Course Syllabus

CS 461 Course Banner - Senior Software Engineering Project I

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General Course Description

At this point in your CS education, you are getting very close to graduating. Congratulations! As part of showing what you've learned, your Capstone classes will give you an opportunity to take a software project all the way from start to finish. This course, CS461, is the first course in the Capstone sequence.

CS461 is all about planning. You will define the problem, gather requirements, and propose a development plan through multiple revisions. You will do all of these things as an individual, and as a member of a three person Development Team.

CS461 is also about writing. It is a Writing Intensive Course (WIC). There are specific requirements for WIC courses, which you can read about here. The short version is that writing will make up at least 30% of your grade or more. If you need help with your writing, a good place to go is the OSU Writing Center. Your Instructor and TA's are also here to help.

Last, but definitely not least, CS461 is about collaboration and teamwork. In this course you will work closely with your teammates on several assignments. You will give and receive feedback on several of these in class discussions. You will also work as a team to code the first versions of your project. Finally, you will participate in weekly discussions on a range of topics.

There are no tests, midterms, or finals in this course.

Instructor and TA Information

The instructor for the course is Bill Pfeil.

The GTA(s) for the course are:

Your work may be graded by the instructor and/or the TAs according to the table below:

CS 461 Grading Schedule **Approximate
Assignment Bill Pfeil Brian Mulanda
Surveys, Choose Your Project All Dev Teams
Blog Posts All Dev Teams
Extra Credit Assignments All Dev Teams
Graded Discussions All Dev Teams
Problem Statement Groups A* - Em* Groups En* - Z*
Requirements Document Groups A* - Em* Groups En* - Z*
Preliminary Design Groups A* - Em* Groups En* - Z*
Team Design Document (Draft, Final) Groups A* - Em* Groups En* - Z*
Progress Videos (v0.0.1, v0.0.2) Groups A* - Em* Groups En* - Z*
Client Verification Groups A* - Em* Groups En* - Z*


Every Spring term we hold the Engineering Expo where you can come and see 100s of projects. It's a tremendous opportunity you won't want to miss. The students who attend always rave about it - many of them get a chance to network with company representatives leading to internships and jobs. These events are typically held in Corvallis, OR (or virtually). See this video for a look at the 2019 Expo!

If you have questions, please ask them in our discussion board.

Letters of Recommendation

As much as I enjoy having you in the class, I am generally unable to provide you with a letter of recommendation. I will only be able to write letters for students I know. If you're interested and think I know you well enough, feel free to ask!

About the Course

This is an outline of the course, including discussion of the Capstone 3-term sequence, motivation, assignments, and how to succeed.

Course Introduction (2:44)

About the Instructor

My name is Bill Pfeil and I’ll be your instructor for the Capstone course. I have a M.S. in Math Education from OSU. I did my undergrad at the University of Arizona in Applied Math and ECE. In between my two degrees I spent 25 years as a software engineer, and have worked on everything from modeling, client-server apps, robotics, embedded and device drivers, websites, mobile apps, and games. I am excited to work with all of you as you complete your projects!

Instructor Intro (2:27)

Course Name: Senior Software Engineering Project I (online)
Course Number: CS 461
Credits: 3
Instructor Name: Bill Pfeil
Instructor Email:
Teaching Assistant name and contact info:

This syllabus describes the administrative parts of the course and serves as a contract between student and instructor. Remaining in this course indicates acceptance of these rules.

Remember that in this Capstone course, you are expected to behave professionally. Please use this document throughout the course.

Table of Contents

Course Description

Real-world team-based experience with the software engineering design and delivery cycle, including requirements analysis and specification, design techniques, and requirements and final project written documentation. For students in the online CS double-degree program only.

Prerequisites: CS 361, 325 and 362.
A minimum grade of C is required in CS 361, CS 325 and CS 362.


If I need to contact you, I will email you directly (or via the class mailing list), or send out a canvas announcement. NOTE:  It is your responsibility to make sure you can receive notifications from Canvas.

Here is the preferred way to contact me:

Email me directly at (If I don't respond in 24 hours please email me again)

Messaging me on Canvas is an unreliable and indirect way to send me an email. I am less likely to notice these in the sea of Canvas notification and daily digest spam from several courses I am subscribed to. So please use regular email to contact me :)

I may be on Teams / Slack from time to time, but email is STILL the best way to get ahold of me.

