Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Strategies to Enhance Student Learning in a Capstone MIS Course

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Strategies to Enhance Student Learning in a Capstone MIS Course

Article excerpt

Introduction

The capstone course in any program of study provides a student the opportunity to synthesize, analyze, and apply knowledge acquired over different courses in the program. This course enhances the overall education experience of students by helping them understand the big picture, i.e. how knowledge acquired from all the courses in their curriculum converges together. For example a management information system (MIS) student learns several concepts and acquires multiple technology skills in different courses that are a part of the MIS program and then learns how to apply all these concepts and use the skills to design and develop an information system. Knowledge integration and application in a capstone MIS course can be a challenging task. An instructor designing the capstone course needs to ensure that critical components from all the courses in a program are integrated.

Designing a capstone MIS course is challenging due to factors such as the need to integrate business concepts and technology concepts & skills, the diversity of IT skills and the rapid rate of change in the IT industry. Scholars (Lopes & Morais, 2002; Neville & Adam, 2003) have highlighted the need to provide an integrated (business and information technology) experience to information technology students in a capstone course. Neville and Adam (2003) state that this enables students to develop skills that they can use immediately to "contribute to the organizations that hire them." Lopes and Morais (2002) point out that IS courses need to be "frequently updated to remain effective" due to the nature of the evolution and advancement in the IT industry. Noll and Wilkins (2002) highlight the diversity of skills needed by the IS industry and the fact that a generic IS program cannot provide these skills to students. They recommend "distinct concentrations" such as "programming, analyst and user support" that provide diverse skills to students.

MIS capstone course studies highlight using the project experience as a pedagogical approach to teaching the capstone course. Studies like Myers (2003) and Tuttle (2001) provide useful insights from using the project-based approach to increase student learning in a capstone IS course. Tuttle (2001) does go beyond the project experience and describes the course structure, methodology and student feedback. These studies fail to take a comprehensive view of the MIS capstone experience and this is the gap the present study is trying to address. Students need to learn about the integration and convergence of not just the MIS curriculum but the complete academic experience. They need to learn how to successfully synthesize, analyze, and apply knowledge acquired in an academic program in the capstone course. This will help them gain an advantage in the highly competitive MIS marketplace, leading to successful careers in the MIS discipline. MIS programs across the nation can highlight these success stories leading to increased student enrollment in the MIS programs. The challenge for educators is to design a capstone MIS course that provides students the opportunity to learn and succeed in their chosen field. This paper shares strategies that have helped students synthesize, analyze, and apply knowledge in a capstone MIS course. The author is a MIS faculty and has taught the MIS capstone course at both the undergraduate and graduate level for several years in a Midwestern university.

Strategies for Teaching a Capstone MIS Course

A capstone course in any discipline requires that students are provided the opportunity to synthesize and integrate their knowledge acquired over several years. This creates unique challenges for the designer of the course as one has to ensure that students walk away from this course with a good understanding of how knowledge acquired from all their courses in their curriculum fits together and how they can apply this knowledge to design and develop an information system. …

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