"management information system 2"
Introduction Insights from industry The American Assembly of Collegiate Schools Standardizing the MIS of Business (AACSB) established a basic core course: beneﬁts and requirement for management information systems (MIS) in 1969. Since 30 years, no speciﬁc pitfalls guidelines have been set as to what topics this course will cover, and the course topics vary greatly among various institutions (Stephens and C. Bryan Foltz O’Hara, 2001). Some institutions split the Margaret T. O’Hara and required MIS core course into two separate courses. The ﬁrst course typically covers the more Harold Wise common application software packages (i.e. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint). In recent years, some schools have greatly reduced or even eliminated teaching word processing in the class since so The authors many high school students are now trained to use C. Bryan Foltz, Margaret T. O’Hara and Harold Wise are all some word processing application. The course based at the College of Business, East Carolina University, may also cover some basic computer concepts Greenville, North Carolina, USA. (hardware, software and telecommunications) and usually fulﬁlls the university technology Keywords requirements. This skills-based course is typically Information systems, Databases, Curricula, Universities offered to ﬁrst or second year students. The second course is directed toward business Abstract students and fulﬁlls the technology and Although many universities require courses in management information systems requirements that are speciﬁc information systems for their business majors, little information to the business school or college. As such, the exists as to what objectives should be included in the course, and course focuses more on using information the course topics vary greatly across institutions. Differences in technology to solve business problems and the course objectives even exist within schools if multiple sections of strategic use of information systems. Instead of the course are taught by different faculty. Typically, a signiﬁcant covering the basic software applications, a portion of the class is devoted to database concepts. In many database management system (DBMS) and cases, the course requirements include developing a database for a small business. This database project can consume faculty limited DB project may be at the center of the time and resources, especially if student teams choose their own course. projects and no guidelines exist for faculty reference. In this Establishing guidelines for a database project paper, guidelines for developing a standardized database project is challenging to the instructor for numerous that challenges students while freeing up faculty resources are reasons, including: varying educational levels of presented. Experiences in dealing with these projects in both the students, varying business knowledge of the face-to-face and online classes at one university are detailed. students, and different business majors and interests among the students. Another challenge Electronic access for the instructor is developing a comprehensive The Emerald Research Register for this journal is project suitable for the class without investing time available at that should be spent on other activities, such as www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregister research. Moreover, since universities frequently The current issue and full text archive of this journal is offer multiple sections of this class taught by available at multiple faculty members, maintaining www.emeraldinsight.com/1065-0741.htm consistency of course objectives across all sections is very important. In this paper, guidelines for developing a database project appropriate to all levels of business students are presented. First, the MIS undergraduate core courses in the literature are brieﬂy examined, followed by speciﬁcs about the course at one university, including the problems encountered while teaching it. Next, a semester- Campus-Wide Information Systems Volume 21 · Number 4 · 2004 · pp. 163–169 long database project is introduced as a solution to q Emerald Group Publishing Limited · ISSN 1065-0741 these problems. Detailed notes on creating such a DOI 10.1108/10650740410555043 project, including that for an online class, are also 163 Standardizing the MIS course: beneﬁts and pitfalls Campus-Wide Information Systems C. Bryan Foltz, Margaret T. O’Hara and Harold Wise Volume 21 · Number 4 · 2004 · 163–169 provided. Finally, the beneﬁts realized by the the fore in recent years. The chair of the top university, faculty and students in using this technologies task force, Roman Kepczyk stated: project for the last three years are discussed. Technology is now so inextricably tied to our business and personal lives that the ability to use it effectively and efﬁciently is a true source of concern The introductory course in the literature (CFO.com staff, 2002, p. 1) Clearly, the MIS course takes on new meaning and Considering that the second MIS class is often the importance to all business students. only opportunity non-MIS business majors have to learn about IS/IT within an organization, it is surprising that