Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What Students are NOT Taught 

Being a member of a college faculty involves other responsibilities besides teaching. One of these is selecting a textbook for a given class. I have taught Management Information Systems (MIS) for most of the past nine years. During that time I have read more than 20 textbooks and served as a listed reviewer/editor on one of them.

My latest meeting centered around discussions for a new text for fall, 2007. Our MIS course is designed to teach the role of information technology (IT) in business. Since an organization can spend up to 50% of its resources on IT, it is very important that non-IT business majors understand this.

Naively, today's students think the entire world runs on personal computers (PCs). True, PCs run many small business and many large businesses have 1000's of PCs. However, PCs don't run the large businesses; large servers, also called mainframes run these institutions. If you have a major credit card, put gasoline in your car, stay at a brand hotel, pay taxes, get cash from an ATM, carry insurance, or perform disease research, you are using applications on mainframe or super computers.

Unfortunately, too many IT textbook authors and publishers devote less than a few paragraphs to anything larger than a personal computer. Instead, they focus on the cute, clever, and cool aspects of PCs while ignoring the massive engines, intricate applications and complexity that are the foundation of an enterprise's technical architecture. Why? Perhaps this omission is because the authors work in university departments using PCs and are unaware of the power behind their desk machines. (Tunnel vision?)

As a result, students are not taught what they need. Employers hire people without the necessary knowledge to do their job. Finally, students who would be interested in pursuing careers on the "big" ideas are denied the awareness this need even exists. Exciting careers are there for the taking yet students and too many universities are missing the mark. We all pay.

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