CS253: Software Development

Developing software is the primary application of computer science. Very often, a good answer to the central question of computer science, "What can we do with computers?" is "We can do this," where "this" is a software application that solves a problem or meets some need. With the CS I and CS II courses serving as introductions to computer science and its central tool, programming, this course serves as an introduction to the practice of software development, which is the application of programming to produce a complete, useful piece of software.

This course covers everything in that process from initially gathering requirements to delivering a final, working product and everything in between. We will learn about and practice effective processes and techniques used in software development and gain experience using development tools and methodologies for group work that make the process easier. The course culminates with a team project in which you will apply all of the above to create a software application much larger than anything else you have probably tackled until now.

As a writing-intensive course, we will spend a significant amount of time focusing on writing, and specifically writing about technical subjects in our field. We will "focus on writing as a process, with opportunities for revision" over several assignments to work on each student's writing and communication skills individually.

Upon completing this course, you will have gained the ability to conceive, plan, implement, test, debug, and document a complete software application, prepariing you for projects in upper-level courses to come. You will be familiar with a wide range of tools that can make you a more effective programmer, and you will have significant experience with the particular set we employ in this class. While you may not always be developing the same type of software with the same language on the same platform, the experience will translate well to using similar tools you encounter in the future.


There is no required textbook. We will use a variety of freely-available online resources and others I provide. If you prefer physical books, talk to me for recommendations.


The final grade will be based on the following breakdown:

Assignments     70%
Final Project       30%


Assignments will be posted on the course's Moodle site (once I have access to it), and they will be collected there as well. Submissions on Moodle will generally need to be in the form of a PDF for writing assignments or a compressed archive for other types. Some assignments may be submitted via checking in code to a version control system. Each assignment will include specific submission instructions.

Late Policy

Assignments will be due at set times; they will be considered late at any point after that time. An assignment will lose 10% of the total possible points for every day or partial day it is late, and after five days it will not be accepted.

Assignments can't be accepted at all after solutions have been handed out or the graded work has been returned to the class.

Grace Tokens

Every student has two "grace tokens" that they may use for extensions in instances where they are unable to complete work by the assigned deadline. To use a grace token on an assignment, send me an email before the assignment deadline, explain why you need an extension, and we will determine an appropriate extension, which will be granted with no grade penalty. Some assignments may not be eligible for grace tokens due to immediate use of or feedback on the submitted work, but most will be.


Illinois Wesleyan University strives to make all learning experiences as accessible as possible. If you anticipate or experience academic barriers based on a disability (including mental health and chronic or temporary medical conditions), it is your responsibility to register with Accessibility Services. Please note that accommodations are not retroactive and accommodations cannot be provided until I receive an email from Accessibility Services. Once the email is sent, please make arrangements with me as soon as possible to discuss your accommodations confidentially so they may be implemented in a timely fashion. For more information contact Accessibility Services by visiting 110 Holmes Hall, calling 309-556-3231, or emailing accessibility@iwu.edu.


Our university's mission statement includes, "The University through our policies, programs and practices is committed to diversity [...]" Our school and this course are made stronger by the mix of people that come into it bringing a diversity of ideas, experiences, and backgrounds. I expect everyone in this course — instructor, TA, and student — to contribute to an inclusive atmosphere that respects the diversity of all others in it. Dimensions of diversity can include sex, race, age, national origin, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, intellectual and physical ability, sexual orientation, income, faith and non-faith perspectives, socio-economic class, political ideology, education, primary language, family status, military experience, cognitive style, and communication style. The individual intersection of these experiences and characteristics must be valued in our community. If you have related concerns about the class environment or behavior of any in it (including me), please let me know, and I will do my best to address them. If you are not comfortable speaking with me about them, you may also bring concerns to the Associate Provost or the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

End-of-Syllabus Advice

Explore. In this class, we will learn about and use a variety of tools and techniques used in modern software development practice. Of these, we will directly learn about and practice with just a specific few and not even the full extent of each. For example, we will learn the basics of using version control software to track and manage revisions to code over time, but the full power of the software extends far beyond what we will focus on in class. And beyond that, there are many other version control programs out there that all have different features and capabilities. So my final advice for you here is to explore the topics of the course beyond the bare minimum requirement. Poke around in a tool we study, read its documentation, find videos demonstrating its use, and otherwise learn about all that it can do. Look up other, similar tools, and try to find comparisons between them. Read about how others apply the techniques we learn about and what benefits they get from that. Overall, recognize that we're looking at a way to develop software, not the way, and it's important to be familiar with extensions and alternatives to what we do in this class.

This syllabus adapted in large part from Mark Liffiton's previous iteration of CS253 in 2022.