very little attention has been paid to The MIS core course(s) at one university it at most universities. In the last six years, the MIS curriculum has undergone two major revisions All AACSB-accredited universities and colleges (the IS 2002 and 1997 model curricula), but this are required to offer one MIS course to business course has received little attention in formal study. students. Many business schools, including this What attention the course has received has been university, split the requirement into two separate with respect to revisions and updates as a part of courses – one taken in the ﬁrst year and the other the broader MIS major, rather than as a stand- in the third year. The lower level course focuses alone course within a business school. In the primarily on basic computer concepts and IS 2002 model curriculum for the undergraduate computer literacy skills. Since the course does IS degree, the authors state: “double duty” and fulﬁlls the university The use of information is pervasive in society. . .. technology requirement, more than 60 sections of While many organizations provide some user the class are offered each year. Two other colleges training in information technology, graduates on campus offer a similar course for more than who are capable users may have a comparative advantage in their employment (Gorgone et al., 21,000 students in the university. 2003, p. 3). Thus, many of the students in a particular class section (up to 95 percent in this experience) are It has long been recognized that employers prefer not business majors. In this class, enhanced word MIS graduates whose knowledge is not limited to processing concepts, spreadsheet concepts technology (Ehie, 2002; Maier and Gambill, including decision-making and scenario analysis, 1996). Some studies of IS education suggested presentation graphics, and basic computer that the course work was not reﬂecting the real concepts are covered. In the last year, database world needs of business (Gill and Hu, 1999). concepts and software have been introduced and Given the ubiquitous nature of IT in today’s ﬁrm, the coverage of word processing reduced, since it is reasonable to assume that employers would most students arrive at university with word also prefer non-MIS graduates whose knowledge processing experience from high school. While the includes technology. As early as 1993, recognizing database coverage is minimal, students are at least the “pervasiveness of systems concepts and exposed to the basic relational DB concepts, along technology in business”, an MIS course that with table and query construction. focused on spreadsheet and database software was The second MIS course (MIS-2) is intended implemented in the accounting major at one primarily for business majors, although computer school (Hardy et al., 1993). The Boston chapter of science majors often take the course as well. the society for information management (SIM) Students taking this course (ofﬁcially a third year found that requisite IS skills were shifting to those course at this university) are actually at various related to integrating technology with the ﬁrm and points in their college career. Database coverage is moving away from programming skills. A 1993 extensive, and students are expected to work in a NSF study conﬁrmed this ﬁnding (Zack, 1998). team to develop a small working business-related During the last ten years, business organizations database. The database project and related work have become increasingly dependent upon comprise about 50 percent of the course. Since the information, with technology now an integral part class is not a Systems Analysis course, a full-scale of every functional area, and technology project is not expected. Instead, students need to management has become a critical skill for the use the project to learn and appreciate the general business manager (Stephens and O’Hara, capabilities of a database. 1998). In some schools, the accounting curriculum has been revised to put more of an emphasis on information systems. The CPA exam The problems will contain a greater focus on technology beginning in 2003 (Brenner et al., 2002). Finance In each semester, six or seven sections of the is another area in which technology has come to MIS-2 class are offered, and three or four faculty 164 Standardizing the MIS course: beneﬁts and pitfalls Campus-Wide Information Systems C. Bryan Foltz, Margaret T. O’Hara and Harold Wise Volume 21 · Number 4 · 2004 · 163–169 members are involved. In an entire school year, presented a burden for the instructor with two including summer, as many as ten faculty class sections, each with eight teams. Among the members will take class. The sections are ﬁlled problems that arose were: explaining and applying rapidly with a variety of students. Those students Porter’s model to 16 separate projects, developing planning an MIS concentration must take the ER diagrams for a variety of businesses, and course as soon as possible, as it is a prerequisite monitoring and grading the projects at various to all other MIS courses. Any graduating senior levels of development. Although extensive DB who has not had the course is guaranteed a spot design and systems analysis