Building a Scalable, Platform-Agnostic Relational Database Module for Introduction to MIS
Leigh Mutchler James Madison University
Shawn Lough James Madison University
Amy Connolly James Madison University
Abstract Scholars of IS pedagogy disagree on which topics and technologies should be taught in Introduction to MIS. Most business programs include a broad Intro course with ever-shifting topics that follow rapid changes in industry. In this data-driven world, business professionals need to understand how to develop and use databases to support business decisions. Our business program has consistently included a database component in the Intro course. Historically, it has relied on MS Access, which is unfortunately dependent on the Windows Operating System (OS). Students with Mac OS computing devices could only complete the database assignments by installing a virtual Windows instance or using computer labs on campus. However, COVID protocols prevented students from accessing many of these resources. To create a long-term solution that could serve students virtually and in-person, we decided to shift away from MS Access to an OS-agnostic technology that students could access from anywhere. In addition, the solution had to be easy to use and inexpensive, so as not to create a disadvantage for students. Based on feedback from industry professionals, we recognized the growing need for students to focus on creating meaningful queries and reports from existing databases rather than building new databases from scratch (Campbell, 2004). Using existing databases (rather than creating new ones) increased data consistency for students and allowed capacity to create more complex queries. We identified a need for students to learn to use SQL. Due to large enrollments in the Intro course, we also needed to keep grading relatively manageable.
We chose DB Browser for SQLite, an open-source, cross-platform SQL database management system, billed as “the most used database engine in the world” (SQLite, n.d.). We created exercises in SQLite that students found engaging, interesting, and challenging. Students first built queries in SQLite, then created a report to document their work, and finally, transferred their work to quiz questions in the learning-management system. Because quizzes were auto-graded, students received instant feedback on their work, which they could then use to improve future exercises. We piloted these assignments to over 800 students online during the past academic year (fall and spring). Students responded positively regarding their ability to complete the assignments, regardless of location or OS. As in-person instruction resumes, we plan to more formally codify these exercises to make them easier to incorporate into existing coursework and to ensure consistent and rigorous instruction across various sections of the course.
We are curious if other instructors use SQLite or other platform-agnostic database tools to teach Intro to MIS. We would also appreciate feedback on the exercises themselves and ideas for new exercises. This work in progress will contribute to IS pedagogical literature, particularly related to making relational databases relevant and impactful for all students in the Intro to MIS course.
Keywords: Relational database, SQLite, active learning, introductory course, queries
Campbell, R. J. (2004). Database Design: What HIM Professionals Need to Know. Perspectives in Health Information Management, 1(6). http://library.ahima.org/doc?oid=58128
SQLite. (n.d.). Most Widely Deployed SQL Database Engine. About SQLite. Retrieved July 1, 2021, from https://www.sqlite.org/mostdeployed.html