Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Opening the Classroom

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Opening the Classroom

Article excerpt


Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.

--Confucius, 450 B.C.

Sometimes there is a confluence of technology and ideas that provides an opportunity for a significant positive transformation of an industry. Recent thinking on management education (Ferris, 2002) and collaborative technologies, such as wiki (Leuf and Cunningham, 2001), suggests such a concurrence, and a corresponding chance for change within the higher education environment. As information systems educators, we have observed settings that are quite often characterized by:

* Faculty who are struggling to maintain their knowledge in the face of a technology onslaught;

* Passive students who watch a stream of video projected slides;

* Throwaway assignments that are discarded at the end of the semester, if not sooner;

* Assignments that do not motivate students to engage fully their intellect and energy;

* Failure to exploit the talent of students to create knowledge or learning material.

We contend that collaborative partnerships supported by enabling technologies can address these shortcomings in information systems education. In the remainder of this article, we elaborate on some of the problems we see in the current learning model, apply the socio-technical systems perspective as a device for viewing educational change, review the collaborative partnership model, and discuss how open technologies can support the implementation of this model and expand its benefits beyond the classroom. We draw on some examples from our current teaching practices to illustrate how we are applying these ideas. Finally, we present some future opportunities for invigorating higher education.


There are several distinct challenges facing information systems (IS) instructors which we believe contribute to--or are exacerbated by--the negative classroom situations listed in the introduction above. One such challenge is the speed at which change occurs in the information technologies being taught in the classroom. This presents two significant difficulties. First, it often takes quite some time to become familiar with any new technology to be an effective "traditional" instructor (i.e., an instructor in a lecture-based classroom environment). Second, the availability of classroom materials including books, exercises, and presentations often lags behind technological changes. Instructors must invest significant time to research the numerous scattered, written and online technical resources--which are usually not directly appropriate for classroom consumption--and develop customized classroom materials, often for each new class, each and every semester.

Further, our students' need to continue learning at a fast pace will not stop at graduation. Students must continuously adapt their skills to meet the ever-changing market demands. Many organizations do not allocate the resources to provide continuous, instructor-led training opportunities for employees. Rather, employees must have both the ability and the motivation to self-manage their continued learning throughout their careers.

In addition, we are also challenged to instill a high degree of creativity into our students. Our graduates must almost immediately be able to interact well with clients, understand their requirements, abstract these into technical designs, and deliver workable solutions. Even the basic skills required for this creative process necessitate much more development and practice than most typical classroom experiences can provide. Thus, it is very appropriate that information systems educators mirror in the classroom the creativity and innovation that is expected of our graduates.

We believe that the majority of the challenges presented in the preceding paragraphs exist in the classrooms of many disciplines--specifically, those disciplines that must prepare students to face a professional world in which the key ideas, tools, and technologies required to perform their roles are constantly evolving. …

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