OSC: Case Study Assignment


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Case Study Assignment for Undergraduate Operating Systems Concepts


Pedagogical Objectives

  • Develop research skills in preparation of either academic settings or technical knowledge updating in professional environments
  • Expand horizons of the course by encompassing technologies of interest to students
  • Develop information synthesizing skills and capability to tutor / brief your peers on technical topics

Why a case study in your OS course?

  • Please refer to our Publications wiki page for a paper detailing the pedagogical benefits of such an assignment and the rational behind its organization.

General Assignment Guidelines

This section of the document describes the rules for the cop 4610 case study assignment. It is completed by "topic guides" sections below which provide additional information and help to address pre-defined family of topics. You are more than encouraged to come up with your own topic as long as you discuss it first with your instructor to agree on the details. A tailored "topic guide" will have to be designed before you start. As the semester progresses, exact deadlines will be emailed to you or posted on the course website / blackboard’s announcement section. If unclear about specific detail, contact your instructor.

Phase I: Case Study Survey

Duration 2 weeks
Points 3 pts
Resulting product 1000+ words introduction to your topic (.doc file)
Skills development
  • Updating by analogy your technological knowledge
  • Technical writing and synthesizing capabilities
  • The first part of your case study will result in a written introduction to the topic you chose (1000 words minimum). This report will define the case study, introduce related terminology and survey the various related technologies. The exact contents will vary depending on your topic; discuss this with your instructor.
  • You will create a thread for your case study in the “case study” forum on the course’s blackboard site and post your topic during the first week. Your report will be emailed to your instructor as a word file 2 weeks after the beginning of your case study assignment. (S)he will post it once all reports have been received in your thread.
  • Write your introduction “to the point”; avoid historical and marketing considerations.
  • Start your report with a brief synopsis; e.g. what is your case study covering? Why is this relevant nowadays?
  • Introduce the topic-specific terminology that your readers will need to follow your case study.
  • Provide an overview of current aspects of your topics (various technologies, various APIs, various OSes).
    • Name them, summarize their specificities briefly and provide link to more references (web, book, articles)
    • This overview will cover at least 4 significantly different technologies / APIs / OSes. Discuss these requirements with your instructor to adapt them to the topic at hand.

Phase II: Core Bibliography

Duration 3 weeks
Points 3 pts
Resulting Product
  • Annotated bibliography (.doc file)
  • Blog-like posts (minimum 1 per week w/ significant contents)
Skills development
  • Updating by analogy your technological knowledge
  • Annotated Bibliography writing & technical research
  • Capability to critically review & use sources of information
  • Pick a single specific topic from your overview and study it thoroughly. You will have to search for sources of information (books, periodicals, online resources…) which are relevant to explain the inner workings of the chosen technology / API / OS.
  • Add to your case study’s blackboard thread at least one post per week (posting after each work session is highly recommended) summarizing the results achieved so far in your research, discussing your readings, providing links to them.
  • At the end of this period, you will email your instructor an annotated bibliography (word document). Once all annotated bibliographies are received, your instructor will post your document in your thread.

If unsure about how to compose a technical / scientific bibliography, contact your instructor, the campus librarian (Catherine Lavallee-Welch), your technical writing instructor, or the campus writing center for help.

  • Each reference has to be numbered (e.g. [1], [2] …) and contain the name of the author, editor or publisher, page number (for articles in proceedings), date of publication (or last access for URLs)…
  • Each reference should be completed by a short description of the contents and how they were useful (or not) to develop further your case study. If your posts are regular and complete, this should be a matter of putting them together and making minor edits.
  • These references will be evaluated according to their technical and scientific validity (avoid “john’s temporary and unchecked website” as a source of information), their quantity, and their relevance to the topic at hand.
  • While you are reading, keep in mind the objective: preparing for your technical tutorial. You want to read information that will be useful for you to develop a technical tutorial on one specific aspect of your topic. You might even be able to start drafting up your technical tutorial as you are working on this phase.
  • As you work on your information gathering, you will discuss with your instructor which aspect are to be focused on during the technical tutorial.
  • If resources are available at the USF libraries and you didn’t use them, you will be penalized

Phase III: Technical Tutorial

Duration 3 weeks
Points 9 pts
Resulting product 15-20 minutes presentation + supporting slides (.ppt file)
Skills development
  • Capability to use course and external references to understand
  • Explain and discuss technological topics
  • Using the bibliography you compiled in the previous part, you will prepare a 15 minutes power point presentation explaining the chosen technology / API / OS’s inner workings.
  • This presentation will have to be designed as an in-depth technical tutorial for an audience of IT professionals (think colleagues). It has to be written by you (no cut and paste) and in your own words based on your readings.
  • Keep this part of the presentation very technical. Provide in-depth and sound explanations. Do not “fill up” with marketing, advertisement or historical considerations
  • Make sure that you also use your understanding of this technology to relate to topics covered in the course (e.g. system calls, scheduling and memory management).
  • Make sure you understand what you are talking about. Do not cut and paste content from other material, read it aloud without understanding. Failure to show understanding of what you present will be either penalized by loss of points (minor errors) or treated as a cheating attempt.
  • Your tutorial has to be an original and personal contribution. If you quote material, make a clear reference to where it comes from.
  • Make sure that you include in the conclusion of your presentation a note underlying the original contribution of your work; do similar tutorial exists? How do you differ from them? What is it that you explain which isn’t readily available in other sources? Also discuss briefly how this completed the course experience

Pre-defined Topics Guides

The following pages complement the above guidelines for a set of pre-defined topics. You are encouraged to define your own topic but these will either help you do so by serving as an example of the type of work which is expected in this assignment or provide you with a "turn-key" topic if you are lacking inspiration.

Topic Family #1: OS Kernel Internals

Topic Family #2: System Programming

Topic Family #3: OS Technologies


[EIAE06] The case for case study assignments in undergraduate operating systems courses