645.783.81 - Systems Engineering Process Improvement

Systems Engineering
Spring 2024


Through lectures and facilitated teamwork, this course presents the fundamental concepts of continuous process improvement in the context of systems engineering. Students will explore how to define, map, model and simulate, assess, manage, and improve a systems engineering process. This will enable students to lead or contribute to a systems engineering process improvement effort on the job, and to be better prepared for certifying their systems engineering expertise.

Expanded Course Description

The first half of the course focuses on learning activities that covey the key concepts and practices of process improvement in the context of systems engineering (lectures, discussions, individual assignments).  During the second half of the course, process improvement practices are exercised in the group project. 

A case study story will drive a simulation learning activity that explores process definition, mapping, modeling and simulation, and assessment. Instructor facilitated teamwork will guide teams though each step to ultimately discover improvement opportunities for a selected systems engineering process.


Profile photo of Janice Ziarko.

Janice Ziarko


Course Structure

The course map and format are presented in the Course Introduction Lesson during the first week of each semester.  Lessons and assignments are organized by 14-week Fall/Spring semesters and 12-week Summer semesters.   The Course Schedule lists lecture dates and due dates for Assignments. 

The course content is divided into modules. A module will have several sections including the overview, content, readings, discussions, and assignments. Students 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. Students should regularly check the Course Outline or Calendar for assignment due dates.

This is a seminar- based course where your research efforts contribute directly to individual and team assignments. Office hours will be held each week during the first half of the semester and will transition into online team facilitated sessions during the second half of the semester. 

In the second half of the semester, a high level of engagement will be required for discussion and product creation for the project, informed by the research of each team member during the first half of the semester.

Course Topics

Topics include:
1. continuous process improvement,
2. quality management for engineering,
3. systems engineering standards and methods,
4. systems engineering processes and products.
5. systems engineering process improvement methods and challenges, and
6. process mapping, modeling. and simulation. 

Course Goals

Explore how to define, map, model and simulate, assess, manage, and improve a systems engineering process for a future technical system.

Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)


There is no required textbook for this course. Materials provided online will be augmented by independent research.  References are provided as a “start-up” resource to assist students with their research efforts.

Other Materials & Online Resources

EP students may access electronic versions of textbooks through the Sheridan Libraries. Instructions on how to search for available textbooks are accessible through this link: Browse Electronic Textbook Instructions

Required Software

Students will be able to select a preferred tool for process mapping and modeling.  The instructor will suggest sources that are available.  The Microsoft Office suite is the standard. The JHU SE Student ToolKit - Home (sharepoint.com) provides access to tools and software. 

Student Coursework Requirements

This course consists of SIX basic student requirements to complete the course, detailed on the next few pages. 

Final grades will be determined by the following weighting for each of the five basic student requirements.



Grade Item

% of Grade


Discussion Participation (5% each, 4 graded discussions)



Homework (10% each, 3 assignments)



Examination (1 exam)



Teamwork – Project Progress Quizzes (2, 1% each)



Group Project (1 report and 1 presentation)



Team Report Improvement Opportunities (TRIO) Evaluation



For late submissions, please notify the instructor in advance of the due date to avoid penalties. Please provide the reason, circumstances, and a date for submitting the assignment.

Each module will take approximately 10 to 12 hours per week to complete.   For the first half of the course, individual assignments and independent research is the focus.  In the second half of the course, teamwork and product creation for the Group Project will be the focus.  An instructor facilitated session will be held each week in lieu of Office Hours for each team.

REFERENCES.  Throughout this course, you will be performing a significant amount of independent research.  Therefore, it is very important to practice proper referencing skills.  Be sure to capture the following information:


See the Sheridan Library web site for specifics on a variety of citation styles.


APA Example

Inline Reference Example: (Flavin, 2003, pp. 397-404)

End of Paper Reference Examples:

Flavin, C. (1998). The use of wind power should be increased. Charles P. Cozic (Ed.), Global Resources. Greenhaven Press. Retrieved December 2, 2003 from website:  http://include-website-name-here.



  1. Discussion Participation (20% of Final Grade for FOUR Discussions)

Evaluation of preparation and participation is based on FOUR discussion forums in Modules 1, 3, 5, and 7. 

DISCUSSIONS are an opportunity to examine the topic through interaction with your colleagues in this course. Sharing your lessons learned, experiences, and research sources provide the entire class with a broader perspective of the topics being discussed.  Grading criteria is detailed below.

Grading Criteria for Discussions

Discussions will be graded on a scale of 0 to 100. using the following criteria:

·         100–90 = A+, A, A-.

Timeliness [regularly participates, all required postings early and throughout the discussion]

Critical Thinking [rich in content; full of thoughts, insight, and analysis].

·         89–80 = B+, B, B-.

Timeliness [frequently participates; some required postings not in time for others to respond]

Critical Thinking [substantial information; thought, insight, and analysis].

·         79–70 = C.

Timeliness [infrequently participates; most required postings not in time for others to respond]

Critical Thinking [generally competent but thin information].

·         < 70 = D or < 63 = F.

