Introduction to COBOL Programming

I.     Course Prefix/Number: CIS 123

       Course Name: Introduction to COBOL Programming

       Credits: 4 (3 lecture; 2 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course introduces programming using the COBOL programming language to solve business-related problems. Content includes program development and design using arithmetic calculations, decision making, looping, reports, subroutines, data validation and sequential file systems. Recommended: CIS 101 and CSC155 or CSC156 or CSC157, or comparable programming knowledge, or consent of instructor or program coordinator.

IV.   Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to demonstrate proficiency in the COBOL language by writing programs for a wide variety of business data processing applications.  The programs will be efficiently structured, using the techniques of subroutines and modular design.  Specifically, the types of problems to be solved are:

  1. Report listings with headings and totals
  2. Multilevel total reports
  3. Single and multilevel tables - using subscripting
  4. Elementary multi-file input reports

The student will be able to process data using both unit record and mass storage devices.  In addition he/she will be able to explain:

  1. The functions and purpose of all the divisions of a COBOL program.
  2. The different types of internal data representation and the advantage of each.
  3. The relationships of symbolic device assignments within the COBOL program to the operating system being used.

Finally, the student will be able to debug problem programs with the aid of the COBOL debugging tools, and prepare complete, comprehensible documentation.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

  1. Basic composition of a COBOL Program
    1. Structure
      1. Division
      2. Sections
      3. Paragraphs
      4. Sentences
    2. Organization of elements
    3. Purpose of each element
  2. Program Design
    1. Structured/modular program design
      1. Building subroutines
      2. Using indicators (flags)
    2. An introduction to linear design
  3. Problem Classifications
    1. Creating reports with title lines and page breaks
    2. Data validation
    3. Output editing
    4. Control Breaks - single and multilevel
    5. Table handling - single and multilevel tables using subscripting
    6. Multi input file merging
  4. Documentation
    1. Systems flowchart
    2. Program flowchart
    3. Problem definition
    4. Processing information
    5. Input/output layout forms
  5. Debugging Techniques
    1. Using debugging statement within the program
    2. Using the COBOL debugging options (CBL statement)
  6. Introduction to the Operating System
    1. Relationship of COBOL STATEMENTS TO I/O device assignments
    2. Using the System libraries
    3. Program execution
  7. Data Representation and Storage descriptions
    1. Internal date representation
      1. Display format
      2. Computational-3 format
      3. Types of data
        1. Alpha
        2. Alphanumeric
        3. numeric
        4. signed numbers
    2. Data description
      1. Levels of data - 01; 77; 88
      2. Value clause
    3. Storage layout
      1. Group items
      2. Elementary items
      3. Redefines
      4. Occurs
  8. Instructions for the Procedure Division
    1. Imperative
      1. Input/output instructions
        1. open
        2. close
        3. read - read into
        4. write - write from
          1. advancing option
          2. positioning option
          3. invalid - for use with mass storage files
        5. accept
        6. display
      2. Arithmetic operations
        1. add
        2. subtract
        3. multiply
        4. divide
        5. compute
        6. 'on size error' clause
        7. 'rounding' option
      3. Data manipulation
        1. move - move corresponding
        2. Inspect - tallying/replacing
      4. Procedure branching
        1. perform
          1. perform # times
          2. perform thru
          3. perform until
          4. perform varying
        2. go to
      5. Debugging
        1. ready trace
        2. reset trace
        3. exhibit
          1. named clause
          2. changed clause
    2. Conditional - The 'IF' statement
      1. simple 'if'
      2. nested 'if s'
      3. using logical operators
        1. and
        2. or
        3. not

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Methods of presentation include lecture and class discussion covering the syntactical rules of COBOL as well as the COBOL instruction set.

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

Designing, coding, testing, and debugging at least 6 programs, using on-line terminals.   Taking quizzes/exams as required by the individual instructor.  Creating at least 3 sets of written documentation.

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

Evaluation of programming assignments demonstrating typical business oriented problems, evaluation of documentation, and grades on quizzes/exams.

XI.   Other Course Information

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.