are not expected in this in the class, and the course is opened to all other class, students still need to begin with a solid and seniors ﬁrst. Scattered among the rest of the correct data model. students are those who managed to register when Developing a project for students to work on the seats were open. was not a perfect solution, either, especially for newly-hired faculty members and for those who had not taught the course recently. These faculties Student issues either invested signiﬁcant advance time and effort Students taking an MIS concentration need a in preparing for the course by developing (and more extensive introduction to databases to testing) the entire group project before it was prepare them for their DB and Systems Analysis distributed to the students, or they spent extra courses. Yet, as they represent less than 10 percent time and effort during the semester trying to stay a of the total class population, it is difﬁcult to step or two ahead of their students. Although the concentrate too much on their needs. Seniors in university is primarily a teaching school, faculty are the class have taken or are enrolled in the Strategy still expected to conduct high-quality research, (Policy) course and have a broader business and this adds another constraint to the time perspective than the ﬁrst semester juniors in the allotted for class preparation. Moreover, a new class. Moreover, most of the students have little or project had to be created every semester so that no real-world business experience with computers, cheating opportunities were minimized. and many of them struggle to see the relevance of an MIS course to “their” major. While none of these issues is unusual or impossible to overcome, University issues they do add to the complexity of the course. Like most schools, this university has had its share Although many students believe that they know of budget woes. Cutbacks abound, and faculty are a great deal about computers and information always asked to curb expenses as much as possible. technology, their experience is often limited to While computer-supported instructional tools playing computer games, typing a term paper (such as Blackboard) seemingly help cut copy using word processing software, or more recently, costs, students still printed most of their notes surﬁng the Internet. They do not adequately without fee in the school computer labs. Costs understand business basics outside a textbook, and were simply transferred from one area of the they have difﬁculty in understanding the concept university to another. What was needed was a of a multi-user system. They are bound by what solution that: is sometimes referred to as the “Ctrl-Alt-Delete” (1) reduced faculty time invested in the course; syndrome – where every problem can be solved by (2) minimized student differences while simply rebooting the system. maximizing their learning potential; and (3) maintained or reduced costs for the university. Faculty issues Although MIS-2 is a core course, with clearly The solution stated objectives, the instructors often have different expectations regarding student In the past, some faculty members shared semester achievement and course content. MIS faculty project material among themselves; however, there bring varied backgrounds to the university – some was no formal method for doing so. Different have extensive programming experience, some sections of the MIS-2 course would thus complete have extensive DB experience, and still others have different semester projects at different levels of managerial experience. Thus, their approach to difﬁculty. Further, most faculty created their own the major DB project varied greatly. supplemental materials, and used university There were two basic approaches to the student resources (i.e. the copiers) to develop learning project. Either the student teams selected and packets. Mid-semester of fall 2000, two faculty developed their own project, or the faculty members decided to share their supplemental member assigned all teams the same project. When materials for the course. Initially, these materials student teams selected their own projects their were visualized as enhancing or replacing the interest in the class was often enhanced, but it access textbook being used in the course. 165 Standardizing the MIS course: beneﬁts and pitfalls Campus-Wide Information Systems C. Bryan Foltz, Margaret T. O’Hara and Harold Wise Volume 21 · Number 4 · 2004 · 163–169 Later in the semester, the faculty members occasional server and network failures, also cause decided to further standardize the project guide for challenges for an online course. One of the more the next semester. Before an appropriate project critical issues is system availability during a quiz or guide could be written, however, the faculty exam, or while submitting homework. The members had to formalize the entire process. They students become quite frustrated if they are unable need to agree on the general nature of the semester to access the system to complete or submit an project, the number and type of assignments it assignment. Flexibility on the instructor’s part contained, and the overall degree of difﬁculty. goes a long way to resolving