Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Integrating Theory and Practice in Education with Business Games

Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Integrating Theory and Practice in Education with Business Games

Article excerpt

Introduction

Organizations face enormous difficulty in trying to achieve successful training programmes to facilitate the transition from the classroom to the boardroom. As a result, industry and academia must collaborate to a greater extent to produce graduates with increased practical skills in IT and project management as well as the more theoretical sides of traditional IT topics. This research study involved the construction and implementation of an IT educational programme for business graduates (Masters), with little or no prior IT training, to exploit tacit as well as explicit knowledge. Based on our experiences in industrial environments, we have introduced a complete business case study where students play the role of practitioners and are therefore thrown into the proverbial 'deep-end'. Classes are divided into teams with all of the dynamics of a group of developers and form consultancy companies with a tender to win. The teams compete with one another to develop a system for a customer, Hans Ltd, which is a represented by staff teaching in the degree.

The evaluation of the success of the programme was determined through on-going monitoring of our students' performance over the last five years based on interviews with and mandatory reporting by the participants, and it is intended that the model we developed for our business game can inform other Masters programmes. This study's contribution is both theoretical and empirical in that the experiences of the educators and the students involved in the programme are employed to extend the traditional educational model in order to help understand how to maximize students' learning experiences in IT and therefore help them to become future practitioners.

Theoretical Foundation

The traditional classroom environment has always incurred criticism (Relan and Gillani, 1997). Academics are of the opinion that despite huge advances in technology, the traditional model will always remain the same, that is, dysfunctional (Banathy, 1994; Reigeluth, 1994). Thus, in the area of education, it is often claimed that technological progress has had comparatively little impact. Negroponte (1995) makes the comparison between two time travellers from the 19th century visiting our times: the first one is a surgeon who finds himself unable to practice his craft because he cannot recognise any of the tools presented to him. The second one is a teacher who just walks into the classroom and goes on to lecture his pupils on English grammar. According to Tapscott (1996), educationalists will not be able to ignore new technology any longer and it is clear that education at all levels faces serious obstacles if it fails to keep pace with the reality and needs of a changing workforce.

Many believe that the conventional approach to teaching encourages passive learning that does not develop problem-solving skills and ignores the individual needs of the students (Hannum and Briggs, 1982). Such approaches ignore the requirements of their end users--the students, whereas a dynamic approach is required to solve today's business problems. Cuban (1993) identified two models in the traditional structure--the first a teacher-oriented curriculum, the second a student-oriented curriculum. Cuban also argued that the teacher model has been in place since the early 1900's and nothing has changed since. Traces of the student model can be found in private schools where student numbers are smaller and individual thinking is encouraged. The widely accepted criticism of the teacher-centered model is that the 'what' (explicit knowledge) rather than the 'how' (tacit knowledge) of the instruction (Goodlad, 1984) is encouraged. However, it is also argued that problem-solving and other intellectual skills are difficult to incorporate into the traditional environment due to the very nature of the educational system (McCormack and Jones, 1997). Factors such as space, the grouping of students according to grades and the duration and size of classes all hinder the implementation of alternative models (Harassim, 1990; Harris, 1994). …

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