Teaching Innovation to Graduate Students in Computer Information Systems (CIS)

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Nationally, the demand for computer information system analysts, specialist, and managers is predicted to increase from 274,000 in 2008 to 402,000 by 2018 (U. S. Department of Labor, 2009). The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) winter 2010 salary survey lists computer information systems as the seventh top -paid bachelor's degree at $54,038 (2010); information systems professional salary offers remain strong as recruiters have too few graduates to fill job demand, and this trend is expected to continue for the next few years. It is the mission of PVAMU to prepare its students, for the job market and empower them with capabilities that will help them stay in the field of information systems.

To address the national need for US corporations to be innovative, it is necessary that their employees possess the capabilities to think in innovative ways. Innovate or Evaporate is the message for organizations if they are to remain competitive in the global economy. This is especially true for information systems in US because European companies have indicated a higher trend in innovation in all measurement parameters (Ross & Kleingeld, 2006). This paper aims at meeting the demands of innovation by introducing it in three MS courses to enable students to think in innovative ways, and then completing a master's thesis or project using innovative ideas.

Innovation takes place when design is converted into value (Ross & Kleingeld, 2006). In information technologies, innovation is becoming more common and getting embedded in everyday systems (Joo, Park, & Paik, 2007; Nakamura, Tanaka, Igaki, Tamada, & Matsumoto, 2006). These technologies provide innovative ways of enhancing and changing everyday systems, making them more intelligent and easy to use (Xuemei & Gang, 2008; Tsai, Wu, Sun, & Yang, 2000). A simple example is the combination of a coffee-pot and a digital clock. By combining the two, one can set the coffee in the pot at night and tell the clock to brew it in the morning, right as one gets ready to get-up in the morning. For the same example today, a coffee pot connected to a Wi-Fi network could be turned on from a cell phone.

In this paper, an approach of teaching innovation is outlined: that by combining currently established technologies such as web services (Aiello, 2006), the upcoming technologies of cloud computing (Yang, Wei, Jia, Cong, & Shan, 2010), the high-speed internet connections in an average home or office (NTIA, 2010; Shimano et al., 2007), and the use of advanced electronics in everyday systems for controlling them, an innovative set of intelligent information systems can be developed that will ease the lifestyle of the consumer for the next few years (Pakanen, 2002; Wei, Qin, Jia, & Yang, 2010).

The master of science (MS) program in CIS at Prairie View A&M University is located within the computer science department, within the Roy G. Perry College of Engineering. The location of the program gives it a unique strength to bring a level of computer-science related technical strength to the program not found in many other program located with other colleges, such as college of business (Florida Institute of Technology, 2010; Missouri State University, 2010). Students are required to complete a MS project or a MS thesis as part of their program in order to graduate. It has always been a challenge for the instructors in the program to guide students for the master's thesis or projects because of a lack of research infrastructure related to information systems. Many of the faculty members are involved in computer science (CS) research projects but they are too CS focused and out-of-scope for the CIS majors. The result has been that students complete projects which are individual, small, and they do not get a broad perspective of the information technologies that are being used in the industry.

This paper outlines an approach which will enable graduate CIS students to complete innovative real-world master's projects. …