this type of issue. These decisions were based on the existing material and past experience. The project guide and supplemental material were then packaged Pedagogical issues together and reproduced by the university bookstore. The ﬁnal project packet included the Another major challenge encountered while guide itself, a three-ring binder, and a zip disk, converting the MIS-2 class to an online format and cost less than $20. involved pedagogical issues. Two different sets During the ﬁrst semester in which the project of pedagogical challenges were encountered. guide was used, the guide was revised and The ﬁrst issue involved teaching the theoretical enhanced, and a new project was developed. One concepts covered in the MIS-2 course. Many enhancement was the addition of standardized textbook publishers attempt to overcome this by grading sheets to help faculty to coordinate the providing online support and supplements, some different sections and let students know exactly of which can be incorporated directly into the what is expected from them on each assignment. online teaching software. Although this approach Another enhancement was more detailed may provide the student with additional descriptions of requirements and expectations. information about speciﬁc topics, it does not help The project packet has been revised and enhanced to highlight topics or materials. In a face-to-face each subsequent semester. After three years, there class, the instructor can easily tell students to pay are now six “standard” projects that are rotated particular attention to certain sections of the text. each semester. These projects include databases In an online class, it is not that easy. Instructors for a bookstore, a video rental store, and a party can overcome this challenge by simply providing rental shop. a written set of learning objectives for each topic. In this manner, student learning efforts can be focused on the most relevant portions of the text Online courses and supplemental materials. The second pedagogical issue encountered Recently, one section of the MIS-2 course moved during the conversion process proved more to an online status. This presented a new set of difﬁcult to solve. Teaching access to MIS-2 technological, pedagogical, and administrative students is difﬁcult enough in a face-to-face challenges. The process of converting MIS-2 into setting. Providing comparable quality of an online class was greatly simpliﬁed by the instruction in an online course is much more existence of the project guide. Since the course had difﬁcult as the instructor cannot easily already been standardized, converting to an online demonstrate software use. Two possible solutions format only required solutions to issues such as were considered: a synchronous chat session using those presented here. an electronic whiteboard for demonstration purposes or an asynchronous demonstration utilizing recordings made from the instructor’s Technological challenges monitor. While most face-to-face courses rely on synchronous communications, one of the major As one might expect, many of the challenges beneﬁts of an online course is the freedom from encountered in converting the MIS-2 course to an such scheduled sessions. Therefore, the second online format involve technology. One of the most solution was selected. Unfortunately, Blackboard frustrating challenges involves student’s lack of does not include a facility for recording monitor basic technical skills. Although students are activity. required to take an introductory computer course The project guide proved invaluable in solving before taking the MIS-2 course, many have this issue. Although a large number of commercial difﬁculty with basic tasks such as copying ﬁles from reference guides are available for access, the disk to disk or dealing with e-mail attachments. project guide incorporates a section custom- While this type of difﬁculty is frustrating in any written to support students in the MIS-2 course. section of MIS-2, it becomes crucial in the online This section provides a good overview of setting. General technological issues, such as techniques normally discussed in the classroom. 166 Standardizing the MIS course: beneﬁts and pitfalls Campus-Wide Information Systems C. Bryan Foltz, Margaret T. O’Hara and Harold Wise Volume 21 · Number 4 · 2004 · 163–169 For the online section, the project guide Standardization beneﬁts and results material was supplemented by monitor recordings created using Camtasia Studio. Using this (or The results of standardizing this course were similar) software, instructors are able to create very interesting and included a course contest, annotated movies demonstrating the use of access simpliﬁed preparation for faculty, and course or any other software. Since the project guide standardization for students with little variance already included a discussion about using access, between sections. the monitor recordings were created as a visual online appendix. Although ﬁle size must be Simpliﬁed faculty preparation carefully managed, this approach offers a number By far the greatest beneﬁt to faculty has been of beneﬁts. First, the online demonstrations are the reduced amount of time spent on class