Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Designing IS Curricula for Practical Relevance: Applying Baseball's "Moneyball" Theory

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Designing IS Curricula for Practical Relevance: Applying Baseball's "Moneyball" Theory

Article excerpt


Baseball's "Moneyball" theory (Lewis, 2003) states that baseball teams, scouts, and managers overvalue some attributes (such as batting average and runs batted in) while undervaluing other attributes (such as walks and on-base percentage). Performance-based analysis of baseball data called Sabermetrics reveals that the under-valued attributes (walks and on-base percentage) have a much higher correlation with runs scored and games won by a team compared to the over-valued attributes (batting average and runs batted in). A few Major League Baseball teams, such as the Oakland Athletics, have used this imbalance in evaluation to their advantage by acquiring players with the under-valued attributes at much lower salaries than their actual value in terms of their contribution to the teams' wins. Lewis (2003) estimates that lower salaries range from 10% to 50% of the players' actual value.

We applied the Moneyball theory to information systems (IS) workers in business in order to determine if there are any under-valued skills and attributes that might be exploited or any over-valued skills and attributes that might be avoided in the hiring process. Further, we suggest the design of an IS curriculum that could help prepare IS graduates to become successful IS practitioners based on these skills and attributes.

Our first task was to conduct a field study to identify a set of skills and attributes that IS practitioners consider most important for successful IS practice. We compared these to skills and attributes that are prescribed in the widely used model curriculum guidelines, jointly published by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the Association for Information Systems (AIS), and the Association for Information Technology Professionals (AITP) (Gorgone et al., 2003). Knowledge of these overvalued and under-valued skills and attributes could be useful in designing more relevance into future IS curricula, marketing state-of-the-art IS programs to potential students, and placing graduates with forward-thinking organizations.

The rest of this paper proceeds to first review research in the practical relevance of IS curricula and courses, followed by a presentation of our research method and each organizational case study. Then we discuss the case study data using the Moneyball theory lens and interpret the findings from these organizational cases. We end with some conclusions on how curricula may be constructed to provide graduates with the most valuable skills and attributes from the Moneyball perspective.


A basic task for educators and administrators in MIS programs is to design a curriculum that provides value for their students. What courses are most appropriate to provide students with the necessary background, skills, and abilities required to become successful practitioners in their fields? Perhaps the most comprehensive effort to answer this question was undertaken by ACM, AIS, and AITP, who began to formulate a model MIS curriculum in the early 1970s. Their efforts have been periodically updated, with the latest model curriculum published in 2002 (Gorgone, et al., 2003).

The model curriculum derives its value by providing a basis for educational institutions to assure that their graduates have skills consistent with the needs of employers nation-wide, and possess the common body of knowledge in the Information Systems field. The curriculum is defined in detail, with specific learning goals assigned to each course. In addition to the obvious technical skills (programming, database, systems analysis, networking, etc.), IS graduates are expected to have analytical and critical thinking skills, proficiency in the functional areas of business, interpersonal skills, the ability to communicate effectively, and to be capable of working in teams.

Many studies attempt to identify differences between academics in IS and practitioners in IS in their perception of what constitutes a valuable skill or ability. …

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