Computer Information Systems

Associate Degree

Program Outline

This outline covers all four semesters of your at-home degree program. You will receive credit for previous college coursework if you meet Penn Foster standards. If you wish to receive credit for previous coursework, contact the college you attended and ask that your transcripts be forwarded to Penn Foster for evaluation. All previous college work must have been completed with a grade of "C" or better, and as much as 75% of the required credits may be transferred. We will also credit your tuition for all the courses that are acceptable.

The first course, Basic Skills Assessment, is available online only, which allows you to start studying right away. You will not receive hardcopy program materials for these lessons. You can access your first course as soon as your tuition payment has been received. Other courses will follow as you complete your exams.

Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 7® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running OS X® or later, and an email account to participate in and complete your program. Access to Microsoft® Office 365 is a requirement for this program.

Online Library and Librarian
Students at Penn Foster College have access to an online library during their college studies. Students can use the library to do the required course research or for general reference and links to valuable resources. The library contains helpful research assistance, articles, databases, books, and Web links. A librarian is available to answer questions on general research-related topics via email and will assist students in research activities.

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal
The Computer Information Systems Associate's Degree program prepares students for an entry-level position in the field of computer and information technology.

Program Outcomes
Upon completion of the program, students will be able to...

  • Demonstrate the ability to create programs following basic problem solving principles and guidelines common to all programming languages
  • Demonstrate the ability to create and integrate documents using word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software applications
  • Demonstrate an understanding of communication systems used by computers to form networks; identify different networking implementation strategies and technologies available
  • Demonstrate the ability to create and maintain a database and how the collected data can be deployed
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the system development cycle and the role of the systems analyst in developing business applications
  • Demonstrate a high level of inquiry, analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Demonstrate effective written and interpersonal communication skills
  • Demonstrate a high level of inquiry, analytical, and problem-solving skills
  • Demonstrate effective quantitative skills
  • Demonstrate computer and information literacy
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the liberal arts, natural sciences, and social sciences


Semester 1

Basic Skills Assessment
All degree applicants are required to complete two Basic Skills Assessments, one in reading and one in math, to determine the level of readiness for beginning their selected program. Additional studies may be required.

Computer Technology Orientation (1 credit)
Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program, and learn about the role of technology in society.


  • Understand how to use your Student Portal.
  • Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers.
  • Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.
  • Explain the impact of technology on business and the economy.
  • Understand the social implications of technology and its benefits and trends.
  • Identify technology careers and what skill sets they require.

Information Literacy (1 credit)
Get better at finding and using information!


  • Search the Internet more effectively.
  • Get tips about search engines and reliable websites.
  • Learn how to search libraries and other information centers for important, useful information.

Intermediate Algebra (3 credits)
Study basic algebraic concepts. Review the systems of equations, polynomials, and radicals. Learn how to factor polynomial expressions and simplify rational expressions.


  • Explain basic algebraic concepts
  • Solve and graph linear equations and inequalities
  • Analyze relations, functionality, and systems of linear equations
  • Prepare algebraic operations on polynomial and rational expressions and equations
  • Solve problems involving radicals and complex numbers

Textbook: Intermediate Algebra

Computer Applications (3 credits)
This course will allow you to build your computer skills through a combination of reading and hands-on practice. You will navigate the popular software tools within Microsoft® Office.


  • Create, edit, and illustrate Microsoft® Word™ documents.
  • Apply formulas and functions to large data sets in Microsoft® Excel.®
  • Incorporate useful charts and graphs to summarize data.
  • Add, delete, sort, and lay out table data.
  • Create presentations in Microsoft® PowerPoint® using advanced tools, tables, and charts.

Introduction to Programming (3 credits)
This course concentrates on the basic guidelines and best practices for developing good programming skills.


  • Learn the basics of computer programming and logic.
  • Understand the basic logic common to all programming languages.
  • Learn how to create your own programs.
  • Use Boolean expressions.
  • Create loops and arrays.
  • Design graphical user interfaces.

Textbook: Programming Logic and Design

Social Science Elective (6 credits)
(Choose two) ...

SSC105 - World Civilizations
This course will allow you to understand the importance of studying history as it relates to the individual and society as a whole.


  • Discuss the major events of the sixteenth through twentieth centuries.
  • Explain the consequences of events and the trends that they cause.

