Syllabus for COS-330



Computer Architecture (COS-330) is an introduction to the organization and architecture of computer systems. The course begins with the standard von Neumann model and moves toward more recent architectural concepts. In line with ACM/IEEE-CS 2001 computing curriculum guidelines core areas for computer organization and architecture, this course covers:

  1. digital logic and digital systems
  2. machine level representation of data
  3. assembly level machine organization
  4. memory system organization and architecture
  5. interfacing and communication
  6. functional organization
  7. multiprocessing and alternative architectures

These guidelines are produced jointly by the Computer Society of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

This course should also provide a foundation for your studies of operating systems and other areas of computer science.

Advisory: It is advisable to have completed two computer science courses before taking this course. Also, it would be helpful (but it is not required) for students to take a course in discrete mathematics as co-requisite. However, it is expected that all students who are taking this course have the mathematical maturity gained in a year of college-level mathematics (such as calculus or discrete mathematics).


All computer science is based on the computer. Thus, to be a computer professional requires an understanding of what makes up a computer. This course provides an introduction to a computer’s components, characteristics, and interactions. The course deals with the interactions of programming with the underlying hardware. Tradeoffs, for example, among various components, such as CPU clock speed versus memory size, are covered.

Your overall goals will be to:

  1. Evaluate a computer system’s architectures.
  2. Compare and contrast computer architectures.
  3. Design circuits at the gate level using and/or/not/multiplexors/decoders/encoders.
  4. Design microcode sequences that implement machine level instructions.

After completing this course, you should be able to: 

  1. Use mathematical expressions to describe functions of simple combinational and sequential circuits.
  2. Describe the physical limitations of electronic circuits.
  3. Explain the pros and cons of using different formats to represent numerical data.
  4. Convert numerical data from one format to another.
  5. Discuss effects of fixed-length number representations on accuracy and precision.
  6. Describe internal representation of characters, strings, records, and arrays.
  7. Explain the basic organization and major functional units of the von Neumann machine.
  8. Comprehend how an instruction is executed in a von Neumann machine.
  9. Summarize how instructions are represented at machine levels and in context of a symbolic assembler.
  10. Identify different instruction formats, such as addresses per instruction and variable length versus fixed length formats.
  11. Write simple assembly language program segments.
  12. Demonstrate how fundamental high-level programming constructs are implemented at the machine-language level.
  13. Comprehend basic concepts of interrupts and I/O operations.
  14. Explain how interrupts are used to implement I/O control and data transfers.
  15. Identify various types of buses.
  16. Describe data access from various drives, such as magnetic disks, optical disks, magnetic tape, and RAID drives.
  17. Compare alternative implementations of datapaths.
  18. Discuss control points and the generation of control signals using hardwired or microprogrammed implementations.
  19. Explain basic instruction level parallelism using pipelining and describe hazards that may occur.
  20. Implement parallel processing beyond the classical von Neumann model.
  21. Describe alternative architectures such as SISD (Single Instruction, Single Data), SIMD (Single Instruction, Multiple Data), MISD (Multiple Instruction, Single Data), and MIMD (Multiple Instruction, Multiple Data), and VLIW (Very Long Instruction Word).


You will need the following materials to do the work of the course. The required textbook is available from the College's textbook supplier, MBS Direct.

Required Textbook

  1. The Essentials of Computer Organization and Architecture, 3d ed., by Linda Null and Julia Lobur (Burlington, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett, 2012).

ISBN-13: 978-1-4496-0006-8

Accompanying Software

Several types of software are available as downloads from the textbook's companion Web site.

  1. Textbook Website

More items may become available in time. Check the "Student Resources" area of the Web site often.

PowerPoint Presentations

On this site you will find PowerPoint presentations, prepared by the authors of your text, for each of the chapters covered in this course.

As noted, to view the presentations you will either need to have Microsoft PowerPoint installed on your computer or you will have to have downloaded the free viewer from Microsoft.


Computer Architecture is a three-credit online course, consisting of six (6) modules. Modules include learning objectives, study materials, and activities. Module titles are listed below.

