Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

What to Teach Business Students in MIS Courses about Data and Information

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

What to Teach Business Students in MIS Courses about Data and Information

Article excerpt


"The purpose of Informing Science is to encourage the sharing of knowledge and collaboration among the wide variety of fields that use information technology to inform clients" (INSITE 2004). From the viewpoint of instructors who teach Management Information Systems (MIS) courses to business students, those students are clients and future end users of such systems. The focus of this paper is a critical inquiry into what the most popular textbooks offer and a proposal of what one should teach business students about data and information and their role in business within the context of the wide proliferation of information technology. Obviously, the problem intersects many disciplines, such as business communications, data communications, information technology, education, management theory, and management science.

Having taught MIS courses to business students for several decades, this author has come to realize that the current textbooks are particularly deficient with regard to the role of end users. The texts are overly technology laden, with oversimplified coverage of the fundamentals in general and in particular with regard to the role of data and information in business. A summary of research published by Huang et al., (1999 p. 4) supports this statement in the following words; "Many best-practice reports witness that information technology alone is not the driver for knowledge management in companies today... Information and knowledge experienced by members of an organization should be the focus, not the system or technology per se. Technology and systems... are facilitators".

This paper is born out of frustration with the disparity between what we already know on the subject and what actually is being offered to our students and clients. Two of J. O'Brien's textbooks: "Management Information Systems" (O'Brien, 2004), with six editions, and his "Introduction to Computer Information Systems" (O'Brien, 2003), with eleven editions, are used as the main frames of reference. Due to the exceptionally high number of editions, they are probably the most popular ones. The number of editions is a pretty simple but reliable indicator of popularity and the current trends. It clearly indicates that such a textbook has been on the market for a long time, was and still is actively used by instructors, and has been usually challenged by at least three reviewers before the publisher produced each edition. Additional references are made to Dock and Wetherbe (1988), Alter (2002), Post and Anderson (2003), and Malaga (2005). For the sake of brevity of this paper, it is practically impossible to include a broader survey of available MIS textbooks.

With regard to research in this field, "Quality Information and Knowledge" by K. Huang, Y. W. Lee and R. Y. Wang (1999) serves as a recognized framework. This book is a product of the Information Quality Programs & Initiatives at MIT--the so-called MITIQ Program (

The main purpose of this paper is to show that the collective experiences and findings from first-class empirical studies about information quality should not only be included into current textbooks, but also complemented by a rational examination and analysis of the mutual interdependencies of the multidimensional aspects of information quality. Thus, we can arrive at a fuller understanding of the subject, a more complete frame of reference, a better understanding of the phenomenon of data and information quality within business environments, and at some useful guidelines on how to economize the examination of its corresponding attributes of quality. This paper is divided into two main parts:

* First, an examination of the most popular MIS textbooks and the empirical research on information quality, and

* Second, a proposal of what one should teach business students in MIS courses on data and information.

Both parts represent a strongly contrasting view of the subject. …

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