Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

An Evaluation of Teaching Strategies for an Information Systems Foundations Course

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

An Evaluation of Teaching Strategies for an Information Systems Foundations Course

Article excerpt


Too often educators implement alternative teaching strategies without attempt at an ex-post evaluation of the educational effectiveness of the new course of action (Nelson, 1999). Two years ago, we reported (Eccles & Van Belle, 1998) on a number of "innovative approaches" adopted in a first-year information systems course. In this paper, we evaluate the impact of some of these educational strategies and curriculum options for course delivery on student performance within the same course. These results have been presented in summery form at a previous conference and are now reported on more fully.

It has to be recognised that an educational environment almost never allows for laboratory-like circumstances and hence statistical analysis has to be hedged with numerous ifs and buts. Nevertheless, it is hoped that the tentative results presented in this paper will allow educators at other tertiary educational institutions to make more informed decisions on which educational approaches to take and perhaps to spur them on to report on their experiences.

This paper analyzes the effect of three different educational approaches on student performance in a first-year one semester IS course, the "Foundations of Information Systems" course INF102F at the University of Cape Town:

* The "mastery" method

* The use of enrichment sessions

* Computer-based training

The analysis is confined to comparative statistical analysis, leaving out many other qualitative side-effects (mostly positive?) of the teaching strategies.


The INF102 course consists of three identical IS foundation courses. INF102F is offered in the first semester to roughly 750 business science and information systems majors in the commerce faculty, the INF102S course is offered in the second semester to about 500 B.Com accounting and humanities students, and the INF102H course is spread over the entire year with a focus on providing a slower paced small group learning environment to about 100 ADP (academic development program) and post-graduate diploma students. Detailed information about this course (objectives, curriculum, practical organisation, requirements etc.) can be found on the course website at The course consists of two distinct modules: the practical component (spreadsheet and database skills) and the theory component (basic IS concepts, IT technology and the organisational context of IS).

The data for this study is drawn mainly from the departmental records of the INF102F course for the academic years 2000 and 1999. The course year mark for 2000 is made up of 15 distinct course deliverables: 7 marked practical tutorial assignments (3 spreadsheets and 4 database exercises), 7 "enrichment session hand-ins", 2 theory tests and the final practical examination. Although the number of students registered for the course stand at more than 700, analysis is limited to a subset of the students--usually where data from student evaluations has to be used. Students completed an optional course evaluation questionnaire on-line after writing the second theory test during the last week of lectures. The questionnaire was administered and processed using the QuestionMark computer testing software. The main advantage of this approach is that it allows for the unobtrusive identification of each student and thus the linking of student responses to student performance data. About 400 students provided usable course evaluations.


Bloom (1956), in his well-known taxonomy, identified six cognitive domains. Since ex cathedra-based lecturing does not generally stimulate the higher order cognitive activities, an active learning approach was followed to engage the student's mind. After each theory lecture, a second lecture session later during the week (allowing thus for additional student preparation and review) attempts to make the material "come alive" by means of an "enrichment session". …

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