Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Student Attitudes toward Information Systems Graduate Program Design and Delivery

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Student Attitudes toward Information Systems Graduate Program Design and Delivery

Article excerpt


Graduate programs in management information systems (MIS) have been dramatically affected by economic cycles associated with market-based economies. MIS programs during the dotcom bubble saw double-digit enrollment increases during the bubble's build-up only to experience a double-digit decrease in enrollment during its bust (George, Valacich, and Valor, 2005). The recent big data era also has resulted in dramatic growth and interest in graduate information systems (IS) education. Academic administrators faced with rapidly changing enrollment often must respond reactively in a suboptimal fashion. During periods of rapid growth, administrators may be unable to hire enough qualified faculty, they may increase class size above desired levels, and they may turn away students. During economic downturns, administrators may eliminate programs, leaving students scrambling to complete degrees and leaving faculty struggling to find employment (Weber and Zaragoza, 2009).

Economic cycles are uncontrollable. However, regardless of the economic cycle, the success of designing a degree program depends critically on how well it meets the needs of various stakeholders such as employers, faculty, students, accrediting bodies, and society (Topi et al., 2017). Traditionally, program design has emphasized the needs of industry and the required body of knowledge as articulated by faculty (Chiang, Goes, and Stohr, 2012; Gupta, Goul, and Dinter, 2015). Student needs and expectations have often received only minimal consideration in designing IS degree programs, apart from a study by Wixom et al. (2014). Many graduate students typically possess several years of work experience building on knowledge gained during undergraduate studies. A better understanding of their attitudes towards MIS graduate curriculum program design and delivery has the potential to provide academic administrators with valuable insights to into how they might improve IS graduate programs.

This study provides empirical insights into student attitudes towards MIS graduate program content and delivery characteristics. Specifically, the study examines student attitudes towards program duration, program focus, curriculum, work style, methods of instruction, and selection.

1.1 Background and Motivation

Understanding a process for the effective design of graduate programs in MIS has tremendous importance given the process's role in the success, longevity, and sustainability of the discipline. In the 2015-2016 academic year, 103 research-intensive institutions in the United States awarded a total of 4,768 Master's degrees in MIS (IPEDS, 2016).

This indicates that the number of institutions has more than doubled from the 51 institutions offering IS graduate degrees in 1997 (Kanabar and Gorgone, 1997). An analysis of programs awarding Master's degrees in MIS reveals a high degree of diversity in terms of learning outcomes, curriculum, and delivery format (Topi et al., 2017). This diversity results, in part, from the broad nature and evolution of the MIS discipline (Chin, 2008; Sidorova et al., 2008), historical institutional preferences, and uncertainty surrounding how to choose appropriate program characteristics.

Further complicating the situation, academic administrators designing MIS programs must also deal with the cycle surrounding the job market for MIS graduates. To be successful, a program must attract and enroll enough students to support its activities while fluctuations in the job market have a significant effect on enrollment. In addition, creating new programs takes a significant amount of time given the lengthy approval process associated with large capital expenditures in a university setting. Hence, new program implementation often lags several years behind increases in student demand. For example, an examination of MIS Master's degrees awarded and the number of universities awarding MIS Master's degrees from 1996 to 2016 illustrates the cyclical nature of enrollment in MIS programs. …

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