Designing an Information Technology Curriculum: The Georgia Southern University Experience

Article excerpt

Introduction

It is well established that there is a severe shortage of skilled Information Technology (IT) workers worldwide. Based on data supplied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Office of Technology Policy concluded that the US alone would create nearly 138,000 new IT related jobs per year through 2006 (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1998). The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA, 2002) found that, despite the economic downturn, managers hiring IT staff expect that of the roughly 1.15 million positions for IT workers projected for 2002, over 575,000 will remain unfilled. Moreover, the situation is not unique to the United States. Similar skill shortages have been reported in Western Europe and Canada.

At the same time, many national and regional governments see IT as an attractive industry for them to woo. IT-related jobs attract high salaries and most areas of IT, in particular those related to software and services, are not capital intensive and are environmentally friendly. The State of Georgia in the US is one example of a state government trying to establish a large IT sector within the state. Georgia has had considerable success in attracting IT jobs to the Atlanta Metropolitan Area. However, Atlanta is facing many of the environmental difficulties associated with rapid urban growth. Moreover, many Georgians, including those in the political directorate, are concerned about the growing income gap between Atlanta and the remainder of Georgia, often referred to as rural Georgia. There have been concerted attempts to attract IT jobs to rural Georgia as well.

It was against this background that Georgia Southern University, a comprehensive university in Southern Georgia, a predominantly rural area, established a School of Information Technology in March 2001. The primary mission of the School is to provide baccalaureate programs in IT with the aim of preparing students to take on entry-level positions as IT specialists in a variety of organizations.

The proposal that led to the establishment of the School was formulated by a multi-disciplinary task force (1), which was set up in May 2000. The task force visited a number of schools already offering baccalaureate programs in IT and obtained information from companies with a significant IT workforce (see Appendix A for a list). In August 2000, the task force produced a comprehensive strategic plan for the establishment of a School of Information Technology (Georgia Southern University, 2000). The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia accepted the proposal in March of 2001, and the School started teaching its initial IT course with an enrollment of 114 students in August of 2001. Currently, Georgia Southern University has 239 IT majors.

Although the School of Information Technology is administratively located within the College of Business Administration, for accreditation purposes, the baccalaureate program in IT is treated as completely separate. In particular, this means that the requirements that are normally imposed on programs offered within a business school by accrediting agencies do not apply to the baccalaureate program in IT. Furthermore, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia has approved the establishment of a College of Information Technology, which is slated to come into existence in June of 2003, and the baccalaureate program in IT will at that stage move from the College of Business Administration to the College of Information Technology.

The original proposal that led to the establishment of the School of Information Technology contained many detailed plans, including plans for the construction of a building to house the proposed school and for recruitment of staff and students. It also contained a set of curriculum proposals and the focus on this paper is on these, and specifically on those aspects of the curriculum that distinguish Georgia Southern University's curriculum from the curricula offered elsewhere. …