645.662.81 - Introduction to Systems Engineering

Systems Engineering
Spring 2024


This course introduces students to the fundamental principles of systems engineering and their application to the development of complex systems. It describes how the systems engineering viewpoint can be brought to bear to address engineering challenges as well as the essential role of systems engineering in project management. Topics include defining systems, the system development life cycle, and the systems engineering method. These primary topics are decomposed into requirements analysis, functional design, physical design, design validation, concept development, engineering development, and post development. In addition, the tools and methods at the systems engineer's disposal are also covered. These include risk analysis, configuration management, design trade-offs, modeling and simulation, and interface management, as well as how these subjects are linked to systems program management activities. More advanced Systems Engineering topics such as Software Systems, System of Systems, Enterprise Systems, and Agile Systems Engineering are introduced. The course defines the breadth and depth of the knowledge that the systems engineer must acquire concerning the characteristics of the diverse components that constitute the total system. Students will work as a group to develop and present a conceptual system architecture chosen from a list of existing systems in order to gain familiarity with architecting, system modeling, and the relationship between requirements, activities, hardware/software, interfaces, and other system elements.


Profile photo of Christopher Olson.

Christopher Olson


Course Structure

The course materials are divided into 12 modules which can be accessed by clicking modules on the menu on the course Canvas page. A module will have several sections including the overview, content, reading assignment, article review summary, and assignment. You are encouraged to preview all sections of the module before starting. Most modules run for a period of seven (7) days, exceptions are noted on the Course Outline page (also accessed from the Syllabus & Course Information link on the left). You should regularly check the Calendar and Announcements for assignment due dates.

Course Topics

Topics include defining Systems, the System Development Life Cycle and the Systems Engineering Method. These primary topics are decomposed into Requirements Analysis, Functional Design, Physical Design, Design Validation, Concept Development, Engineering Development and Post Development. In addition, the tools and methods at the Systems Engineer’s disposal are also covered. These include Risk Analysis, Configuration Management, Design Trade Offs, Modeling & Simulation, Interface Management, and how these subjects are linked to Systems Program Management activities.

Course Goals

To identify, describe and practice the methods and principles of systems engineering - and then apply that knowledge to develop a system concept.

Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)


Required Textbook

Kossiakoff, A., Seymour, S. J., Flanigan, D, A, & Biemer, S. M. (2020). Systems Engineering Principles and Practice (3rd Ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. zyBook edition.

  1. Sign in or create an account at learn.zybooks.com
  2. Enter the zyBook code found on the Course Textbook page on Canvas.
  3. Subscribe

International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE). (2023). INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook: A Guide for System Life Cycle Processes and Activities (5th Ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Available via Sheridan Libraries.

Optional Materials

Additionally, any of the following downloadable materials may be useful for this class if you find yourself struggling with specific skills:

Other Materials & Online Resources

Vitech CORE or Vitech Genesys or NoMagic Cameo Enterprise Architect

Our JHU Systems Engineering Program has setup a Community site on Canvas to give you access to Systems Engineering and Project Management tools.  These tools can be used in your courses throughout the program. To access this site, you can self-enroll.  Instructions can be found at this link. Search for:  JHU SE Tool Community. To access the software listed on the site, follow the directions provided.

Student Coursework Requirements

It is expected that each module will take approximately 6-15 hours per week to complete. Here is an approximate breakdown:

This course will consist of five basic student requirements:

Individual Assignments (30% of final grade calculation)

There will be individual homework assignments for modules 1 through 6 in this course (in addition to the problems in the zyBook).

