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Even So With the Pieces Borrowed From Others: Dressing an IS program in IT clothing


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Presentation for paper at SIGITE'11. It describes the background, the decision-making processes, and the curricular philosophy of a new four-year degree in the Computer Science & Information Systems department at Mount Royal University.

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Even So With the Pieces Borrowed From Others: Dressing an IS program in IT clothing

  1. 1. Even so with the piecesborrowed from others:Dressing an IS programin IT clothingRandy Connolly + Bill PatersonDept. Computer Science & Information SystemsMount Royal University, Calgary, Canada“Even so with the pieces borrowed from others; one will transform and blend them to make a work that is all one’s own, own that is one s judgment Education, work, and study aim is, one’s judgment. Education work only at forming this. ” -- Montaigne, Essays [1580]
  2. 2. Academic curricular fashionstend to swing back and forth,and the debatesbetweenbroad inter-disciplinariansversusfocused disciplinarianshave arguably been aroundsince the eighteenth centuryof Montaigne
  3. 3. Computing education has faced similar debatesespecially since the 1990s and 2000s during whichcomputing education became more specializedas educators and practitioners developedmore nuanced understandings of the manydifferent types of computing professions
  4. 4. Fixed b d iFi d boundaries and clearly-defined content make it easier to d l l d fi d t t k i testablish a new discipline and its research programas well asmaintain the discipline’s quality.
  5. 5. Clear disciplinary boundariesmay also preventconfusionamongststudents,employers, landuniversity administrators
  6. 6. … too much specialization and boundary setting may ossify a di i li and prevent it f if discipline d t from quickly adapting to changing realities
  7. 7. Some universities have attempted to plessen the potential downsides of academic specializationthrough the addition ofgeneral education breadth requirements requirements.
  8. 8. within a given discipline discipline,the assumption is that the department facultywill enforce theproper breadth of specialist knowledgefor their domainthrough the design of their own curriculum.
  9. 9. As hA the newest of the f h -recognized computing disciplines …
  10. 10. … IT h had, has h d and perhaps still does have
  11. 11. the strongest incentive to h i i articulate its disciplinary boundaries
  12. 12. one can clearly see a stresson IT’s uniquenessand it di ti t d its distinctnessfrom the other computing disciplines
  13. 13. It is not obvious to everyone how IT differs f ff fromcomputer t and information i f tiscience systems
  14. 14. One approach to theseoverlaps is to articulatemore carefully anddisseminate moreaggressively the differencesbetween CS, IS and IT CS IS, IT.
  15. 15. The other approach is torecognize that these overlapsare potentially theprecise strengthof an IT degree
  16. 16. In 1999 Mount Royal University (thenCollege) started operating a three-yeardegree in Computer Information Systems andBusiness (CISB).
  17. 17. In 2009 we decided to replace it with anew bachelor degree inComputer Information Systems (BCIS).
  18. 18. To ensure that the new degree had soundacademic credentials, we decided to credentialsbase the new degree on a publishedmodel curriculum.
  19. 19. We naturally began with the IS2002model curriculum but found it lacked thetechnical rigor we desired.
  20. 20. The technical components of theInformation Technology model curriculumbetter matched our needs, though we didfeel that we would need to add in someelements from the IS curriculum.
  21. 21. The end result is a curriculum that can beconsidered either as:an IS degree with a very significantamount of IT content,or anIT degree with a very significant amountof IS content.
  22. 22. Because we used the IT model curriculumas our primary design paradigm and theIS model curriculum as the secondaryinspiration, the end result is ...
  23. 23. A technical wolf (IT) in business sheep clothing (IS)
  24. 24. The diversity of possible computing workposed a challenge for us in defining thenew degree’s curriculum.
  25. 25. Multi-tasking among technologyprofessionals is quite typical and it iscommon for an IT practitioner to take onseveral roles within an organization,especially a small or medium-sized one.
  26. 26. We wanted our graduates to understandboth technical and organizational factorsand to be able to serve as a bridgebetween technical and managementcommunities within an organization.
