Introductory COBOL - CIS12

Introduction to CIS12

Welcome to the introduction to programming using the COBOL language. COBOL is a widely used structured language that will teach you the concepts of structured programming - the most widely used programming style on the market today. With this base, you will then move on to learn a more object-oriented language such as C++ or Visual Basic. (Incidentally, there is also an object-oriented version of COBOL that is being introduced).

If you are taking this as a Web based course it is extremely important that you either own a computer or have daily access to a computer. For students taking the course over the Web, the computer is your only source for information and the way you will communicate with the instructor. If you do not have a computer available and you are not comfortable working on the Web, you should be taking this course using the classroom option (see below).

History of COBOL:

Before I do anything else, I want to address the usefulness of COBOL. Several of you have heard the rumors that COBOL is dead! This is the same rumor that I heard when I first started programming in COBOL in 1966. In fact, COBOL is a stable language that is used by many companies when the code needs to be reliable - it has a solid reputation.

For more than thirty years, it has been fashionable among certain information technology professional circles to proclaim the imminent demise of the COBOL language. According to the fad of the time, COBOL was soon to be replaced at one time or another by ALGOL, PL-I, Pascal, and Ada among others. All of them have become niche languages while COBOL continues to thrive.

The inconvenient fact for those who predict its demise is that COBOL is still the most widely used business programming language. There are more business programs written in COBOL than all other business programming languages combined and there is more new code written in COBOL each year than in any other business programming language. COBOL has continued to thrive through the decades because it is not, to paraphrase a certain automobile commercial, "your father’s COBOL." The COBOL language standard has been and continues to be updated to incorporate the latest programming technologies –the latest of which are the specifications for object oriented COBOL and Internet connectivity.

Every year, we place students as COBOL programmers in local companies. In addition, given the huge financial investment businesses have in COBOL programs, its continued wide spread use and the concerted and successful effort to keep it current with the latest programming technologies, COBOL will be with us for along time to come. An in depth knowledge of COBOL will continue to provide our students with many programming job opportunities.

The Web site:

The Web site that you are currently visiting will contain all information for this course. It is a resource for students in the classroom and the method of delivery for students taking the course over the Web. The class notes and sample programs will all posted at the site as well as the assignments. In addition to the list of assignments, there is also a week by week schedule to help the student keep current. I usually update the site four or five times a week, so be sure to check it on a regular basis. Note: Assignments will not be handed out in class, they are available on the Web.

The site for CIS12 also has a bulletin board or board room where I can post information that is important and you can post information or questions. Other students can respond to your postings as well as myself. Please note that hackers/spammers/whatever sometimes find public boardrooms. I will make every attempt to keep it clean, but unfortunately there has been an instance where someone left an inappropriate message. Please let me know if inappropriate messages appear at the site.

On the second page of the Web site, there is a link called Postings/Notes. Here I will post all information that is important to students taking all of my courses. For example, if I cancel classes, I will try my best to post it there.

The way this course works:

Students taking this course have three options:

  1. They may choose to take it as a traditional classroom/lecture course and attend all or at least most classes
  2. They may take the class entirely over the Web meaning that they will get notes and sample programs over the Web and they will communicate with me mainly through the board room for general interest questions and e-mail for specific questions.
  3. Students can blend the two approaches described above. If they have questions about the material, if they are confused about a specific topic, or if they just feel like attending class they are welcome to do so. If it is inconvenient to attend class or they feel that they understand the material and don't need the classroom activity, they can work through the Web site.

The information posted on the Web site will be the primary material in this course. Students can buy the recommended textbook or they can use the material at the site as their primary text. If you buy the recommended textbook, understand that is for reference purposes - to give you another source for information. The course will follow the material covered in the Web notes and examples. All exam questions will be from these notes and examples or information covered in assignments or postings.

If students have a home computer or access to a computer at work, they should plan to buy a home compiler for use in writing and running their COBOL programs. Students who do not have a home computer must schedule a significant amount of time in the K-Building computer labs. Lab assistants, knowledgeable in COBOL and Web use, are available to help you get started. Information about the MicroFocus compiler is available at the site. Other compilers are also available on the Web for download and purchase, but MicroFocus by Merant is the compiler used in the labs and will give you the most compatibility for problem solving.


All students taking the course must have an e-mail address. The college provides an email address or there are places where you can obtain a free address on the Web. As soon as you have an e-mail address send me an e-mail so I can put you into my system.

Students taking the course over the Web must communicate with me at least once a week via e-mail just to let me know they are still there!

For everyone in the class: If you miss more than two classes in a row, please send me an e-mail letting me know that you to still exist!

For in class students, sometimes assignments should be turned in two class days after they are given so that I can discuss the concepts in class. In most cases, assignments should be turned in the week after they were assigned. Programs will have a specified due date that should be met. I accept late papers with no individual penalty or point loss. The problem is that there is a lot of work and if you get behind you risk completing the course. In addition, 10% of your grade is based on participation, quality of work, getting things in on time etc., so chronic lateness will affect your grade.

All students should send me assignments over the Web or they may put them under my door or in my mailbox. In class students may also pass in assignments at the end of class.

On most assignments, if you get a bad grade you can either resubmit or do a make-up. If I have heavily corrected the assignment and the answers are there, needless to say you cannot resubmit. Make-up assignments will be posted on a regular basis or the student can ask that one be assigned.


If you need help, see me or e-mail me and we will figure out the best response. It is better to contact me as soon as you see signs of a problem! You can send me drafts of assignments with particular questions over e-mail and I will respond as soon as possible. With rare exception I check my Web site every day and on days when I am not at BCC, I usually check it multiple times. I am willing to set up review sessions or question and answer sessions for in class students, Web students or both. Questions and answers can also be done in the board room. Tutoring is available at TASC for students who would like to set up one or more tutoring sessions.