SSC125 - Introduction to Sociology
This course is designed to introduce you to social structure and social interaction through groups, networks, and organizations. Study politics, the economy, population, social movements, technology, and social change.


  • Describe deviance, crime, and social control.
  • Discuss the effects of stratification, racial and ethnic inequality, sex, gender, and sexuality.
  • Examine the role of health, family, education, and religion in human behavior.

SSC130 - Essentials of Psychology
This course will introduce you to the relationship between biology and behavior. You will learn about human development throughout the life span.


  • Identify major psychological theories.
  • Discuss consciousness, memory, thought, and language.
  • Define intelligence, personality, and stress.
  • Analyze the role of gender in psychology.
  • Explain how community influences behavior.

Proctored Exam
You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.


Semester 2

Advanced PC Applications (3 credits)
In this course, you'll learn to use computer software that's important to any business.


  • Learn about Microsoft® Access®
  • Create new Access® databases, forms, and reports.
  • Sort and filter your data with queries.
  • Analyze your data using Access.®
  • Create PowerPoint® presentations by placing and manipulating clip art.
  • Choose a background template and add notes to a PowerPoint® slide show.
  • Embed and link Word™ and Excel® material in PowerPoint® presentations.
  • Add sound, movie files, and hyperlinks to PowerPoint® presentations.
  • Embed an Excel® worksheet, chart, or graph into a Word™ document.
  • Learn the difference between object linking and embedding.
  • Study the procedure for linking an object to a Word™ document.
  • Use Microsoft® Access® to create a data source.
  • Develop a form letter with form fields.
  • Merge a database with a form letter.

HTML Coding (3 credits)
This course teaches how to create web pages with hypertext links, tables, frames, and forms.


  • Create a simple HTML webpage that contains lists, links, images and tables
  • Recognize how to add forms, extra arkup, flash, video and audio
  • Make a webpage using CSS rules and CSS elements
  • Identify elements in HTML5, aspects of design theory, and practical tips for launching a site
  • Create a professional looking website

Textbook: HTML & CSS Design and Build Websites, First Edition

English Composition (3 credits)
This course will allow you to polish and enhance your writing skills.


  • Effectively use free writing and brainstorming.
  • Perfect your ability to edit and revise your writing.
  • Apply techniques for getting the reader’s attention.
  • Write descriptive essays, first-person narratives, reflective essays, persuasive essays, and effective thesis statements.

Textbook: Successful College Writing
Supplement: The Little Brown Essential Handbook

Network Protocols and Internetworking (3 credits)
In this course, you'll learn how computers communicate with each other.


  • Understand network fundamentals.
  • Explain how local area networks and wide area networks work.
  • Maintain and troubleshoot a network, secure a network, and know what devices to use for connecting networks.

Textbook: Cisco Networking Essentials

Pre-Calculus (3 credits)
This course covers pre-calculus concepts all college students need as prerequisites to calculus and related courses required in many undergraduate majors.


  • Solve and graph exponential, logarithmic, and trigonometric equations
  • Convert angles from radians to degrees and vice versa
  • Verify trigonometric identities
  • Use right triangle trigonometry, the law of sines, and the law of cosines to solve problems and plot points in the polar coordinate system
  • Use multiple techniques to solve and graph systems of linear equations and inequalities
  • Recognize, graph, and use equations for parabolas, hyperbolas, and ellipses
  • Understand basic concepts of derivatives

Textbook: Precalculus 6E

Proctored Exam
You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.


Semester 3

Business and Technical Writing (3 credits)
This course provides an introduction to the various methods of organizing material for a professional setting. Students will compose business documents using the ABC method. These include memos, emails, outlines, reports and proposals, descriptions, and organizing materials. Students also work on honing their grammar skills.