  27. 27. A four-year degree consists of Four of those must be free student electives Our requires that all degree programs must containtwelve general education courses. This left us with 24“core” courses.
  28. 28. A student can select15 to 17 core computer coursesand7 to 9 business core courses. b
  29. 29. We strongly believe that IT graduatesrequire a variety of abilities beyondtechnical skills, a belief also articulated inchapter eight of IT2008.
  30. 30. In IT2008 it is recommended that IT students:“must h“ have a certain level of mathematical sophistication, i l l f h i l hi i ifamiliarity with the methods of science,a sense of how computing is applied in practice,effective communication skills… and theability to work productively in teams.”
  31. 31. In IT2008 it recommends:“all Information Technologystudents should engage in an g gin-depth study of some subjectthat uses computing in asubstantial way”
  32. 32. We made non-IT domain knowledgea requirement by forcing students toselect from seven to nine businesscourses.
  33. 33. Other academic areas besidesbusiness might be able to achieve therequirement for non-IT domainknowledge.
  34. 34. Yet there are nonetheless a numberof advantages to explicitlyspecifying business as that area.
  35. 35. The most obvious reason is that ITand business “are no longer separate arefunctions but have becomeintegrated and pervasive in thetraditional f di i l functional areas of i l fbusiness”.
  36. 36. That is, business courses act as a kindof learning proxy for understandingorganizational life in general.
  37. 37. Given that graduates notinfrequently change career paths paths,having students take a suite ofgeneralized courses about theorganizational systems i which IT is i i l in hi h iembedded provides the student withperhaps the most long-term usefuland applicable non-IT domainknowledge.
  38. 38. The distinction between IS and IT is atpresent not always clear clear.
  39. 39. Both major and non-major students havetrouble differentiating between IS and IT.Almost half identified IT with businesscomputing (instead of IS).
  40. 40. But is this a problem?Do we need more clarity about thedifferences?Do we need clearer boundaries?
  41. 41. ACM defines IS as the discipline thatfocuses on integrating computing intoan organizational context with anemphasis on information.ACM defines IT as the discipline that pfocuses on selecting, integrating andsupporting computing infrastructure.
  42. 42. In reality, this separation of tasks isarbitrary and, at some level, and levelindistinct.
  43. 43. Infrastructural computing decisionsare always made within anorganizational context.Production and roll-out decisions areoften part of systems and businessanalysis.
  44. 44. As a discipline we should recognizesomething that students andemployers already know:
  45. 45. The distinctions betweencomputing disciplines aresomewhat artificial, perhapsanalogous to carefullycategorizing music.Is this song hip hip rap, pop, hip-hip, rap pophouse, or dub-step?Does it really matter?
  46. 46. Similarly, many computing jobs andtasks also span multiple disciplines.Across a computing career, one s jobs career one’swill also likely span multiplecomputing disciplines.
  47. 47. Thus,Th we believe … b l
  48. 48. … that artificially divorcing IT fromthe larger organizational andanalysis context makes it difficult toachieve in any meaningful way oneof the pervasive themes of IT, f h i h f ITnamely, systems integration.
  49. 49. It is our belief that this integrativeaspect of IT education can only beachieved when the students combinestrong technical skills with structuredknowledge of organizationalk l d f i i lcontexts.
  50. 50. Is blending IS and ITa good thing?
  51. 51. Within business schools, the trend has schoolsbeen towards integrating rather thanseparating the sub-disciplines inresponse to the reality of thebusiness world.
  52. 52. From “the perspective of IT as a thediscipline, association with IS mightbe a positive alliance”.
  53. 53. Of “all the computing disciplines all disciplines,IT is the one most affected by theevolution of the adjacent disciplines.”
  54. 54. In fact, we believe that IT as adiscipline should perhaps beconceptualized asthe computing discipline whosetask is not only the implementationof technological infrastructure, butalso the integration of the othercomputing disciplines,especially CS and IS.
  55. 55. Thus IT should more actively engage in the encroachmentover disciplinary boundaries rather than the erection ofhigher artificial boundaries. IT should endeavor to be the discipline that integrates the diff h i h different computing i areas defined by the ACM.
  56. 56. Randy ConnollyBill PatersonDept. CD t Computer Science & Information S t t Si I f ti SystemsMount Royal University, Calgary, Images from iStockPhoto and stock.xchng