consistent with the project guide, thus providing a preparation. Availability of the project guide, with visual explanation of written steps. Second, the a pre-selected project, resulted in an easier overall students are able to work at their own convenience, course preparation (i.e. syllabus and assignment rather than logging on at some set time. Finally, scheduling), lessened preparation time for each the students can easily watch the videos as many class meeting and generally less stress for all times as necessary. instructors. It also enabled instructors to easily substitute for each other when the need arose. Each new project is developed before the General administrative issues semester with input from every MIS-2 instructor who wants to participate. The project guide Establishing effective communications between necessitates that the project must be completed the instructor and students is vital to the success well in advance so that the printed guide can be of any online course. Many methods exist and can prepared for student purchase. This requirement be used quite successfully, either alone or in forces completion on a timely basis. It then gives combination. For example, telephone, e-mail, each instructor adequate time to ﬁne tune the discussion boards, and instant messaging provide teaching method for the project and to develop a solid set of tools. However, the MIS-2 course teaching examples. adds another dimension to the need for effective communications. Students must also exchange current copies of their access database ﬁles. Course contest This exchange can be done by e-mail, by passing Most semesters, a course contest is conducted to diskettes, or by using Blackboard. Many students showcase the best group from each course section. in the face-to-face sections have difﬁculty in Prior to the project guide, judging the contest was ensuring that only the most current ﬁle is a challenge because of variation of project exchanged. This problem becomes even worse in difﬁculty level across groups. Some groups had a the online format. In a face-to-face section, complex database with a simpliﬁed interface, while instructor discussion can help to overcome others had simple database with an exceptional this issue. In the online section, instructions interface. Each student group now has an equal within the project guide helped to address the chance to compete, because all groups in all problem. sections begin their efforts from the same basic Scheduling is the second major administrative project. Thus, the judges are able to compare the issue encountered while converting the MIS-2 groups objectively, based on the enhancements course to an online format. Although Blackboard that each group adds to the database. offers an online testing facility, the exams for this A real beneﬁt of this contest was that it was used course are offered in a face-to-face setting (online as a “motivator” within each section. Many exams are also provided when needed). However, sections encouraged the groups to compete for the students are highly encouraged to attend the top group position by offering an exemption to the face-to-face exams so that the instructor can ﬁnal exam. The ﬁnal project grade for that group answer questions as needed. This is particularly would also be the ﬁnal exam grade. This motivated important for the second exam, which, at this many groups to do their best resulting in a good university, is a hands-on access exam administered project and ultimately learning the material. in the computer lab. Since no speciﬁc time slots are allocated for the course, the exam is planned Course standardization for students around student schedules. Realistically, instructors It is not unusual for students, when pre-registering may need to offer two exam periods, one during for the next semester, to choose instructors they the day and the other in the evening. The lack of a feel, who would offer the best chance for the best speciﬁc time slot also complicates scheduling the grade with the least amount of work. Since all ﬁnal exam. sections teach the same project, cover the same 167 Standardizing the MIS course: beneﬁts and pitfalls Campus-Wide Information Systems C. Bryan Foltz, Margaret T. O’Hara and Harold Wise Volume 21 · Number 4 · 2004 · 163–169 material, and administer the same technical which each instructor can track the author and hands-on database exam, all students receive the manager of the database. Computer-savvy same opportunity for success without one having students, however, can easily change this an advantage over another. This results in sections information, and once one team learns the being equally ﬁlled with students selecting sections information is there, the news spreads quickly based on day and time only. to other teams. A more subtle approach is to Many students, when access to their instructor change data in a single ﬁeld for one record in is impractical, will approach another instructor one table of the database. It is best if this ﬁeld teaching the same course for help when needed. is never scheduled to be used in any reports Resources are much more available for all students or queries the students are required to develop. taking the MIS-2 course because variance between For example, the number in the ﬁeld for a sections is very small. Students also know, in secondary phone might be listed as 328.2245 advance, when their assignments are due. Thus, in one instructor’s DB, 328.2345 in the next, they are able to schedule their workload better. 