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

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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.

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 pieces borrowed from others: Dressing an IS program in IT clothing Randy Connolly + Bill Paterson Dept. Computer Science & Information Systems Mount 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 fashions tend to swing back and forth, and the debates between broad inter-disciplinarians versus focused disciplinarians have arguably been around since the eighteenth century of Montaigne
  3. 3. Computing education has faced similar debates especially since the 1990s and 2000s during which computing education became more specialized as educators and practitioners developed more nuanced understandings of the many different types of computing professions
  4. 4. Fixed b d i Fi d boundaries and clearly-defined content make it easier to d l l d fi d t t k i t establish a new discipline and its research program as well as maintain the discipline’s quality.
  5. 5. Clear disciplinary boundaries may also prevent confusion amongst students, employers, l and university 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 p lessen the potential downsides of academic specialization through the addition of general education breadth requirements requirements.
  8. 8. within a given discipline discipline, the assumption is that the department faculty will enforce the proper breadth of specialist knowledge for their domain through the design of their own curriculum.
  9. 9. As h A 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 stress on IT’s uniqueness and it di ti t d its distinctness from the other computing disciplines
  13. 13. It is not obvious to everyone how IT differs f ff from computer t and information i f ti science systems
  14. 14. One approach to these overlaps is to articulate more carefully and disseminate more aggressively the differences between CS, IS and IT CS IS, IT.
  15. 15. The other approach is to recognize that these overlaps are potentially the precise strength of an IT degree
  16. 16. In 1999 Mount Royal University (then College) started operating a three-year degree in Computer Information Systems and Business (CISB).
  17. 17. In 2009 we decided to replace it with a new bachelor degree in Computer Information Systems (BCIS).
  18. 18. To ensure that the new degree had sound academic credentials, we decided to credentials base the new degree on a published model curriculum.
  19. 19. We naturally began with the IS2002 model curriculum but found it lacked the technical rigor we desired.
  20. 20. The technical components of the Information Technology model curriculum better matched our needs, though we did feel that we would need to add in some elements from the IS curriculum.
  21. 21. The end result is a curriculum that can be considered either as: an IS degree with a very significant amount of IT content, or an IT degree with a very significant amount of IS content.
  22. 22. Because we used the IT model curriculum as our primary design paradigm and the IS model curriculum as the secondary inspiration, the end result is ...
  23. 23. A technical wolf (IT) in business sheep clothing (IS)
  24. 24. The diversity of possible computing work posed a challenge for us in defining the new degree’s curriculum.
  25. 25. Multi-tasking among technology professionals is quite typical and it is common for an IT practitioner to take on several roles within an organization, especially a small or medium-sized one.
  26. 26. We wanted our graduates to understand both technical and organizational factors and to be able to serve as a bridge between technical and management communities within an organization.
  27. 27. A four-year degree consists of 40 courses. courses Four of those must be free student electives Our electives. university requires that all degree programs must contain twelve general education courses. This left us with 24 “core” courses.
  28. 28. A student can select 15 to 17 core computer courses and 7 to 9 business core courses. b
  29. 29. We strongly believe that IT graduates require a variety of abilities beyond technical skills, a belief also articulated in chapter 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 i familiarity with the methods of science, a sense of how computing is applied in practice, effective communication skills … and the ability to work productively in teams.”
  31. 31. In IT2008 it recommends: “all Information Technology students should engage in an g g in-depth study of some subject that uses computing in a substantial way”
  32. 32. We made non-IT domain knowledge a requirement by forcing students to select from seven to nine business courses.
  33. 33. Other academic areas besides business might be able to achieve the requirement for non-IT domain knowledge.
  34. 34. Yet there are nonetheless a number of advantages to explicitly specifying business as that area.
  35. 35. The most obvious reason is that IT and business “are no longer separate are functions but have become integrated and pervasive in the traditional f di i l functional areas of i l f business”.
  36. 36. That is, business courses act as a kind of learning proxy for understanding organizational life in general.
  37. 37. Given that graduates not infrequently change career paths paths, having students take a suite of generalized courses about the organizational systems i which IT is i i l in hi h i embedded provides the student with perhaps the most long-term useful and applicable non-IT domain knowledge.
  38. 38. The distinction between IS and IT is at present not always clear clear.
  39. 39. Both major and non-major students have trouble differentiating between IS and IT. Almost half identified IT with business computing (instead of IS).
  40. 40. But is this a problem? Do we need more clarity about the differences? Do we need clearer boundaries?
  41. 41. ACM defines IS as the discipline that focuses on integrating computing into an organizational context with an emphasis on information. ACM defines IT as the discipline that p focuses on selecting, integrating and supporting computing infrastructure.
  42. 42. In reality, this separation of tasks is arbitrary and, at some level, and level indistinct.
  43. 43. Infrastructural computing decisions are always made within an organizational context. Production and roll-out decisions are often part of systems and business analysis.
  44. 44. As a discipline we should recognize something that students and employers already know:
  45. 45. The distinctions between computing disciplines are somewhat artificial, perhaps analogous to carefully categorizing music. Is this song hip hip rap, pop, hip-hip, rap pop house, or dub-step? Does it really matter?
  46. 46. Similarly, many computing jobs and tasks also span multiple disciplines. Across a computing career, one s jobs career one’s will also likely span multiple computing disciplines.
  47. 47. Thus, Th we believe … b l
  48. 48. … that artificially divorcing IT from the larger organizational and analysis context makes it difficult to achieve in any meaningful way one of the pervasive themes of IT, f h i h f IT namely, systems integration.
  49. 49. It is our belief that this integrative aspect of IT education can only be achieved when the students combine strong technical skills with structured knowledge of organizational k l d f i i l contexts.
  50. 50. Is blending IS and IT a good thing?
  51. 51. Within business schools, the trend has schools been towards integrating rather than separating the sub-disciplines in response to the reality of the business world.
  52. 52. From “the perspective of IT as a the discipline, association with IS might be a positive alliance”.
  53. 53. Of “all the computing disciplines all disciplines, IT is the one most affected by the evolution of the adjacent disciplines.”
  54. 54. In fact, we believe that IT as a discipline should perhaps be conceptualized as the computing discipline whose task is not only the implementation of technological infrastructure, but also the integration of the other computing disciplines, especially CS and IS.
  55. 55. Thus IT should more actively engage in the encroachment over disciplinary boundaries rather than the erection of higher 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 Connolly Bill Paterson Dept. C D t Computer Science & Information S t t Si I f ti Systems Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada rconnolly@mtroyal.ca bpaterson@mtroyal.ca Images from iStockPhoto and stock.xchng

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