Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Aligning IS Master's Programs with Industry

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Aligning IS Master's Programs with Industry

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

Information Systems (IS) programs in Higher Education (HE) institutions have trained graduates over many years to develop the appropriate knowledge and skills needed for their future careers. Nevertheless, prior studies (Lee and Han, 2008; Lee, Trauth and Farwell, 1995) have suggested that IS curricula are often out of touch with industry/business needs. Lee, Trauth and Farwell (1995) stressed that IS curricula design must be tailored to meet business needs and also the needs of different IS careers, offering multi-disciplinary approaches to provide breadth, depth, and relevance. Lee and Han (2008) also indicated that IS skills requirements research should be conducted periodically so as to assist IS educators in curriculum re-design that better prepares IS graduates for their future careers. Nevertheless, organizations are still having difficulty in finding IS graduates who possess both the knowledge and skills that are best suited to their specific needs. Williams (2011a, 2011b) reported a continued business analyst skills shortage and business skills gap in the IT workforce as the IT job market grows. Groom (2014) also reported that employers struggle to find suitably skilled staff in business development as well as in IT and engineering, which has led to a sharp rise in U.K. starting salaries.

At the same time, globally, governments, parents, and students are increasingly viewing university degrees as an investment, expecting value for money not only through tangible benefits such as career opportunity and employability, but also intangible benefits such as student experience. Furthermore, universities in the U.K. and the U.S. increasingly have to deal with issues about the quality of their degrees and whether students earning the degrees obtain high-quality employment with good employers. The increasing cost of attending university and the rise of apprenticeship schemes (which are industry-relevant by their nature) are leading to greater pressure on universities to provide courses that are both academically and workplace relevant. University ranking and satisfaction surveys (e.g., The Complete University Guide League Table, The Guardian University League Table) often include employability as a key factor. The university programs are more likely to pass muster on accountability when they align courses with the industry/professional body, as 1) their students are more likely to graduate with relevant professional certification and 2) the professional certification they possess is more likely to translate into employment in quality jobs with good employers. As such, it is more crucial than ever for universities to demonstrate that they can offer students curricula that encompass both academic and professional criteria. For example, in the U.K., conversion Master of Science (MSc) degrees have often helped those who originally studied a different subject (e.g., linguistics, law) to redirect their focus to another discipline with a more practical focus, such as Computer Science, Information Systems, or Information Technology.

This study thus sets out to address these challenges with the following two objectives: 1) to better re-align the IS graduate programs with business needs/standard work practice and 2) to provide real added value to students by giving them an opportunity to earn professional certification prior to their graduation. The research questions we address are: How can IS educators in HE institutions better re-align their graduate degree programs with the needs of business and industry? How can universities provide courses that are both academically and workplace relevant?

We first present the theoretical approach to alignment which is grounded in teaching and learning (T&L) theory in HE. We then give an example of aligning the curriculum of an IS graduate degree course Business Domain and Requirements Analysis (the official course title, hereafter referred to as Business Analysis) in a U. …

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