  • Describe the basics of the writing process and the ABC method of organizing material for a document
  • Identify the parts of speech in a sentence
  • Demonstrate correct pronoun use
  • Choose proper and effective words for writing documents
  • Identify the elements of a well-written sentence
  • Demonstrate how to use length, directness, emphasis, and variety to craft impactful sentences
  • Explain how to construct a coherent paragraph
  • Describe how to write an effective cover letter and resume
  • Format and write an interoffice memorandum, a routine business letter, and an effective email
  • Identify the different ways to write for blogs, the Internet, and social media
  • Describe how to create an organized formal outline
  • Identify the types of research and methods of documentation used in business and technical writing
  • Explain how to create visual interest and clarity in reports with illustrations, tables, graphs, charts, and overall design
  • Explain the purpose and importance of various types of informal reports
  • Describe the nature of formal reports and identify their components
  • Differentiate among external, internal, informal, and formal proposals
  • Describe an object or a process and prepare a set of instructions
  • Describe the preparation and submission of professional and technical articles and manuals

Visual Basic® (3 credits)
This course provides an introduction to Visual Basic.®


  • Use Visual Basic® to create computer programs.
  • Write programs to solve real-world problems.
  • Understand flowcharting.
  • Understand the stages in the development life cycle.
  • Create a Windows® Forms application.

Textbook: Beginning Visual Basic®

Introduction to Database Technology (3 credits)
This course provides an overview of essential database concepts, with a focus on the relational model of database management.


  • Know what a database is and isn’t.
  • Understand what goes into creating and maintaining a database.
  • Understand how massive databases can be deployed to benefit organizations and their customers.

Textbook: Hands-On Database

Science Elective (6 credits)
(Choose two) ...

SCI110 - Earth Science
This course will allow you to learn about planet Earth and the various aspects of the environment.


  • Describe specific characteristics of Earth.
  • Describe different types of rocks and minerals.

Textbook: Earth Science

SCI120 - Introduction to Biology
This course will allow you to explore the origin of life and the relationships among all living things.


  • Explain how organisms are structured and how they work.
  • Discuss the various forms of life and their processes.

Textbook: Essentials of Biology

SCI140 - Nutrition
This course will allow you to develop a healthier lifestyle by making smarter nutritional decisions.


  • Explain the various components of nutrition as a science.
  • Describe nutrition from a global viewpoint.
  • Understand the importance of water and exercise.
  • Identify the basics of human growth and aging.
  • Discuss food safety procedures.

Textbook: Nutrition

Proctored Exam
You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.


Semester 4

Programming in Java™ (3 credits)
This course is designed to teach Java™ to those studying programming for the first time, but is also appropriate for those building on experiences in another programming language.


  • Use Java™ to program applets.
  • Create animations and graphics for use on the Internet.

Textbook: Java, A Beginner's Guide

Structured Systems Analysis and Design (3 credits)
This course covers the system development cycle, information gathering and reporting activities on the analysis phase, interaction of various participants in the systems process, and the role of the systems analyst in developing business applications.


  • Analyze a business and determine its information needs.
  • Understand the methods for assessing project feasibility.
  • Select the best design strategy using qualitative and quantitative methods.
  • Understand how to generate alternative strategies.
  • Learn Internet and personal security as well as network and enterprise security.
  • Incorporate the steps involved in recovering from an attack and create an attack-recovery plan.
  • Use spyware tools to detect viruses.

Textbook: Essentials of Systems Analysis and Design

Core Electives (6 credits)
(Choose two) ...

CSC275 - Computer Forensics


  • Understand the concepts and practices involved in computer forensics.
  • Identify the tools ranging from graphical user interface (GUI) acquisition software to hex editors.
  • Understand report writing, following rules of evidence, and giving testimony in court.

Textbook: Computer Forensics JumpStart

INT125 - Internet Server Environment


  • Understand the foundations of the Internet: the servers, clients, and technologies that link them together.
  • Know Web site configuration.
  • Identify common hosting environments, including Windows® and Unix-based platforms.
  • Create and configure your own Web server.

INT114 - Internet Marketing and E-Commerce


  • Contrast E-commerce with traditional commerce.
  • Identify major market and enterprise issues that impact electronic commerce.
  • Explore how firms conduct business on the Internet, including their selling and marketing strategies.
  • Examine legal and ethical challenges that are unique to E-commerce.
  • Discover the major steps in implementing an E-commerce venture.

Textbook: Complete B2B Online Marketing

INT130 - Internet Security


  • Understand Internet and personal security.
  • Understand network and enterprise security.
  • Textbook: Security Awareness: Applying Practical Security in Your World
  • INT201 - Web Site Project Management
  • Objectives:
  • Understand Web site design and development.
  • Create interactive projects, from the initial planning to the project release.
  • Put a Web site together using the various steps in the project cycle.

