Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Using CASE Software to Teach Undergraduates Systems Analysis and Design

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Using CASE Software to Teach Undergraduates Systems Analysis and Design

Article excerpt

Using CASE Software To Teach Undergraduates Systems Analysis and Design By RUSSELL E. WILCOX, Coordinator management Information Systems Program Stonehill College, North Easton, Mass.

The business department at Stonehill College Offers an information systems minor titled Management Information Systems. Traditionally, this program of study culminates in a one-semester senior course called Systems Analysis and Design. The course covers the tools and techniques of systems analysis and design, and their application to the solution of case problems.

I try to teach the necessary techniques in the shortest possible time.

It has long been my strong belief that analysis and design of information systems can best be learned by attempting to understand system requirements while designing solutioins to realistic cases. Therefore, I try to teach the necessary techniques in the shortest possible time so that there is adequate time left for the cases. Despite extensive care in planning the course, I've always encountered the same problems. Inadequate time is spent applying the case-problem approach to the analysis stage, where most of the horror stories of improper design originate. Students tend to postpone most of the project work until the end of the semester, when work is due in their courses as well. An additional problem is that the pencil-and-paper approach in a group setting has not been successful in helping students grasp the critically important elements of file design and data flows. Finally, tackling sufficiently complex cases with pencil and paper leads to numerous student complaints about workloads, particularly when these workloads peak at the end of the semester. In prior years, students have felt that the amount of work involved in the Systems Analysis and Design course was excessive.

A CASE in Point

I became interested in using CASE -- Computer-Aided Software Engineering -- to alleviate some of the problems in this course. During the summer of 1987, I learned that the CASE tool for systems development which seemed to have gained the best reputation in the industry, Excelerator(1) by Index Technologies, Inc., was being offered to schools under an educational license. Since we were only a short drive from Cambridge, Mass., where Index Technologies is located, I made several trips there to learn the system and to investigate the licensing terms. Although I was concerned about how long it would take students to become familiar with the software, I decided to use it in the Fall semester then approaching.

(1)Excelerator by Index Technology Corp., 1 Main Street, 9th Floor, Cambridge, MA, 02142, (617)491-2100.

Stonehill supported me by equipped me to run the program in my office and by providing one dedicated machine for every 12 students in our computer center. Although other hardware configurations are possible, a basic equipment set-up is an IBM PC/XT with a Hercules or EGA video board, a 20M hard disk, a floppy drive and a mouse. One of the supported printers must also be accessed directly by the Excelerator-equipped computers. In our arrangement, we used an Epson FX-100 with very good results.

I decided to prepare my own student manual.

It had previously been my experience that the series of case problems developed by Wetherbe in his book, Cases is Structured Systems Design(2) were excellent cases to use in a systems analysis course, and I had used several of them before. He offers an introductory, rather straightforward payroll case that I usually used as the first individual case project. After solving that case with pencil-and-paper tools, my students were usually assigned to solve either Wetherbe's "Memorial Hospital" or "Samson Manufacturing Company" case in a group setting. Both of these cases are lengthy and rather complex for undergraduates. Prior to using the CASE softare, they would be handled using many blank copies of various forms I would provide to the students, form such as Data Element Dictionary Pages, Report Layout Forms, Screen Layout Forms, etc. …

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