David J. Malan

Educational Objectives

This course is a variant of Harvard College’s introduction to computer science, CS50, designed especially for MBA students. Whereas CS50 itself takes a bottom-up approach, emphasizing mastery of low-level concepts and implementation details thereof, this course takes a top-down approach, emphasizing mastery of high-level concepts and design decisions related thereto. Through a mix of technical instruction, discussion of case studies, and weekly programming projects, this course empowers students to make technological decisions even if not technologists themselves. Topics include cloud computing, networking, privacy, scalability, security, and more, with a particular emphasis on web and mobile technologies. Students emerge from this course with first-hand appreciation of how it all works and all the more confident in the factors that should guide their decision-making.

Career Focus

This course is designed for students who expect to be future managers, product managers, founders, and decision-makers more generally.


You are expected to attend all classes, submit all assignments, and submit all projects. Absences should be reported via myHBS.


Final grades will be based on quality of participation (20%), assignments (50%), and projects (30%).


A schedule of classes appears below, subject to change.

You are expected to arrive at class (with a laptop) having completed all prior assignments and projects, prepared to discuss all prior classes’ material.

Classes meet in Aldrich 207 from 1:15pm until 2:35pm.

Computational Thinking on Tue 1/23

Programming Languages on Thu 1/25

Algorithms, Data Structures on Wed 1/31

Internet Technologies on Thu 2/1

Web Design on Wed 2/7

Cloud Computing on Thu 2/8

Database Design on Thu 2/15

Privacy, Security on Fri 2/16

Web Programming on Thu 2/22

with Tommy MacWilliam of Quora

Mobile Strategies on Fri 2/23

with Tommy MacWilliam of Quora

Technology Stacks on Wed 2/28

Web-Scale Data Management on Thu 3/1

with Margo Seltzer of SEAS


Led by the teaching fellows, seminars are opportunities to dive into topics beyond the scope of the course’s own classes. Attendance is optional but encouraged.


Homework is ordinarily assigned twice-weekly in the form of assignments and projects, all of which must be submitted by 1:15pm on the day due. Assignments are shorter, opportunities to introduce or reinforce material via exercises, readings, questions, and/or videos. Projects are longer, hands-on opportunities to write code.

Office Hours

Office hours are opportunities for guidance and feedback from the staff on assignments and projects as well as for discussion of the course’s material more generally.

Academic Honesty

This course’s philosophy on academic honesty is best stated as “be reasonable.” The course recognizes that interactions with classmates and others can facilitate mastery of the course’s material. However, there remains a line between enlisting the help of another and submitting the work of another. This policy characterizes both sides of that line.

The essence of all work that you submit to this course must be your own. Collaboration on assignments and projects is not permitted except to the extent that you may ask classmates and others for help so long as that help does not reduce to another doing your work for you. Generally speaking, when asking for help, you may show your work to classmates and others, but you may not view theirs, so long as you and they respect this policy’s other constraints.

Below are rules of thumb that (inexhaustively) characterize acts that the course considers reasonable and not reasonable. If in doubt as to whether some act is reasonable, do not commit it until you solicit and receive approval in writing from the course’s instructor. Acts considered not reasonable by the course are handled harshly as violations of the MBA Program Honor Code.

If you commit some act that is not reasonable but bring it to the attention of the course’s instructor within 72 hours, the course may impose local sanctions that may include a failing grade for work submitted, but the course will not escalate the matter further except in cases of repeated acts.


Not Reasonable