Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Designing a Network and Systems Computing Curriculum: The Stakeholders and the Issues

Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Designing a Network and Systems Computing Curriculum: The Stakeholders and the Issues

Article excerpt

Introduction

Despite there being a strong job market for computing professionals worldwide, computer science student enrolments have been undergoing a dramatic decline since 2001 (Liu, 2007; Melymuka, 2006). The declining enrolments in both undergraduate and graduate computing programs will precipitate an information and communication technology (ICT) workforce crisis for the coming decade (Dychtwald, Erickson, & Morison, 2006). In Australia, where the IT industry generates revenues of $A65.7 billion or 8.7 % of GDP, the numbers of ICT students has dropped 19% nationally since 2002 and the federal government has identified the shortage of IT students as an issue requiring remedial action in the near future (Multimedia Victoria [MMV], 2007).

Against this backdrop, many institutions have evaluated their ICT offerings with a view to making them more attractive to students. The different strategies employed range from cosmetic changes with minor alterations in content and program titles, through to major shifts in programs' foci. These foci include interactive digital media, cross-disciplinary applications (like health informatics and embedded systems informatics), entertainment technologies, and game development (Clemson University, 2007; Monash University, 2007). Such revamped programs, through differentiation between themselves from their competitors, have been successful in attracting new enrolments by fulfilling the needs of the students and by meeting their expectations (Novotny & Doucek, 2007; Sharda, 2007).

Since the early 1990s, Australian governmental changes to higher education funding models have impacted greatly on all curricula design and on how courses can be conducted (Skilbeck & Connell, 1999). Today, the bottom line is that education institutes are expected to be financially independent and, within each institute, individual operating units need to attract sufficient students. Prior to 2004, Victoria University enjoyed strong student demand for each of its undergraduate ICT programs attracting students both onshore and offshore (in Hong Kong, China, and Malaysia). Since then, there has been a steady decline in students enrolling in computer science courses, which has posed a significant challenge for the ICT programs to remain financially viable. Accordingly, a number of University and external consultant reviews of the traditional computing program offerings were made in 2009 (Booth, 2009; Garnett, 2009). A critical reappraisal of the ICT programs was undertaken, and, overwhelmingly, the assessments recommended that the existing programs be discontinued; in their place, a new three-year degree in the area of Network and Systems Computing is to be introduced.

This paper outlines the rationale and method for designing the new Network and Systems Computing program together with the challenges in meeting the needs of various stakeholders through the alignment of the new curriculum. An examination of the proposed program structure will be detailed and the expected advantages of adopting the program will be discussed.

Method for Designing a New Network & Systems Computing Program

In the search for a suitable program to replace the existing traditional computing offerings, analyses of online ICT employment opportunities was conducted in 2008 and early 2009. These analyses revealed an increasing trend in vacancies related to networks and systems management. More recently on 22 July 2009, Dang (2009) reported an increase of 5% in contractor employment opportunities in the ICT sector. These trends coupled with investments in new broadband technologies by the Australian federal government predicates future growth in the network and systems areas of the ICT industry and, likely, a strong student demand.

Next, extensive market research was commissioned to assess interest in different undergraduate ICT programs; an independent online quantitative survey of 245 screened, intending respondents from within the region was undertaken. …

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