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This is an archived syllabus from 2013-2014

COMP33812 Software Evolution syllabus 2013-2014

COMP33812 Software Evolution

Level 3
Credits: 10
Enrolled students: 66

Course leader: Andy Carpenter

Additional staff: view all staff


  • Pre-Requisite (Compulsory): COMP23420

Assessment methods

  • 70% Written exam
  • 30% Coursework
Sem 2 Lecture 1.4 Mon 12:00 - 12:00 -
Sem 2 Lecture 1.3 Tue 13:00 - 13:00 -
Themes to which this unit belongs
  • Agile Methods


This course unit continues the Agile Methods theme by focusing on the challenges not of creating new systems from scratch, but of evolving systems that already exist.

It has been observed that 80p of every pound spent on software development is spent on maintenance of existing systems. In real life, most software engineers spend their time either helping software systems to continue to meet the needs of their users, or adapting them to meet changing needs. Even new applications are typically constructed by combining existing components and database systems new software.

Similarly, downstream in agile development projects, new functionality must be implemented in the context of existing development, some of which may have been deployed to the customer and which must continue to deliver business value through the new development.


This course unit aims to make students aware of the challenges inherent in the evolution of existing systems, especially when they are in constant use, and to provide a working understanding of some of the techniques and best practices currently known for changing existing bodies of software safely.



Motivation for and overview of the course unit. Outlines the challenges inherent in software evolution, based on a case study from real life. Change as a fact of life for software systems.

System Comprehension

Introduction to techniques for understanding software systems built by others. Recognising common architectural patterns. Code reading techniques for program comprehension, including bottom-up reading (based on idioms) and top-down reading (based on abstractions).

System Evolution

Techniques for evolutionary design in the small: refactoring. Techniques for large-scale evolutionary design, especially evolution of legacy systems. Architectural patterns for isolation/exposure of change.

Black-Box and Open Source Components

How are external components integrated into systems? How does the evolution of the componets and the host system interrelate?


Are there ways in which some of the problems/complexity of software evolution can be avoided in the future?

Teaching methods


22 hours (in 11 2 hour sessions)

Feedback methods

Coursework with numeric and written feedback

Study hours

  • Assessment written exam (2 hours)
  • Lectures (24 hours)

Employability skills

  • Problem solving

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, a student will be able to:

Learning outcomes are detailed on the COMP33812 course unit syllabus page on the School of Computer Science's website for current students.

Reading list

No reading list found for COMP33812.

Additional notes

Course unit materials

Links to course unit teaching materials can be found on the School of Computer Science website for current students.