  1. These assignments are made available in each module folder. Through the first half of the course, homework assignments are completed individually. In the latter half of the course (module 7 onward), the assignments are completed as a group (see #4 below).
  2. Assignments are individual work—although any non-human source is available to you.
  3. Some problems may require additional research outside of class lectures and the zyBook. All research for this class, however, can be accomplished via the Internet. Be sure to credit your sources.
  4. The assignments are due by the due date (provided on the course calendar on Canvas). If you are going to be late with an assignment, please let your instructor know (via email). See late policy below in “grading” for late submissions.
  5. Please see the grading rubric for grading methodology and assignment expectations for each assignment. Don’t forget to submit your assignment as a PDF (don’t submit as .pptx or .docx, etc).

zyBook Problems (10% of final grade calculation)

At the end of each zyBook chapter, there are a series of problems.

  1. Select one problem from only one chapter from the weekly reading and post your response in the course discussion board on Canvas for that chapter. Be sure to copy the question (don’t ‘just’ provide an answer with no question). Attempt to answer a question that has not already been answered by another student. There is no minimum word count - you can make your responses as short / succinct as you like, as long as you convey your understanding of the concept(s) behind the problem (70%).
  2. Find one other student’s response to another question and respond to their post with additional information or supplement their post based on your own experiences / knowledge. Again, there is no minimum word limit for responses, as long as your response is thoughtful and adds value to the original posting. In other words, “Yes, I agree! Great posting!” is not considered value-added (30%).
  3. One trick to chapter questions is to become familiar with the questions before reading the chapter. Then as you read the chapter, you can think about the questions and form your response.

zyBook Participation Activities (30% of final grade calculation)

  1. The zyBook contains Participation Activities (PAs) throughout each chapter.
  2. You have unlimited attempts to answer the PAs.
  3. Ensure you access the zyBook from the Canvas link to gain credit for the PAs – otherwise Canvas will not register your responses and you won’t get credit for the PAs. In other words, don’t sign in through zyBooks.com. Instead, click the link to the zyBook from Canvas.
  4. Be aware that incomplete PAs will often register in Canvas as “F”, “D”, “C” etc. until the chapter is complete, where it should then register as an “A”.

Team Project (20% of Final Grade Calculation)

  1. Individual homework assignments are replaced by team assignments in Module 7.
  2. Students are assigned to teams toward the beginning of the semester and may begin working on team assignments together.
  3. Teams are not expected to begin the team project until Module 7 begins.
  4. Project materials are provided in the Modules section of Canvas.
  5. The project artifact(s) should be turned in by a single individual from the group at the end of each module. There is no need for each member in the group to turn in each artifact.
  6. Project artifacts are assigned in each module in the latter half of the course starting at Module 7; however, the artifacts are cumulatively ‘due’ at the end of the semester.
  7. Teams will progressively add more material and refine their artifacts as they progress from team assignment to the next.
  8. When teams submit their artifacts, the section instructor will review and provide comments so the team may make improvements to their artifacts.
  9. No grades are awarded until the final report and presentation are provided during Module 12.
  10. Grading is by team, with everyone receiving the same grade.
  11. No separate grade is given for the report and the presentation, and in general the project report will dominate the grading.
  12. Please see the grading rubric for grading methodology and assignment expectations.

Team Member Performance Assessment (10% of final grade calculation)

As a part of the development of the group project, students will be required to assess their teammate’s contributions and performance throughout the development of the project. Assessments will be turned in using the same manner as assignments in the same week the project is turned in. Assessments are anonymous and will not be shared among individuals. Performance assessments will be factored with the overall team assignment grade for each individual. Thus, students may receive different grades for the same team project depending on their individual contributions.

Grading Policy

EP uses a +/- grading system (see “Grading System”, Graduate Programs catalog, p. 10).

Score RangeLetter Grade
100-98= A+
97-94= A
93-90= A−
89-87= B+
86-83= B
82-80= B−
79-77= C+
76-73= C
72-70= C−
69-67= D+
66-63= D
<63= F

Late assignments will be deducted 5% for every day they are late. If you know that you will be late, either attempt to submit the assignment prior to the due date or request permission from your section instructor for an extension with justification. The instructor may grant an extension at their discretion.