We are not Debuggers, Programmers, or Architects — that's your job! Do not send the instructor or TAs any code except what is required for your assignment submissions.

Don't expect the instructor or the TAs to see comments left with assignment submissions. Canvas allows us to download the entire class's submissions as one .zip file, which does not include these comments. If you need to make a meta-comment about your submission, add it to the submission or email the person grading that submission directly.

Time Expectations

This course is online only. This course combines approximately 100 hours of online activities and assignments for 3 credits.

Technical Assistance

If you experience any errors or problems while in your online course, contact 24-7 Canvas Support through the Help link within Canvas.  If you experience computer difficulties, need help downloading a browser or plug-in, or need assistance logging into a course, contact the IS Service Desk for assistance. You can call (541) 737-8787 or visit the IS Service Desk online.

Learning Resources

All class materials can be found on the course web-page. There is no textbook; students are expected to source their own learning resources to accomplish the goals of their projects. A microphone and screen-recording device may be required, for submitting project or prototype demonstrations.

Note: Check with the OSU Beaver Store for up-to-date information for the term you enroll (OSU Beaver Store website or 800-595-0357). If you purchase course materials from other sources, be very careful to obtain the correct ISBN.

Measurable Student Learning Outcomes

After completion of this course, students will have demonstrated an ability to:

  1. Apply all aspects of the software engineering process, including project planning, requirements documents, software design, coding, testing, walk-throughs, documentation, and delivery
  2. Demonstrate good communication skills in the form of weekly reports and project talks, posters, and elevator talks
  3. Participate effectively in a team environment
  4. Analyze and organize their own career preparation 
  5. Evaluate the professional, legal, and/or social implications of software product development 

Additional Student Learning Outcomes - At the completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Design, plan, organize, synthesize and complete a significant software project in three academic quarters
  2. Evaluate the contributions and importance of software projects to the broad user community.
  3. Explain the importance of software projects to people from other disciplines and the general public.
  4. For WIC: Develop and articulate content knowledge and critical thinking in the discipline through frequent practice of informal and formal writing.
  5. For WIC: Demonstrate knowledge/understanding of audience expectations, genres, and conventions appropriate to communicating in the discipline.
  6. For WIC: Demonstrate the ability to compose a document of at least 2000 words through multiple aspects of writing, including brainstorming, drafting, using sources appropriately, and revising comprehensively after receiving feedback on a draft.

Evaluation of Student Performance

    • Individual Writing Assignments - 130 points total
    • Team Writing Assignments - 140 points total
    • Other (including project iterations) - 130 points
    • Total - 400 points

Letter Grade

Grading responsibilities are shared between the instructors and the TAs. The Course Introduction tab details who grades which assignment, and which groups each person will grade.

Your group will not create your grade for you. You need to accomplish the goals you sign off on by submitting all assignments. In this course, failure to communicate with your team, or to provide reasonably working code compatible with the project per the specification may result in you receiving a non-passing grade while the rest of your group passes. You may be removed from your team if you are found to not be putting in the required amount of work.

Total Percentage vs. Letter Grade

 100 ╺┓
   0 ╺┛

Course Content




Learning Activities



What is a Projects Course?

Choosing Your Project

Choose Your Project

Discussion: Project Management Tools

Discussion: Introduce Yourself to your Teammates


Project Requirements

Blogging Your Project

Working in Teams

Traditional Requirements


Blog Post

Discussion: Team Standards


Project Requirements

How to Write a Problem Statement

Writing a Technical Requirements Document

Agile Requirements

Individual Problem Statement


Design and Technologies

Separation of Concerns

UI/UX Design

Choosing Your Technologies

Discussion: Software Tools for Design

Requirements Document


Software Design and Review

Design Review

The Role of Criticism in Design

Preliminary Design (Individual)

Discussion:  Preliminary Design Review


Design and Development

Effective Design

Design Document (Team - Draft)





Project Development: v0.0.1

Blog Post


Game Changers

Game Changers

Discussion: Game Changers


Resume Guide

Your Resume

Design Document - (Team - Final)

Client Verification


Job Search

Hack Your Interview

Project Development: v0.0.2

Blog post


No Final in this Course



Course Policies

Discussion Participation

Students are expected to participate in all graded discussions. While there is great flexibility in online courses, this is not a self-paced course. You will need to participate in discussions on at least two different days each week, with your first post due no later than Thursday evening, and your second and third posts due by the end of each week (Sunday evening).