Timeliness [rarely participates; some or all required postings missing]

Critical Thinking [rudimentary and superficial; no analysis or insight is displayed].

Each discussion question consists of two parts, your initial response to the questions, and your response to the postings of your colleagues. 

Part one (50% of your grade) is your initial response to the discussion questions by the evening of day 4 for that module week.  A penalty of 5 points per week will be assessed for late initial postings. 

Students are expected to submit a “significant” initial posting that is clear, succinct and rich in insights. Positions, opinions, and assertions must be substantiated by citation of real-world experiences or authoritative sources (knowledge-based response). 

Part two (50% of your grade) is your interaction, responding to at least TWO classmate postings with thoughtful responses by the end of day 7 of that module week.  A penalty of 5 points per week will be assessed for late responses. 

Just posting your response to a discussion question is not sufficient.  Interact with your classmates though a detailed response to their initial posting. Feel free to agree or disagree with your classmates. Please ensure that your postings are civil and constructive. 

Postings will not be accepted after 2 weeks. The class has moved on and there is little to no interaction about the discussion topic at that time.




  1. Homework Assignments (30% of Final Grade - 10% each, 3 assignments)

Each student is required to complete all homework assignments to earn a course grade. Homework is submitted in softcopy by uploading on-line on the date due.

Grading Criteria for Homework Assignments

Homework assignments will be evaluated and graded on a scale of 0 to 100.

Specific requirements and grading criteria are documented in a grading rubric provided with each homework assignment. Late assignments will be reduced by 10 points per week late.

One re-submission is permitted for grades below 85. If the resubmission results in a better grade, that grade will be substituted for the previous grade.  The highest grade for resubmissions is a 95. 


  1. Exam (15% of Final Grade)

One examination will be given. Assignments are submitted in softcopy by uploading on-line on the date due.

Grading Criteria for Course Exam

The course exam will be evaluated and graded on a scale of 0 to 100. 

Specific expectations and grading criteria are documented in the exam grading rubric which will be used to provide feedback for each part of the assignment. Late submissions will not be accepted.

Resubmissions are not accepted for the exam.

  1. Short Quizzes on Project Progress (2% of Final Grade)

In Modules 9 and 12, a short quiz is offered to collect feedback about teamwork and progress on the Group Project.  All team members are expected to contribute to the project.

  1. Group Project (30% of Final Grade)

The Group Project will require students to apply the skills developed throughout the course to the development of an Enterprise Systems Engineering process model.   Each team will deliver a final project report and a presentation. Submit the final report and presentation in softcopy by uploading to Blackboard. 

Grading Criteria for Group Project

The project will be evaluated and graded on a scale of 0 to 100. 

Specific expectations are documented in the project description which includes a grading rubric used to provide feedback for each part of the project.  

All team members are expected to contribute to the project.  Individual participation will impact the grade of each team member and may result in a higher or lower grade based on the quality and level of participation.

Late submissions of the Group Project Report and Presentation will not be accepted.



  1. Team Report Improvement Opportunities (TRIO) Evaluation (3% of Final Grade)

Each student is required to complete a Team Report Improvement Opportunity (TRO) evaluation to assess the process models of other teams, as well as their own team, and discern improvement opportunities based on team presentations and final reports which will be shared once submitted. 

Team Report Improvement Opportunities (TRIO) Evaluation

Students assess process models of each team based upon a review of their final report and presentation.  A self-assessment is included for each student to reflect on their contributions to the team effort, and how they could have improved team performance or dynamics.  If there is only one team in the course, this will be an assessment of the student’s own team effort.

Specific requirements for conducting the evaluation are documented in the TRIO evaluation form for this assignment which mirrors the Group Project grading rubric. There will be a separate form for each team and for the self-assessment in one word document.  Late submissions will not be accepted.

There are THREE elements which form the grading criteria for this assignment: grade:

1.     Student’s individual ratings of each team’s process model are based on each team’s final report and presentation, and are coupled with insightful, detailed comments to explain ratings.  (50%)

2.     Thoughtful, succinct improvement opportunities for each team’s process model are summarized in this section of the form for each team (25%)  

3.     Student’s own self-assessment ratings are coupled with insightful, detailed comments to explain ratings and improvements that could impact team performance (25%)

Ratings are on a scale of 1 – 5, with 5 being the highest rating.  The ratings reflect the strength or weakness of the process model, how it was developed and assessed, and how it was presented.

1 = Insufficient (Poor)

2 = Barely Sufficient (Weak)

3 = Sufficient (Good)

4 = Strong (Very Good)

5 = Very Strong (Excellent)



Grading Policy

Student assignments are due according to the dates in the Course Outline.  We will post grades no later than one week after assignment due dates.  All assignments, projects, and exams will be graded on a scale from 0 to 100. 

We 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. These criteria apply to both undergraduates and graduate students taking the course.  EP uses a +/- grading system (see “Grading System”, Graduate Programs catalog) as listed below.

100-97 = A+

97-93 = A  

93-90 = A−  

89-87 = B+  

86-83 = B  

82-80 = B−  

80-70 = C  

70-63 = D

< 63   = F


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.