptionally useful and convenient: reliability, efficiency, scalability, concurrency control, data abstractions, and high-level query languages. Databases are so ubiquitous and important that computer science graduates frequently cite their database class as the one most useful to them in their industry or graduate-school careers.

Course Description

This course covers database design and the use of database management systems for applications. It includes extensive coverage of the relational model, relational algebra, and SQL. It also covers XML data including DTDs and XML Schema for validation, and the query and transformation languages XPath, XQuery, and XSLT. The course includes database design in UML, and relational design principles based on dependencies and normal forms. Many additional key database topics from the design and application-building perspective are also covered: indexes, views, transactions, authorization, integrity constraints, triggers, on-line analytical processing (OLAP), and emerging "NoSQL" systems.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the dates of the class?
The class will start October 10 and end on December 12.
2. What background do I need?
The course does not assume prior knowledge of any specific topics, however a solid computer science foundation -- a reasonable amount of programming, as well as knowledge of basic computer science theory -- will make the material more accessible.
3. What textbook should I buy?
We will provide detailed lecture notes of all the technical content, which will be yours to keep after the end of class. Having a textbook in addition to the notes is not necessary, but you might want to purchase one for reference, to reinforce the core material, and as a source of additional exercises. Naturally we suggest the textbooks by Ullman and Widom or Garcia-Molina, Ullman, and Widom, but other leading database textbooks (e.g., Ramakrishnan and Gehrke; Elmasri and Navathe; Silberschatz, Korth, and Sudarshan) are fine as well.
4. Will students receive a Stanford certificate or grade for completing the course?
No. You will receive a statement of accomplishment from the instructor, which will include information on how well you did and how your performance compared to other online students. Only students admitted to Stanford and enrolled in the regular course can receive credit or a grade, so this is not a Stanford certificate.
5. Will the text of the lectures be available?
The instructors hope to transcribe the lectures into text to make them more accessible for those not fluent in English. Stay tuned.
6. Can online students ask questions and/or contact the professors?
Yes, but not directly. Students can submit questions that will be aggregated. Top-ranked questions will be answered by the professor and the teaching staff.
7. Will other Stanford resources be available to online students?
No.
8. Will other free online classes in computer science be offered this fall?
Yes. Stanford will also offer Machine Learning taught by Professor Andrew Ng, and Introduction to Artifical Intelligence taught by Professor Sebastian Thrun and Dr. Peter Norvig.