Teaching IT Project Management to Postgraduate Business Students: A Practical Approach

By Tatnall, Arthur; Reyes, Gina | Journal of Information Technology Education, Annual 2005 | Go to article overview

Teaching IT Project Management to Postgraduate Business Students: A Practical Approach


Tatnall, Arthur, Reyes, Gina, Journal of Information Technology Education


Introduction--the Importance of IT Project Management

Many university IT-related courses teach a little project management, sometimes at undergraduate, sometimes at postgraduate level. In undergraduate computing courses in Australia these concepts are often cursorily handled in Systems Analysis or Systems Design subjects (for example see: (RMIT University, 2005; Victoria University, 2005)). The computing industry, however, is giving increased attention to the use of project management techniques to improve the quality of IT projects and reduce their likelihood of failure (McCarthy, 2004; Xia & Lee ,2004) and the Australian Computer Society's guidelines for university computing courses (Australian Computer Society, 1997) now makes knowledge of IT project management a core requirement.

Most of the internationally used Information Systems Model Curriculum guidelines (such as (Gorgone, Davis, Valacich, Topi, Feinstein & Longenecker, 2002)) give significant weight to teaching IT project management. Of particular interest to this paper is the postgraduate curriculum model--MSIS 2000 (Gorgone & Gray, 2000) which includes a full unit on 'Project and Change Management'.

Furthermore, there has been a change in the way that some management theorists view the nature of management. Turner (1993), for instance, writing in the context of project management in general, has suggested that much of what we now consider in the category of management in the traditional sense could be better handled as a number of discrete projects undertaken using project management techniques. Project management differs from many other topic areas as it is built on concepts of change, and tasks and resources that need to be manipulated (Tatnall & Shackleton, 1995). There are technological issues to consider of course, but by its very nature project management also involves many other socio-technical factors.

Project management thus involves much more than just project planning and scheduling, and is more primarily concerned with controlling the on-going project during its whole life. This aspect of project management is, however, given little attention in most university courses or model curricula. In fact, on reading through the various IS curriculum models it would appear that the main emphasis is on project planning, and only cursory attention is given to on-going project monitoring and control. What tends to be taught is thus just the 'planning' of projects--Gantt and PERT charts are drawn, sometimes using project management software, to produce a list of the interrelated project tasks (Shackleton & Tatnall, 1995; Tatnall & Shackleton, 1996).

This paper describes the approach used by the authors to teach IT Project Management to postgraduate business students at Victoria University, and provides details of our evaluation of how students take to this approach. It describes the subject BCO6656--IT Project Management, a core subject for the Master of Business (Information Systems) degree and an elective in other business masters programs at Victoria University. Our students include all those undertaking a postgraduate course in Information Systems, but also some students studying the MBA and some studying management, marketing, accounting, finance, hospitality, tourism or economics courses. While many of the students are Australian we have a substantial number also from China, India and Pakistan, and a few from various other parts of the world.

This paper is set out in several sections, the next providing a discussion of some of the educational theory and issues encountered in teaching IT Project Management. The section that follows outlines the structure and content of the subject and describes the assignments. Next we describe our evaluation of how the students handled the subject; what they thought they had learnt in the lectures, what they thought of each of the assignments and how useful they thought the material to be. …

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