Lectures are mostly in the form of online video modules. There is a recitation session between 14:15 - 16:00 on Tuesdays and a plenary session between 13:15 - 15:00 on Thursdays, both in INM10. On the first Tuesday, there will be a special plenary session at 12:15 in INF3, required for all students.



Prof. Katerina Argyraki (BC-120, x3-8132)

Prof. Ed Bugnion (INN-311, x3-4707)

Prof. George Candea (INN-330, x3-4648)

Teaching assistants:

Jonas Fietz (BC 124, x3-6484)

Reading Materials

  • "Principles of Computer System Design: An Introduction" by J. H. Saltzer and M. F. Kaashoek
    (free for EPFL from Safari, Kindle version from Amazon US for ~49 CHF, 20th century-style textbook from Amazon FR)
  • Various research papers posted on edX.

Flipped Classroom and Communication

This year, we will use edX as our flipped classroom platform. In a flipped classroom, non-interactive activities (e.g., viewing lectures) are available via an online platform and investing the in-class time into interactive learning. The video lecture modules and readings are to be viewed/done outside class.

edX is also used as a communication forum.  It allows you to ask/answer questions privately (to the class).  


A typical week starts with reading the textbook, watching the online video modules, and then reading the assigned research papers. Tuesday's recitations take place in a small-group setting—they start with a student presenting the assigned research papers to his/her peers, then followed by a discussion of the principles and reading materials. The goal is to understand the connection between the principles covered in lecture and their concrete instantiation in the research papers. Students must have read the papers and come to class prepared to discuss/explain them to the others—just listening to the student presentation will not be nearly enough to be able to participate in the discussion.

We encourage discussions in the  edX forum on all topics that are not designated as individual work. Having acquired the theory behind the principles (in lecture) and the practice (in recitation), students are ready to participate in the debate session, which consists of interactive group debates and exercises focused on solving systems problems posed by the instructors.

Grading, Credits, and Prerequisites

The final grade will be determined as follows:

  • 50% one-pagers
  • 40% final exam
  • 10% participation
We expect the students to actively participate in discussions during the plenary sessions. Instructors will grade the students in the plenary based on their participation.

POCS is a heavyweight course carrying 7 units of ECTS credit (according to the Conférence universitaire suisse, this means 210 learning hours/semester, i.e., 15 hours/week). This course is meant primarily for students who intend to pursue research in the area of systems, therefore you must have a solid systems background. One way to acquire this background is, for example, by taking the following:

Without a solid systems background, it is hard to succeed in POCS. If you wish to brave it out despite an incomplete background, please be ready to spend at least 2x more time than the other students in order to acquire, on the side, the necessary background on your own.

Collaboration Policy

You are encouraged to discuss the reading materials with your peers, but every assignment you turn in must be your own work. You are not permitted to discuss the topic of the OP with other students. Collaboration can also take the form of discussion on edX, visible to the entire class. We encourage you to answer questions, and such active participation will be rewarded. Cheating, plagiarism, and any form of dishonesty will be handled with maximum severity. If you are ever in doubt about whether an action on your part may constitute unacceptable collaboration, please ask the course staff before proceeding—doing so afterward is too late.