Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Demonstrating Operating System Principles Via Computer Forensics Exercises

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Demonstrating Operating System Principles Via Computer Forensics Exercises

Article excerpt


During ICIS (International Conference on Information Systems) 2005, a breakfast meeting for department heads was held. An agenda item for the breakfast was that of discussing the current MIS major curriculum at each of the represented schools, as well as problems related to changes and/or innovations in the curriculum. As a follow-up to this breakfast meeting, an email summary of a roundtable discussion at the conference was distributed to IS department heads who had attended the meeting (Robbert, 2006). The summary noted that IS is not perceived as appealing as other majors, and that the major needs better and more creative marketing to attract students. (The entire text of the roundtable discussion summary appears in the appendix to this paper.)

Educators often struggle to involve students in course materials and class discussions. Unfortunately, students perceive some material as dry or more remote. Although the operating system is an integral component of a computer-based information system, for many MIS majors the study of operating systems falls into this "dry" category, as the course content is perceived as being "too theoretical" in nature. The apparent tedium of this material has the effect of discouraging students from continuing in the MIS major (this required course is offered early in the undergraduate MIS major, and serves as a prerequisite to subsequent offerings in the major). In addition, the IS job market has slowed in recent years (Sandvig, Tyran, and Ross, 2005; Robbert, 2006), which has also had a downward impact on the desirability of MIS as a major. Hence, we wanted to discover if altering the explanation and presentation of some of the course topics might work to raise student interest in the course and retain them in the MIS major.

Presenting MIS as a major that contains a potential crime fighting tool (the operating systems course) may help attract students to the major. Discussing an episode of "CSI" (Crime Scene Investigation) or "Law and Order" within an operating systems course may seem out of place at first. However, providing students with an exciting and practical application for the material under discussion in the classroom may encourage them to become more involved with the topic, ultimately leading toward greater mastery of the course material and greater retention of students in the MIS major.

Computer crime is increasing, thanks in large part to the Internet and the proliferation of home computers. Hence, this study has been undertaken to determine whether gearing explanations of operating system functionality around forensic discovery might be beneficial in teaching the material in the core, required operating systems course. Specifically, we examine whether incorporating computer forensics examples into the explanation of how an operating system works might spark student interest. In other words, our first motivation for this work is that computer forensics exercises may reinforce the material covered in class while serving to pique student interest.

A second motivation stems from work which explores the role of cognitive absorption in an MIS technology adoption (Agarwal and Karahanna, 2000). Agarwal and Karahanna (2000) investigate the phenomenon of student subjects 'losing track of time' when interacting with technology in an interesting fashion (the technology interaction was that of surfing the Web). In defining and describing the construct of cognitive absorption, Agarwal and Karahanna note (p. 667) that its theoretical bases "derive from three closely inter-related streams of research: the personality trait dimension of absorption, the state of flow, and the notion of cognitive engagement." Engagement is defined (Agarwal and Karahanna, 2000, p. 669) as including interest, curiosity and focus on a particular task.

Several of the dimensions included within the researchers' definition of cognitive absorption may apply to classroom settings:

* "focused immersion, or the experience of total engagement where other attentional demands are, in essence, ignored;

* "heightened enjoyment, capturing the pleasurable aspects of the interaction;

* "control, representing the user's perception of being in charge of the interaction; and

* "curiosity, tapping into the extent the experience arouses an individual's sensory and cognitive curiosity . …

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