Late Work Policy

Most assignments allow submissions up to two days after the due date for a reduced maximum score. Each assignment has a due date listed on Canvas. Assignments that may be submitted late also have an available until date, which is 48 hours after the initial due date. For these assignments, the following policy applies:

  • Assignments submitted on the day after the due due date will be graded normally and then any points past a 90% point total will be lost.
  • Assignments submitted on the second day after the due date will be graded normally and then any points past a 75% point total will be lost.

Note that, unlike in other courses, late assignment grades will not be scaled by some factor; any points above a threshold (90% or 75%) will simply be discarded.

Makeup Exams

This course has no tests or exams.


Incomplete (I) grades will be granted only in emergency cases (usually only for a death in the family, major illness or injury, or birth of your child), and if the student has turned in 80% of the points possible (in other words, usually everything but the final paper). If you are having any difficulty that might prevent you completing the coursework, please don’t wait until the end of the term; let me know right away.

Statement Regarding Religious Accommodation

Oregon State University is required to provide reasonable accommodations for employee and student sincerely held religious beliefs.  It is incumbent on the student making the request to make the faculty member aware of the request as soon as possible prior to the need for the accommodation. See the Religious Accommodation Process for Students.

Guidelines for a Productive and Effective Online Classroom

(Adapted from Dr. Susan Shaw, Oregon State University)

Students are expected to conduct themselves in the course (e.g., on discussion boards, email) in compliance with the university’s regulations regarding civility. Civility is an essential ingredient for academic discourse. All communications for this course should be conducted constructively, civilly, and respectfully. Differences in beliefs, opinions, and approaches are to be expected. In all you say and do for this course, be professional. Please bring any communications you believe to be in violation of this class policy to the attention of your instructor.

Active interaction with peers and your instructor is essential to success in this online course, paying particular attention to the following:

  • Unless indicated otherwise, please complete the readings and view other instructional materials for each week before participating in the discussion board.
  • Read your posts carefully before submitting them.
  • Be respectful of others and their opinions, valuing diversity in backgrounds, abilities, and experiences.
  • Challenging the ideas held by others is an integral aspect of critical thinking and the academic process. Please word your responses carefully, and recognize that others are expected to challenge your ideas. A positive atmosphere of healthy debate is encouraged.

Establishing a Positive Community

It is important you feel safe and welcome in this course. If somebody is making discriminatory comments against you, sexually harassing you, or excluding you in other ways, contact the instructor, your academic advisor, and/or report what happened at Student Conduct Reporting so we can connect you with resources.

Expectations for Student Conduct

Student conduct is governed by the university’s policies, as explained in the Student Conduct Code ( Students are expected to conduct themselves in the course (e.g., on discussion boards, email postings) in compliance with the university's regulations regarding civility.

Academic Integrity

Integrity is a character-driven commitment to honesty, doing what is right, and guiding others to do what is right.  Oregon State University Ecampus students and faculty have a responsibility to act with integrity in all of our educational work, and that integrity enables this community of learners to interact in the spirit of trust, honesty, and fairness across the globe.

Academic misconduct, or violations of academic integrity, can fall into seven broad areas, including but not limited to: cheating; plagiarism; falsification; assisting; tampering; multiple submissions of work; and unauthorized recording and use.

It is important that you understand what student actions are defined as academic misconduct at Oregon State University.  The OSU Libraries offer a tutorial on academic misconduct, and you can also refer to the OSU Student Code of Conduct and the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standard’s website for more information.  More importantly, if you are unsure if something will violate our academic integrity policy, ask your professors, GTAs, academic advisors, or academic integrity officers.