  1. Module 1:  Introduction and Data Representation

  1. Module 2:  Boolean Algebra and Digital Logic
  2. Module 3:  Introduction to a Simple Computer
  3. Module 4:  Instruction Set Architectures and Memory
  4. Module 5:  Input/Output and Storage Systems
  5. Module 6:  Alternative Architectures

Consult the course Calendar for assignment due dates.


For your formal work in the course, you are required to participate in six (6) graded online discussion forums, complete six (6) written assignments, and take two proctored online examinations—a midterm and a final. See below for more details.

Consult the course Calendar for assignment due dates.

Discussion Forums

In addition to an ungraded "Introductions" forum, Computer Architecture requires you to participate in six (6) graded class discussions forums.

Communication with the mentor and among fellow students is a critical component of online learning. Participation in online discussions involves two distinct assignments: an initial response to a posted question (discussion thread) and subsequent comments on classmates' responses.

You will be evaluated both on the quality of your responses (i.e., your understanding of readings, concepts, and ideas as demonstrated by well-articulated, critical thinking) and quantity of your participation (i.e., the number of times you participate meaningfully in the assigned forums). Responses and comments should be properly proofread and edited, professional, and respectful.

Meaningful participation in online discussions is relevant to the content, adds value, and advances the discussion. Comments such as "I agree" and "ditto" are not considered value-adding participation. Therefore, when you agree or disagree with a classmate, the reading, or your mentor, state and support your agreement or disagreement.

Review Forums

Each module of this course includes a Review Forum. This provides you with the opportunity to work collaboratively with your classmates to review material. This assignment is carried out on the class Discussion Board. Directions for the assignment are found in the individual modules.

Written Assignments

Computer Architecture has six (6) written assignments. For the assignment topics and questions, see the individual Assignment Modules. Take the time to familiarize yourself with these modules and read through the written assignment questions before you begin each reading assignment.

Prepare your written assignments using whatever word processing program you have on your computer. Include your name at the top of the paper, as well as the course name and code and the semester and year in which you are enrolled.

Before submitting your first assignment, check with your mentor to determine whether your word processing software is compatible with your mentor's software. If so, you can submit your work as you prepared it. If not, save your assignment as a rich-text (.rtf) file, using the Save As command of your software program. Rich text retains basic formatting and can be read by any other word processing program.


You are required to take two (2) closed-book, proctored online examinations: a midterm and a final. Each exam is two hours long. The midterm covers material in Modules 1 through 3.; the final covers all reading and assignments from Modules 4 through 6.  The exams include multiple choice, short answer, matching, and essay items. Both exams require that you use the College's Online Proctor Service (OPS). Please refer to the "Examinations and Proctors" section of the Online Student Handbook (see General Information area of the course Web site) for further information about scheduling and taking online exams and for all exam policies and procedures.

Online exams are administered through the course Web site. Consult the course Calendar for the official dates of exam weeks.

Statement about Cheating

You are on your honor not to cheat during an exam. Cheating means:

  1. Looking up any answer or part of an answer in an unauthorized textbook or on the Internet, or using any other source to find an answer.
  2. Copying and pasting or, in any way copying responses or parts of responses from any other source into your exams. This includes but is not limited to copying and pasting from other documents or spreadsheets, whether written by yourself or anyone else.
  3. Plagiarizing answers.
  4. Asking anyone else to assist you by whatever means available while you take an exam.
  5. Copying any part of an exam to share with other students.
  6. Telling your mentor that you need another attempt at an exam because your connection to the Internet was interrupted when that is not true.

If there is evidence that you have cheated or plagiarized in an exam, the exam will be declared invalid, and you will fail the course.


Your grade in the course will be determined as follows:

  1. Online discussions (6)—10 percent
  2. Written assignments (6)—40 percent
  3. Midterm exam (proctored online, modules 1–3)—25 percent
  4. Final exam (proctored online, modules 4–6)—25 percent

All activities will receive a numerical grade of 0–100. You will receive a score of 0 for any work not submitted. Your final grade in the course will be a letter grade. Letter grade equivalents for numerical grades are as follows:






























Below 60

To receive credit for the course, you must earn a letter grade of C or better (for an area of study course) or D or better (for a nonarea of study course), based on the weighted average of all assigned course work (e.g., exams, assignments, discussion postings, etc.).


