Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Preparing Information Systems Graduates for a Complex Society: Aligning IS Curricula with Liberal Education Learning Outcomes

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Preparing Information Systems Graduates for a Complex Society: Aligning IS Curricula with Liberal Education Learning Outcomes

Article excerpt


Both the literature and a review of IS program websites provide justification for a design to align IS curriculum with liberal education learning outcomes.

1.1 Need for Liberal Arts Educated IS Talent The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has been warning business colleges that a new type of graduate is needed-a graduate possessing a "wide-ranging and cross-disciplinary knowledge, higher-level skills, an active sense of personal and social responsibility, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge to complex problems" (National Leadership Council for Liberal Education and America's Promise, 2007, p. 11). Industry echoes this same warning (Korn, 2012) as 22- or 23-year-old business graduates enter the workforce with a presumed ethical, spiritual, social, cultural, and political maturity to make appropriate decisions (Harney and Howard, 2013) but perhaps without the requisite attention to developing that maturity. Tom Friedman, in his popular book The World is Flat (Friedman, 2007), challenges both students and educators to rethink learning and teaching with a focus on developing innovative and creative ideas. Innovation extends beyond designing creative solutions to identified problems. Innovation includes critical thinking focused on challenging the questions and one's perspectives (Conrad and Dunek, 2012; Harney and Howard, 2013). The type of education in demand by business and society from a university graduate is commonly known as a liberal arts education, or liberal education. Although some smaller, private institutions, based on a strong liberal arts foundation, integrate such liberal education into their curriculum across all disciplines (Fleming, 2008), most public education institutions still relegate liberal education to a set of core courses that must be checked off in the freshman/sophomore years prior to engaging in the "real" discipline-based learning in the junior/senior years. The result is an undergraduate curriculum profile that a Carnegie Foundation study (Colby, Ehrlich, Sullivan, and Dolle, 2011) likened to the shape of a barbell, with liberal education on one side and business education on the other side with slim connections between the two. Given the need for a liberal arts educated business graduate in today's global society, one might argue that lack of attention to developing a holistic undergraduate curriculum associated with a liberal arts education is irresponsible.

1.2 Current Alignment of IS Programs with Liberal Education Learning Outcomes

A challenge facing Information Systems (IS) programs is to design a curriculum that meets program and college accreditation requirements while simultaneously meeting university liberal education learning outcomes (assuming their university has defined and adopted liberal education learning outcomes). We examined a sampling of IS program websites to determine whether developing a design for aligning liberal education learning outcomes would be valuable to IS educators. Our exploratory findings support the need for our proposed design.

The foci of our exploration were program learning goals or outcomes, college/school learning goals or outcomes, and university learning goals or outcomes. We drew our sample of IS programs from colleges and schools accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools in Business (AACSB) (AACSB, 2011) under the Business category and MIS/CIS program name. Our sample ensures consistency with previous research (Bell, Mills, and Fadel, 2013), which examined the extent of adherence to the IS 2010 curriculum guidelines. We used a repeated random sampling to create a list of institutions for analysis. Our sample size of 83 institutions gives us a maximum half-interval of 11% on any estimate of the population proportion of institutions that satisfy any criterion or not; that is, there is at least a 95% probability that the true proportion of institutions is within [+ or -]11% of our estimate (Glass and Hopkins, 1984). …

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