Your instructor may ask you to submit one or more of your writings to Turnitin, a plagiarism prevention service. Your assignment content will be checked for potential plagiarism against Internet sources, academic journal articles, and the papers of other OSU students, for common or borrowed content. Turnitin generates a report that highlights any potentially unoriginal text in your paper. The report may be submitted directly to your instructor or your instructor may elect to have you submit initial drafts through Turnitin, and you will receive the report allowing you the opportunity to make adjustments and ensure that all source material has been properly cited. Papers you submit through Turnitin for this or any class will be added to the OSU Turnitin database and may be checked against other OSU paper submissions. You will retain all rights to your written work. For further information, visit Academic Integrity for Students: Turnitin – What is it?

Statement Regarding Students with Disabilities

Accommodations for students with disabilities are determined and approved by Disability Access Services (DAS). If you, as a student, believe you are eligible for accommodations but have not obtained approval, please contact DAS immediately at 541-737-4098 or at Disability Access Services. DAS notifies students and faculty members of approved academic accommodations and coordinates implementation of those accommodations. While not required, students and faculty members are encouraged to discuss details of the implementation of individual accommodations.

Accessibility of Course Materials

All materials used in this course are accessible. If you require accommodations please contact Disability Access Services (DAS).

Additionally, Canvas, the learning management system through which this course is offered, provides a vendor statement certifying how the platform is accessible to students with disabilities.

Tutoring and Writing Assistance

There are a variety of tutoring and academic skills resources across campus. Here are some of the most common for engineering students.

Ecampus Reach Out for Success

University students encounter setbacks from time to time. If you encounter difficulties and need assistance, it’s important to reach out. Consider discussing the situation with an instructor or academic advisor. Learn about resources that assist with wellness and academic success.

Ecampus students are always encouraged to discuss issues that impact your academic success with the Ecampus Success Team. Email to identify strategies and resources that can support you in your educational goals. 

If you feel comfortable sharing how a hardship may impact your performance in this course, please reach out to me as your instructor.

  • For mental health:

Learn about counseling and psychological resources for Ecampus students. If you are in immediate crisis, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting OREGON to 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

  • For financial hardship:

Any student whose academic performance is impacted due to financial stress or the inability to afford groceries, housing, and other necessities for any reason is urged to contact the Director of Care for support (541-737-8748).

Student Evaluation of Courses

During Fall, Winter, and Spring term, the online Student Evaluation of Teaching system opens to students the Wednesday of week 8 and closes the Sunday before Finals Week. Students will receive notification, instructions and the link through their ONID email. They may also log into the system via Online Services. Course evaluation results are extremely important and used to help improve courses and the learning experience of future students. Responses are anonymous (unless a student chooses to “sign” their comments, agreeing to relinquish anonymity) and unavailable to instructors until after grades have been posted. The results of scaled questions and signed comments go to both the instructor and their unit head/supervisor.  Anonymous (unsigned) comments go to the instructor only.

Course Outline By Week

Week 0 - Start Here
Week 1
Week 2 
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10
  • Blog Post #3 (due this week)
  • Complete your final project iteration v0.0.2 (due this week)
Week 11
Nothing — Congratulations, you're done!

Please post all course-related questions in the Q&A Discussion Forum so that the whole class may benefit from our conversation. Please contact me privately for matters of a personal nature. I will reply to course-related questions within 24 hours. I will strive to return your assignments and grades for course activities to you within five days of the due date.

For questions about grading, contact the person responsible for grading that assignment.

To contact me directly, please email me at I strongly suggest tagging your email with "[CS 461]" in the subject line. If you do not receive a response within one business day, feel free to send a follow-up email. Sometimes we miss things!

Tutoring and Writing Assistance

The COE Success Studio’s hallmark program is Peer Tutoring, which now operates in multiple modalities. We offer drop-in and appointment-based tutoring, both in-person and virtually, for a variety of courses, including prerequisite and technical coursework in most of our schools. Students can check the drop-in schedule and make appointments from our website, which is linked above.

The Oregon State Online Writing Suite is also available for students enrolled in Ecampus courses.

Synchronous Communication - Microsoft Teams

There are a variety of ways to communicate with your class and team. One good method is to use Microsoft Teams.

To join the class Team, click "Microsoft Teams" in the sidebar and follow the instructions.

PLEASE NOTE:  For grading matters, or to contact the Instructor directly, ALWAYS use email:

More Info:

We are not Debuggers, Programmers, or Architects — that's your job! Please do not send the instructor or TAs any code except what is required for your assignment submissions. If you want to ask a question, go ahead. The worst that happens is we will tell you to Google for the answer (and probably share a link or two with you in the process).