First Steps to Success

To succeed in this course, take the following first steps:

  1. Read carefully the entire Syllabus, making sure that all aspects of the course are clear to you and that you have all the materials required for the course.
  2. Take the time to read the entire Online Student Handbook. The Handbook answers many questions about how to proceed through the course, how to schedule exams, and how to get the most from your educational experience at Thomas Edison State College.
  3. Arrange to take your examination(s) by following the instructions in this Syllabus and the Online Student Handbook.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the learning management systems environment—how to navigate it and what the various course areas contain. If you know what to expect as you navigate the course, you can better pace yourself and complete the work on time.
  5. If you are not familiar with Web-based learning be sure to review the processes for posting responses online and submitting assignments before class begins.

Study Tips

Consider the following study tips for success:

  1. To stay on track throughout the course, begin each week by consulting the course Calendar. The Calendar provides an overview of the course and indicates due dates for submitting assignments, posting discussions, and scheduling and taking examinations.
  2. Check Announcements regularly for new course information.


Students at Thomas Edison State College are expected to exhibit the highest level of academic citizenship. In particular, students are expected to read and follow all policies, procedures, and program information guidelines contained in publications; pursue their learning goals with honesty and integrity; demonstrate that they are progressing satisfactorily and in a timely fashion by meeting course deadlines and following outlined procedures; observe a code of mutual respect in dealing with mentors, staff, and other students; behave in a manner consistent with the standards and codes of the profession in which they are practicing; keep official records updated regarding changes in name, address, telephone number, or e-mail address; and meet financial obligations in a timely manner. Students not practicing good academic citizenship may be subject to disciplinary action including suspension, dismissal, or financial holds on records.

Academic Dishonesty

Thomas Edison State College expects all of its students to approach their education with academic integrity—the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception. All mentors and administrative staff members at the College insist on strict standards of academic honesty in all courses. Academic dishonesty undermines this objective. Academic dishonesty takes the following forms:

  1. Cheating
  2. Plagiarizing (including copying and pasting from the Internet without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources)
  3. Fabricating information or citations
  4. Facilitating acts of dishonesty by others
  5. Unauthorized access to examinations or the use of unauthorized materials during exam administration
  6. Submitting the work of another person or work previously used without informing the mentor
  7. Tampering with the academic work of other students

Academic dishonesty will result in disciplinary action and possible dismissal from the College. Students who submit papers that are found to be plagiarized will receive an F on the plagiarized assignment, may receive a grade of F for the course, and may face dismissal from the College.

A student who is charged with academic dishonesty will be given oral or written notice of the charge. If a mentor or College official believes the infraction is serious enough to warrant referral of the case to the academic dean, or if the mentor awards a final grade of F in the course because of the infraction, the student and the mentor will be afforded formal due process.

If a student is found cheating or using unauthorized materials on an examination, he or she will automatically receive a grade of F on that examination. Students who believe they have been falsely accused of academic dishonesty should seek redress through informal discussions with the mentor, through the office of the dean, or through an executive officer of Thomas Edison State College.


Using someone else's work as your own is plagiarism. Although it may seem like simple dishonesty, plagiarism is against the law. Thomas Edison State College takes a strong stance against plagiarism, and students found to be plagiarizing will be severely penalized. If you copy phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or whole documents word-for-word—or if you paraphrase by changing a word here and there—without identifying the author, then you are plagiarizing. Please keep in mind that this type of identification applies to Internet sources as well as to print-based sources. Copying and pasting from the Internet, without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources, constitutes plagiarism.  (For information about how to cite Internet sources, see Online Student Handbook > Academic Standards > "Citing Sources.")

Accidentally copying the words and ideas of another writer does not excuse the charge of plagiarism. It is easy to jot down notes and ideas from many sources and then write your own paper without knowing which words are your own and which are someone else's. It is more difficult to keep track of each and every source. However, the conscientious writer who wishes to avoid plagiarizing never fails to keep careful track of sources.

Always be aware that if you write without acknowledging the sources of your ideas, you run the risk of being charged with plagiarism.

Clearly, plagiarism, no matter the degree of intent to deceive, defeats the purpose of education. If you plagiarize deliberately, you are not educating yourself, and you are wasting your time on courses meant to improve your skills. If you plagiarize through carelessness, you are deceiving yourself.

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