Textbook: Web Project Managment

INT203 - Extensible Markup Language (XML)


  • Create XML documents.
  • Understand how to extract data from XML documents.
  • Add XML attributes.
  • Connect CSS to an XML document.
  • Create an XHTML document.

Textbook: XML: A Beginner’s Guide

INT205 - Introduction to Internet Multimedia


  • Understand how to make Web sites more attractive and popular to users.
  • Understand the importance of planning out your Web site ahead of time.
  • Understand the various types of media and the best ways to include them in your Web site.
  • Add a database.
  • Know the best practices for using a Web site for business purposes.
  • Effectively advertise an online business.
  • Plan and design an attractive Web site using multimedia.

Textbook: Multimedia: Making It Work

INT210 - Creating Web Pages with PHP


  • Understand the technologies that will work together to create dynamic, database-backed Web sites.
  • Install, configure, and set up the PHP scripting language, the MySQL database system, and the Apache Web server.
  • Create a Web-based discussion forum or mailing list, or a storefront and shopping cart to a Web site.

Textbook: PHP, MySQL and Apache

INT220 - Programming in CGI/Perl


  • Create online forms.
  • Work with CGI scripts.
  • Write cookies.
  • Manipulate and process data via the Internet using Perl.

Textbook: CGI/Perl

INT238 - Streaming Technology


  • Use tools to create Web pages, multimedia, and animation.
  • Work with Adobe Dreamweaver® to create Web sites.
  • Use Adobe Flash® to add interactivity to your projects, particularly with animation.
  • Use Adobe Fireworks® to create graphics for the Web and Integrate Dreamweaver,® Flash,® and
  • Fireworks® to create unique Web sites that contain interactivity, graphics, and/or animations.

Textbook: The Web Collection Revealed

INT242 - Advanced Database Technology


  • Understand relational database theory and Oracle Database concepts.
  • Implement an Oracle Database.
  • Understand the routine of a database administrator.

Textbook: Beginning Oracle Database 11g

Arts and Humanities Elective (6 credits)
(Choose two) ...

HUM102 - Art Appreciation
In this course, you will gain an understanding of artistic media, historical periods and artistic movements, the roles of the artist and the viewer, and the principles of art criticism.


  • Define the language, visual elements, and principles of design of art
  • Identify two-dimensional media
  • Identify three-dimensional media
  • Explain the evolution of art from ancient Mediterranean cultures through eighteenth century Europe
  • Identify features and popular examples of art throughout the history of African, Asian, Pacific, and American cultures
  • Compare the genres of the Modern and Postmodern eras of art from around the world

Textbook: Living with Art, 11th Edition

HUM104 - Music Appreciation
In this course, you'll understand how to appreciate music by learning about the roles of the composer and the listener, the principles of music theory and instrumentation, musically significant historical periods, and varying styles of music.


  • Identify the building blocks of music a composer can use to create a piece, such as rhythm, melody, harmony, texture, form, and timbre
  • Explain the evolution of Western music through history, from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century
  • Differentiate between the music of the baroque era and the musical styles of previous time periods
  • Recognize the major characteristics of classical music, including form, melody, and instrumentation
  • Discuss the musical trends and innovations that occurred during the romantic era
  • Trace the evolution of American popular music in the twentieth century
  • Recognize the influence of world music on modern Western composition

Textbook: Experience Music, Fourth Edition

ENG115 - Introduction to Literature
This course will allow you to develop your critical thinking skills and broaden your knowledge of literature.


  • Identify themes and forms of literature.
  • Define the main genres of literature - poetry, fiction, and drama.

Textbook: Perrine's Literature

Proctored Exam
You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.


We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.

* As a degree candidate, you will take a proctored examination at the end of each semester on selected courses within that semester. We make it easy because you pick the location and the person you want to supervise the exam, as long as Penn Foster College's established policy and qualifications are met. Complete information packets with procedures will be provided well in advance, before completion of final semester coursework.

NOTE: Advanced standing student shipments may vary from the above schedule.

A High School Diploma or GED is required to enroll in this degree program. Although this outline covers all four semesters of the Computer Information Systems Degree Program, you receive lesson materials for each semester as you enroll.

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Apple, Mac, and OS X are trademarks of Apple, Inc. registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.