CS 686 Big Data

Course Syllabus — CS 686: Special Topics: Big Data

MWF 11:45 am – 12:50 pm, 4 Credits
HR 148

Instructor: Matthew Malensek
Office: HR416
Hours: T 10-11am, WF 1-2pm
Email: mmalensek@usfca.edu
Phone: (415) 422-4756


Experience programming in Java.

Required Texts/Materials

There is no textbook for this course. Instead, we will read and discuss research papers.

If you feel you’d like to get more background on distributed systems, Distributed Systems: Principles and Paradigms by Andrew S. Tanenbaum and Maarten van Steen (2nd Edition) is a good choice.

Course Overview

Advancements in commodity computing hardware have broadened our ability to store and analyze data at an unprecedented scale. Such datasets allow us to better understand real-world phenomena, discover patterns and trends, or even gain a competitive advantage in business. This course examines the algorithmic and systems challenges associated with the storage, retrieval, and analysis of large-scale datasets. Topics include modern distributed storage frameworks (key-value, in-memory, wide-column), scalable computing paradigms (MapReduce, Spark, stream processing), and analysis techniques (sentiment analysis, predictive modeling).

Learning Outcomes

Our goals for this course are to:

To achieve these goals, the course is focused on large-scale programming assignments, as well as discussions/reports on recent research papers from the field.


The course will be graded on a A-F basis. The grade distribution is:

Grades will be assigned as follows:

Score RangeGrade
100 – 93.0A
92.9 – 90.0A-
89.9 – 87.0B+
86.9 – 83.0B
82.9 – 80.0B-
79.9 – 77.0C+
76.9 – 73.0C
72.9 – 70.0C-
69.9 – 67.0D+
66.9 – 63.0D
62.9 – 60.0D-
59.9 – 0F

Grades will not be cut off higher, but I may cut lower.


Important Dates

Academic Integrity

As a Jesuit institution committed to cura personalis — the care and education of the whole person — USF has an obligation to embody and foster the values of honesty and integrity. USF upholds the standards of honesty and integrity from all members of the academic community. All students are expected to know and adhere to the University’s Honor Code. You can find the full text of the code online at http://myusf.usfca.edu/academic-integrity/. The policy covers:

Students with Disabilities

If you are a student with a disability or disabling condition, or if you think you may have a disability, please contact USF Student Disability Services (SDS) at 415 422-2613 within the first week of class, or immediately upon onset of disability, to speak with a disability specialist. 

If you are determined eligible for reasonable accommodations, please meet with your disability specialist so they can arrange to have your accommodation letter sent to me, and we will discuss your needs for this course.  For more information, please visit: http://www.usfca.edu/sds or call (415) 422-2613.

Behavioral Expectations

All students are expected to behave in accordance with the Student Conduct Code and other University policies (see http://www.usfca.edu/fogcutter/). Open discussion and disagreement is encouraged when done respectfully and in the spirit of academic discourse. There are also a variety of behaviors that, while not against a specific University policy, may create disruption in this course. Students whose behavior is disruptive or who fail to comply with the instructor may be dismissed from the class for the remainder of the class period and may need to meet with the instructor or Dean prior to returning to the next class period. If necessary, referrals may also be made to the Student Conduct process for violations of the Student Conduct Code. 

Learning, Writing, and Speaking Centers

The Learning, Writing, and Speaking Centers at USF provide individualized support to assist you in better understanding course material and to aid you on your path to success. Services are free and include one-on-one tutoring, group tutoring, and one-on-one Academic Skills Coaching appointments to discuss effective study strategies. The Learning Center supports over 80 courses each semester. The Writing Center helps students develop their writing skills in rhetoric, organization, style, and structure, through one-on-one interactive conferences. The Speaking Center helps students prepare for public speaking – including speeches, oral presentations, team presentations, and visual aid demonstrations. International students may also contact us to learn more about communicating with professors and general academic study skills. The Learning, Writing, and Speaking Centers are located on the Lower Level of Gleeson Library. Please contact them at 415-422-6713 for further assistance or visit https://myusf.usfca.edu/student-life/lwc to make an appointment.

Counseling and Psychological Services

Our diverse staff offers brief individual, couple, and group counseling to student members of our community. CAPS services are confidential and free of charge. Call 415-422-6352 for an initial consultation appointment. Having a crisis at 3 AM? We are still here for you. Telephone consultation through CAPS After Hours is available between the hours of 5:00 PM to 8:30 AM; call the above number and press 2.

Confidentiality, Mandatory Reporting, and Sexual Assault

As an instructor, one of my responsibilities is to help create a safe learning environment on our campus. I also have a mandatory reporting responsibility related to my role as a faculty member. I am required to share information regarding sexual misconduct or information about a crime that may have occurred on USFs campus with the University. Here are other resources:

Student Accounts – Last day to withdraw with tuition reversal

Students who wish to have the tuition charges reversed on their student account should withdraw from the course(s) by the end of the business day on the last day to withdraw with tuition credit (census date) for the applicable course(s) in which the student is enrolled. Please note that the last day to withdraw with tuition credit may vary by course. The last day to withdraw with tuition credit (census date) listed in the Academic Calendar is applicable only to courses which meet for the standard 15-week semester. To find what the last day to withdraw with tuition credit is for a specific course, please visit the Online Class Schedule at www.usfca.edu/schedules.