2014 ISECON Proceedings - Workshop Presentation

Hands-on Exercises for Teaching Database Indexes

Douglas Kline
University of North Carolina Wilmington

A key feature of relational databases is the index. However, indexes are a difficult subject to teach, due to their abstract data structure and intangible nature. Many factors must be considered when designing indexing schemes: disk IO patterns, amount of data, statistical distribution of the data, etc. Indexes can help or hurt performance, depending on these factors. In short, indexing is a topic of extreme importance to relational database performance, but students often come away with a vague notion of what an index is, and how it is used. This workshop will demonstrate a set of hands-on exercises designed to give students an experiential understanding of index operations. The exercises are based on carefully designed simulated database memory pages represented by paper card stock. Students are taken through a sequence of typical database operations, and must achieve results using the memory pages. Students move pages from physical disk to RAM, and must keep track of the number of simulated disk IOs necessary to achieve results. As a result of these hands-on exercises, student have a deeper understanding of how database engines perform operations, and the subtleties of using indexes.

Targeted Attendees
Instructors of relational database classes

Recommended Citation: Kline, D., (2014). Hands-on Exercises for Teaching Database Indexes. The Proceedings of the Information Systems Education Conference, v.31 n.3176, Baltimore, Maryland