Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Teaching Case: Analysis of an Electronic Voting System

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Teaching Case: Analysis of an Electronic Voting System

Article excerpt


A variety of teaching tools are suitable for Information Systems education including problem-solving exercises, collaborative projects, role playing and case studies (e.g., Arling, Deeter and Eggers, 2010, Bee and Hayes, 2011). A key element of systems analysis and design is developing the ability to distil relevant facts surrounding an issue, formalize this understanding into a coherent and useful structure, and finally to communicate this understanding to others in the form of models, diagrams or reports. Case studies, in particular are widely used in systems analysis as they facilitate this understanding and communication by promoting active learning (Meyers and Jones, 1993). Indeed, the case study approach has proven to be a suitable framework within which to develop valuable skills, while also maintaining a level of consistency across students or groups that would not be possible were they to choose individual topics. Cases can enable students to develop their higher order skills in a way in which they can transfer their theoretical knowledge to practical real-world situations (Hackney, McMaster, and Harris, 2003).


The case is based on a study of electronic voting systems conducted by the authors. This is an area that, over the years, has received substantial coverage in both the research literature and popular media. The reliance on such technologies brings a large amount of scope for discussion and analysis. This case was chosen as the topic of this paper as it has been successfully used in several classes to date, and meets all of the teaching case development criteria laid out by Cappel and Schwager (2002). It is also a topic that students have found interesting, as it highlights the real world applicability of their systems analysis skills in a variety of problem domains.

The case described in this paper has been previously used as an individual major assignment in a semester long undergraduate Systems Analysis and Design course. This course is required in both Information Systems and Computer Science degrees. Students may follow this course with an optional Advanced Business Analysis course that focuses more heavily on business processes and modeling techniques such as BPMN. The assignment contains a number of deliverables designed to address the main learning objectives of the course, which include project management and scheduling, data modeling, process modeling and object oriented techniques. Students work independently and individually on this assignment, and while they are permitted to work on the tasks in class and consult with their tutors, the formal submission of all deliverables is done at the same time.

The assignment places an emphasis on the analysis tasks, as this is consistent with the weighting of topics taught in class. However, the case and the deliverables are also well suited for design assignments as the logical progression from the analysis deliverables is to translate these into some form of design. Instructors may even wish to use this as an entirely systems design-based assignment by providing students with the completed data and process models and tasking them with the construction of a working system to support some aspect of the functionality described.

This teaching case is based on the analysis of an electronic voting system. The concepts, concerns, and indeed some aspects of the functionality described are based on reality. Due to the scrutiny that this technology has received in the media and research, a number of high quality research projects have investigated the electronic voting systems provided by specific manufacturers. This research, in particular the work of Kohno, Stubblefield, Rubin and Wallach (2004), has been an indispensable resource in guiding the development of this case into something that closely resembles a real world situation.

The text of the case is presented in the following section; this includes some background information relating to the topic of electronic voting followed by the description of the election process. …

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