Restructuring an Undergraduate Database Management Course for Business Students

Article excerpt

Introduction

Educators are challenged to maintain the currency and relevance of IT (information technology) education, due to the dynamic nature of the information systems profession (Cappel, 2001-2002). One of the important functions of educators is to continually include contemporary topics and technologies in the curriculum and put the students on the forefront of new and leading edge technologies. This will enable our students to fit into the workplace much easier and faster. A number of studies have been conducted to identify the skills that are most sought by the industry (Cappel, 2001-2002; Lee, Trauth & Farwell, 1995). While these studies help us to understand the industry's needs and perceptions, IT education in universities is usually driven by the philosophical guidelines on which the curricula for different programmes are based, and is often tailored to meet the demands of the local IT scene.

According to Robbert (2000), data management is a crucial issue in today's industry. Computer and IS (information systems) departments in universities should be sensitive to industry's data processing needs (Saiedian & Farhat, 1991). Database education has reached a point where there is a strong base for teaching both theory and practical side to the use of database management systems (Dietrich & Urban, 1996). The industry perceives data modelling and SQL (Structured Query Language) skills as the most important technical skills that should be possessed by IT graduates (Cappel, 2001-2002). In New Zealand, an introductory database management course is very popular in the undergraduate IS/IT curriculum. According to the NACCQ (National Advisory Committee on Computing Qualifications) professional development group (Clear, 1998), a graduate in the Analyst/Programmer generic job stream should acquire a high level of data management and design skills.

There are various approaches to teaching a database management course in an undergraduate IS/IT (Information Systems/Information Technology) curriculum. Saiedian (1992) describes a project-intensive course, where the theoretical concepts are presented in the classroom and students work in teams to implement a database application in six different phases. Students also have the option to choose a real world project. Robbert (2000) describes a methodology that aims to strike a balance between theoretical database knowledge and the practical experience required to handle real time problems.

While most universities that offer database courses in their IT curriculum have similar structure and audience, little consensus exists on the content which has changed radically and more rapidly in the last decade (Springsteel, Robbert & Ricardo, 2000). Most of these courses have not considered the inclusion of current database technologies such as the use of the WWW and the growth of e-commerce (Springsteel et al., 2000).

As an integral component of the IT curriculum, database courses should undergo continuous refinement to be in pace with the currency and relevance of IT education. The paper describes the restructuring of an undergraduate database course to be in line with the graduate profile distinctions of the IT Major within the university's Bachelor of Business curriculum. The course aim, structure and assessment requirements, both prior to and after the restructuring are described. The teaching and learning approaches used to improve student performance are discussed along with supporting statistical data. The paper concludes with a brief summary of reflections.

The Course -Background and Context

Information technology is one of the majors available under the Bachelor of Business (BBus)- a broad based business education programme designed to provide a broad understanding of business through an interdisciplinary curriculum, and the specialist skills needed for a professional career (AUT, 2003). The undergraduate programme requires a minimum of 360 points (equivalent to a three-year full-time study), which includes 210 points of integrated courses, 90 points from a chosen major and the remaining 60 points from either elective papers or courses from another major(AUT, 2003). …