328.2445 in the next. Other results and beneﬁts Summary Another beneﬁt of standardizing the course is reduced copy costs for the department because The MIS-2 course previously presented signiﬁcant handouts are no longer being prepared by challenges for faculty trying to balance their instructors. Instead, packets are prepared and sold research and teaching efforts. Required to teach at the bookstore. The success of standardizing this database concepts by using a semester long course has led some faculty to begin looking at project, faculty were often stretched thin trying to areas where other courses can be impacted in prepare for this class and meet other professional much the same way. obligations. By developing a standard project guide and creating a set of database projects to be On-going issues rotated through six semesters, course preparation time and cost were greatly reduced. Several areas still present a challenge for those Standardization across multiple sections taught by teaching the course. One challenge results from different faculty was also achieved. Further details the varying levels of student experience, interests on the project guide and the projects are available and background within a single class section. As from the authors. noted above, a second semester sophomore and a graduating senior have vastly different experiences – both academically and in the real world. References Although the instructor gains some classroom Brenner, V., Surynt, T., Augustine, F. and Stryker, J. (2002), instructional time by using the project manual, “The joint accounting/e-business technology major: an explaining, for example, the intricacies involved in inter-disciplinary approach to curriculum development”, “selling” a system – the politics, the cost-beneﬁt Proceedings of The Informing Science and IT Education analyses, and the balancing of all stakeholder Conference, Cork, Ireland, pp. 137-44. interests, are still a daunting task. Since limiting CFO.com Staff (2002), “Top ten tech needs of ﬁnance”, available at: www.cfo.com/article/1,5309,7182%7C%7CBS%7C% the time frame within which students can take the 7C67,00.html (accessed 4 October 2003). course is not an acceptable solution, there is no Ehie, I.C. (2002), “Developing a management information viable solution to this issue. systems (MIS) curriculum: perspectives from MIS Another issue that many faculty must deal with practitioners”, Journal of Education for Business, Vol. 77 is dishonesty. While rotating the projects through a No. 3, pp. 151-7. three-year cycle reduces the chance of reusing Gill, T.G. and Hu, Q. (1999), “The evolving undergraduate older DBs (especially since the technology changes information systems education: a survey of US institutions”, Journal of Education for Business, Vol. 74 so rapidly), opportunities for cheating still arise No. 5, pp. 289-94. during a single semester. When seven class sections Gorgone, J.T., Valacich, J.S., Feinstein, D.L. and Davis, G.B. et al. all use the same project, weeding out and (2003), “Foreword”, Database for Advances in eliminating cheating is always a challenge. While Information Systems, Vol. 34 No. 1, p. vi. most students will not share projects within the Hardy, J., Deppe, L. and Smith, J. (1993), “A curriculum for the same instructor’s classes, it is often very tempting 1990s and beyond”, Management Accounting, Vol. 15 for groups to “share” their projects with teams in No. 3, p. 66. Maier, J.L. and Gambill, S. (1996), “CIS/MIS curriculums in other instructor’s classes. Several ways of checking AACSB-accredited colleges of business”, Journal of for “borrowed” work exist. Education for Business, Vol. 71 No. 6, pp. 329-33. Each Microsoft Access database has a Stephens, C. and O’Hara, M. (2001), “The core information properties sheet (see ﬁle, database properties) on technology course at AACSB schools: consistency or 168 Standardizing the MIS course: beneﬁts and pitfalls Campus-Wide Information Systems C. Bryan Foltz, Margaret T. O’Hara and Harold Wise Volume 21 · Number 4 · 2004 · 163–169 chaos?”, Journal of Education for Business, Vol. 76 No. 4, Further reading pp. 181-4. Stephens, C. and O’Hara, M. (1998), “Information technology for Goff, J. (2002), “What CFOs really think about rising executives: MBA curriculums at AACSB accredited technology”, available at: www.cfo.com/article/ schools”, Proceedings of the 13th Annual Conference of 1,5309,6617,00.html?f ¼ related (accessed 4 October the Academy for Information Management, Helsinki, 2003) Finland, pp. 63-75. Havelca, D. (2003), “Predicting software self efﬁcacy Zack, M.H. (1998), “An MIS course integrating information among business students: a preliminary assessment”, technology and organizational issues”, The DATA BASE for Journal of Information Systems Education, Vol. 14 No. 2, Advances in Information Systems, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 73-87. pp. 145-52. 169