At the same time, we WILL be helping you with your writing assignments. If you have a question, don't hesitate to ask!

This page describes where to find the available Software Projects and how to choose your project.

  1. Here is the link to the OSU EECS Capstone Project Portal. Visit anytime to see available projects.
  2. You will want to understand the steps outline in the Choose Your Project assignment.

Propose Your Own Project

Do you have an idea for a project that you'd really like to execute? If so, send an email to the instructor(s) asap with your project proposal. We will help you fine-tune your idea and post the project to the Portal. Note that there may not be time to add your project, so get your ideas in as early as possible.

If you choose to work on your own idea, you may not re-use extensive amounts of code from previous projects and get credit for them as part of this course: your programming and design efforts must be new. However, if you have an existing project that you want to put 300 more hours into, you can use that project as a starting point for your team.

Evaluation Environment

In general, your instructor(s) and TAs will not have time to re-create your development environment in order to test. You should plan ahead to submit the following:

  • Web Project - Link to hosted website
  • iOS - Use TestFlight (preferred) or Ad-hoc deployment
  • Android - Submit an apk that is runnable on an Android Virtual Device
  • School Computers (Cent OS or Windows) - Ok to submit c or c++ code and compilation instructions IF no dependencies to install. Python and Java are fine also.
  • Unity or Unreal projects - Contact the instructor(s). We may be able to load your project in our Unity or Unreal environment, or may simply use the demonstration videos.
  • Other - Contact the Instructor.

Project Selection Considerations

Since this final project you create will be amazing, please consider using it as part of your portfolio to help get jobs. To this end, consider selecting a project that might appeal to your potential employers.

Welcome to CS 461 Capstone! This course is very different from previous courses in the program. This is where many of you get to work with an outside project sponsor, with very little input or guidance from the instructor. Many students have told me this was the most fun course they have taken in the program.

Here are some ways to be successful in this course:

  1. Set up Canvas Notifications. Your instructor will often send out important announcements that you will not want to miss.
  2. Want to see a roadmap for this course? The major assignments are viewable in the course Schedule tab of the Syllabus.
  3. Work a few hours each day and revisit your plan.
  4. The Canvas Calendar can help you with due dates. Set up notifications (see above).
  5. Make sure to visit the Canvas explorations. Most are designed to support your assignments.
  6. Get help when you need it! Your team is there for you, and so are your project partners, TA’s, and instructor.
  7. Familiarize yourself with the outcomes for a Writing Intensive Course (WIC).
  8. Get help on writing: Visit the OSU Writing Center.
  9. ALWAYS look for Instructor/TA feedback and comments on your writing. It is VERY likely that you will be asked to make changes on one or more assignments (to improve your grade)!
  10. Communication is KEY!
    • Maintain contact with your team ALWAYS!
    • If you have to be absent for meetings or can't work for any reason, let your team know.
    • If you are struggling or falling behind, let your team know.
    • If you feel someone isn't pulling their weight, let them know (respectfully).


Your team is there for you and you should be there for your team...

You absolutely must keep in regular contact with your team. I know that many of you have jobs and lives outside of this program, and we try to be as flexible as possible. However, this isn't a weekend-only class. You need to communicate with your team and agree on a schedule for regular team meetings and checkins. Having a busy work/school/personal life is not an excuse for disappearing on your team. If your team has gone more than a week without hearing from you, you will be removed from your team. Even excused absences can result in removal from your team if they significantly impact the team's ability to finish the project.

You are responsible for notifying me about absent/under-performing team members. Even though I can see if a student has stopped submitting progress updates or is not showing appropriate progress, I cannot contact the other members of the group to investigate because of academic records privacy regulations. If you have not heard from a group member in more than a week, it is your responsibility to contact me. Waiting until a few days before the final design paper is due is not an appropriate time to send me an email about how you're the only one that has contributed anything to the project assignments all term.

I will do everything I can to make sure that students are not unfairly punished for the actions of their group member(s). Because many students plan to use the final deliverable in their professional portfolios, I take non-participation and under-performance very seriously. Please keep in mind the effects that your choices can have on the other people in your group who have all invested a significant amount of time and money into this program and want to have the best final product to show for it that they can.

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