Adapting the Access Northwind Database to Support a Database Course

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2015

Publication Title

Journal of Information Systems Education


A common problem encountered when teaching database courses is that few large illustrative databases exist to support teaching and learning. Most database textbooks have small ‘toy’ databases that are chapter objective specific, and thus do not support application over the complete domain of design, implementation and management concepts across a single database. The Northwind Traders sample database is available by Microsoft for download and use in Microsoft Access, and illustrates transactional processing for a fictitious company that imports (purchases) and exports (sells) specialty foods from around the world. The database contains sample tables, queries, forms, reports, Macros, VBA Class Objects, functions and modules, and other database features. Although the primary purpose for the database is to serve as an illustrative design template for students and practitioners, unfortunately the database and business processes are largely undocumented. This paper attempts to more completely document the business processes, including establishing business rules, describing relationships and participations, and discusses some problems with the existing design. Following understanding of the database and associated business processes, this paper can be used as both a teaching tool and a guide for practitioners using the Northwind Traders sample database as a design template. Additionally, it has been used successfully to introduce the concept of business processes and mapping them in an underlying database in introductory ERP courses.