Instructors generally do not directly grade spelling and grammar. However, egregious violations of the rules of the English language will be noted without comment. Consistently poor performance in either spelling or grammar is taken as an indication of poor written communication ability that may detract from your grade.

A grade of A indicates achievement of consistent excellence and distinction throughout the course—that is, conspicuous excellence in all aspects of assignments and discussion in every week.

A grade of B indicates work that meets all course requirements on a level appropriate for graduate academic work.

Course Evaluation

Course Evaluations are provided near the Mid Term and again near the end of the semester.

Course Policies

Assignments are due according to the dates in the calendar and assignments items in the corresponding modules. Instructors will post grades typically within two weeks after assignment due dates.

Academic Policies

Deadlines for Adding, Dropping and Withdrawing from Courses

Students may add a course up to one week after the start of the term for that particular course. Students may drop courses according to the drop deadlines outlined in the EP academic calendar (https://ep.jhu.edu/student-services/academic-calendar/). Between the 6th week of the class and prior to the final withdrawal deadline, a student may withdraw from a course with a W on their academic record. A record of the course will remain on the academic record with a W appearing in the grade column to indicate that the student registered and withdrew from the course.

Academic Misconduct Policy

All students are required to read, know, and comply with the Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (KSAS) / Whiting School of Engineering (WSE) Procedures for Handling Allegations of Misconduct by Full-Time and Part-Time Graduate Students.

This policy prohibits academic misconduct, including but not limited to the following: cheating or facilitating cheating; plagiarism; reuse of assignments; unauthorized collaboration; alteration of graded assignments; and unfair competition. Course materials (old assignments, texts, or examinations, etc.) should not be shared unless authorized by the course instructor. Any questions related to this policy should be directed to EP’s academic integrity officer at ep-academic-integrity@jhu.edu.

Students with Disabilities - Accommodations and Accessibility

Johns Hopkins University values diversity and inclusion. We are committed to providing welcoming, equitable, and accessible educational experiences for all students. Students with disabilities (including those with psychological conditions, medical conditions and temporary disabilities) can request accommodations for this course by providing an Accommodation Letter issued by Student Disability Services (SDS). Please request accommodations for this course as early as possible to provide time for effective communication and arrangements.

For further information or to start the process of requesting accommodations, please contact Student Disability Services at Engineering for Professionals, ep-disability-svcs@jhu.edu.

Student Conduct Code

The fundamental purpose of the JHU regulation of student conduct is to promote and to protect the health, safety, welfare, property, and rights of all members of the University community as well as to promote the orderly operation of the University and to safeguard its property and facilities. As members of the University community, students accept certain responsibilities which support the educational mission and create an environment in which all students are afforded the same opportunity to succeed academically. 

For a full description of the code please visit the following website: https://studentaffairs.jhu.edu/policies-guidelines/student-code/

Classroom Climate

JHU is committed to creating a classroom environment that values the diversity of experiences and perspectives that all students bring. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Fostering an inclusive climate is important. Research and experience show that students who interact with peers who are different from themselves learn new things and experience tangible educational outcomes. At no time in this learning process should someone be singled out or treated unequally on the basis of any seen or unseen part of their identity. 
If you have concerns in this course about harassment, discrimination, or any unequal treatment, or if you seek accommodations or resources, please reach out to the course instructor directly. Reporting will never impact your course grade. You may also share concerns with your program chair, the Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, or the Office of Institutional Equity. In handling reports, people will protect your privacy as much as possible, but faculty and staff are required to officially report information for some cases (e.g. sexual harassment).

Course Auditing

When a student enrolls in an EP course with “audit” status, the student must reach an understanding with the instructor as to what is required to earn the “audit.” If the student does not meet those expectations, the instructor must notify the EP Registration Team [EP-Registration@exchange.johnshopkins.edu] in order for the student to be retroactively dropped or withdrawn from the course (depending on when the "audit" was requested and in accordance with EP registration deadlines). All lecture content will remain accessible to auditing students, but access to all other course material is left to the discretion of the instructor.