2019 EDSIG Proceedings - Abstract Presentation
Are programming language courses necessary for IS students?
Morehead State University
University of Louisville
Information systems (IS) is a discipline that deals with people using information technologies (IT) in an organization. The field also handles the development and management of information technologies, and programming (i.e., developing software programs) has been one of the roles of information systems. Recently, however, programming has become less emphasized. For instance, the Joint IS 2010 Curriculum Task Force (Topi et al., 2010) omits programming language courses from the core courses in the IS curriculum. At first thought, this change seemed to be reasonable because many organizations today purchase pre-made software packages (e.g., ERP systems such as SAP) instead of developing the systems with programming tools in-house. In addition, GUI-based easy-to-use applications are available to substitute them for the systems developed in-house with programming languages (e.g., Microsoft Access for SQL).
Contrary to the trend, however, the authors propose that programming language courses should be included in the core courses in IS curriculums. First, using programming tools to develop applications in an organization is still important, and many organizations do so at least partially if not fully. Second, IS managers work frequently with programmers and other IS specialists and, thus, should have sound understanding of programming languages. Without this knowledge, IS managers could hire the wrong programmers (e.g., a Java programmer instead of a Web programming specialist for Web system projects) and have difficulty in working with them. Third, programming per se could be a useful skillset for IS professionals. For instance, statistics and data analysis programming languages such as R could help IS students to play an important role in the business analytics area.
It is also recommended that interpreter-based (e.g., Web programming tools such as HTML, CSS, etc.) and hybrid (e.g., Java, C#, etc.) programming languages be used for IS programming courses because they are flexible enough to support business environment (e.g., frequent changes in business processes and data requirement).
Even with the significance of programming languages for IS students, however, it is not easy to teach IS students programming languages. According to the authors’ experience, many IS students were not interested in programming language courses. Even if they were required to take a programming language course, many of them failed to complete it. To help students complete programming courses, the authors have used a straight method which emphasizes three issues: (1) it is important to understand how a computer works, (2) computer programming is not mathematics, and (3) the most efficient and economic communication with a computer is text-based.
The authors have used this method and found that it was not easy, initially, for the students to grasp the intention. Later on, however, more and more students began to understand it, and some of them even began to enjoy it. It took a while until many students understood the intention of the method, but it eventually paid off. In sum, the right programming languages and the right teaching method are likely to benefit many IS students.
Topi, H., Valacich, J. S., Wright, R. T., Kaiser, K. M., Nunamaker, Jr., J. F., Sipior, J. C., & de Vreed, G. J. (2010). Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Degree Programs in Information Systems. Retrieved from https://www.acm.org/binaries/content/assets/education/curricula-recommendations/is-2010-acm-final.pdf
Kim, E., Kim, B., (2019). Are programming language courses necessary for IS students?. Proceedings of the EDSIG Conference
, (2019) n.5014, Cleveland, Ohio