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For prospective students: prerequisites for COMP470

Last updated July 18, 2022 - 2:45pm by Jon Dron

This page is intended for prospective students who are wondering whether they have the necessary skills and knowledge to take COMP470.

The syllabus asks for COMP 266 or an equivalent introductory knowledge of Web programming; and COMP 347 or an equivalent fluent knowledge of Computer Networks. However, this is really just a shorthand way of saying that it requires a good general background knowledge of concepts, practices, theories, and technologies of computers and networks, at a level that would normally be achieved by the end of the second (UK, NZ, Australian degrees) or third (US, Canadian degrees) year of a conventional in-person degree, or through working in the industry for a few years. The course assumes:

  • that you have a fair understanding of the computer industry;
  • that you are highly proficient in the use and management of at least your own computer;
  • that you are fluent in the use of online, web-based systems; 
  • that you have a reasonable knowledge of the roles of computers and IT in businesses and organizations.

You are expected to synthesize a lot of this kind of knowledge and apply it in the context of web server management.

Some specific essential skills/knowledge include:

  • A little HTML. This is primarily for testing whether your webserver works, and for being able to distinguish HTML from other data that may be returned by a web server (HTTP responses). You do not actually need to know any programming, as such, but you should have a fair understanding of how to use and create content for a web server, including being able to put the files in the right place and to know the difference between files saved on your local filesystem and those that are served by a web server;
  • A clear understanding of the nature of client/server systems, most notably including at least a broad grasp of layers in TCP/IP, especially those towards the top of the stack: loosely speaking, the application, transport, and network (also known as internet) layers. Some understanding of the role of ports at the application layer would be particularly useful. A reasonable grasp of DNS and IP addressing would be very beneficial, and it would be even more helpful (though not absolutely essential) to know how to manage a hosts file;
  • The ability to install and manage software on your local computer, including dealing with the complexities of dealing with firewalls, permissions, and other security features of your operating system (ie. you need to be able to do quite a bit more than just click the 'install' button in your operating system's app store!);
  • The ability to write clearly and persuasively, following accepted norms in referencing information from other sites and academic papers;
  • The ability to use web-based systems to create and share content;
  • The ability to independently research and discover reliable, accurate information using online sources;
  • The ability to be a self-directed learner.

If you are quite confident that you have these skills, then feel free to sign up: you can assume coordinator approval. If you have any doubts, contact the course coordinator, Jon Dron (, explaining your concerns.