My reaction was: lame. Her response: the rest of the (non IT background) students doesn't have time to study the full fledged web applications stack. I still think she was lazy and had undercut her students.
Fast-forward a couple of years to present day,... something dropped in from the O'Reilly Radar today: TrimPath. Here's a snippet from their 'vision' statement:
In a nutshell: mindlessly copy and port Rails, because it's a great web MVC framework. The result should be a web MVC framework that runs in either the client AND the server. While we're at it, explore and push the edges of occasionally connected web applications.
Rails? Occasionally connected web applications? These people were so inspired by The Rails Way, they'd created a complete development framework to do standalone (browser-based) applications - that can work during absence of connectivity!
What does that mean? Just try out this simple application: Next Action. Its a productivity tool (todo list, blah blah, even comes with beautiful statistics page) only thing interesting is - you can save it to your computer, and use the browser application without being connected to a network (read how). Developers, checkout the "show me the code" link in the application. Sweet.
Now if that lecturer had defined the project to be "A todolist application. No server. No database"... *shudder* nah, she can't possibly have grokked it this way.