More companies are realizing that information systems are a powerful driver of innovation for their companies, thanks to IT’s ability to develop technology-oriented solutions to new business problems. Keeping this discipline relevant in a time of great advances in intelligent machines remains a priority for companies large and small.
The Information Systems Domain Task Force, led by Prof. Kalle Lyytinen (Case Western Reserve University) collaborated with the Association of Information Systems’ Curriculum Development Task Force to assess the state of digital topics in the IS curriculum. As Information Systems has traditionally been a home for many of the emerging digital themes, this task force could leverage a deeper set of data than many others, beginning with the global repository of Information Systems courses (www.eduglopedia.org). The Association for Information Systems offers a reference curriculum that has been regularly revised since 1997, and most recently published in 2020 in combination with the Association of Computing Machinery. It should be noted that the most recent curriculum report covers many computing disciplines, including Information Systems, Computer Science, Cybersecurity, Data Science, and others, highlighting the high degree of connectivity between these areas. What sets Information Systems apart from other computing disciplines is the degree to which it is embedded in and organizational context (typically business), and the extent to which it emphasizes the application of technology to organization-specific problems.
Information System graduates are often positioned at the interface between more functional business disciplines (for instance, Marketing or Finance), and more technical computing disciplines (for instance, Software Engineering or Computer Science). As translators between disciplines they must be able to understand the capabilities of new technology, assess its impact on an organization, its relationship to the established tools, processes and structures, and develop plans for the deployment of such technology in an organization. They must also understand the utility of various technologies in the context of business applications, and be conversant in how strategic and operational changes of an organization may alter its need for technology solutions. As such, Information System students focus on Digital Transformation, i.e., the process through which organizations change using computing capabilities.
The Information Systems Task Force found that many of the undergraduate programs they reviewed followed the curriculum model of the 2010 Association for Information Systems Model Curriculum, which includes core courses on the Foundations of Information Systems, Enterprise Architecture, IT Strategy, Data and Information Management, Systems Analysis and Design, IT Infrastructure, and IT Project Management, combined with a variety of elective courses. New topics that were not included in the model curriculum are courses around Cybersecurity and Big Data Analytics. At the graduate level, Analytics courses are becoming a core component of the Information Systems curriculum, while at the undergraduate level they were mostly identified as elective courses. Courses covering Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning were absent at the undergraduate level. The task force found that these topics are introduced at an overview level as part of more general courses (e.g., Management Information Systems).
Specific Digital Era topics that the task force identified across Information Systems curricula were:
- Big Data/Data Science: Nearly all surveyed undergraduate and graduate curricula in Information Systems contained courses on Analytics and Data Science topics.
- Automation and Algorithms: The majority of undergraduate and graduate curricula in Information Systems surveyed contained one or more courses in this space,
- AI and Machine Learning: While a significant number of graduate programs offered courses in Artificial Intelligence and/or Machine Learning, there was a gap at the undergraduate level, where only half of the surveyed universities offered a course on these topics.
- Blockchain Technology: The emerging topic of Blockchain and distributed ledgers can be found in an increasing number of Information Systems programs, both at the graduate and undergraduate level.
- Design Thinking: Even though Information Systems professionals are often tasked with the design of Digital Transformation initiatives at the strategic, tactical, or operational level, the topic of design thinking has surprisingly little coverage in the surveyed Information Systems curricula.
One topic of regular discussion in the Information Systems Task Force was the delineation between Information Systems and Analytics curricula, as there exists content overlap with regard to the management of data and other foundational technical topics covered in both Information Systems and Analytics, as well as between Information Systems and Computer Science when topics such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are concerned. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) specifically calls out areas where computing programs intersect with other domains, and calls these either “Computing + X” or “X + Computing” (for instance medical informatics, bioinformatics, or FinTech).
Task force leader: Kalle Lyytinen
Case Western Reserve University
Dr. Lyytinen is distinguished university professor and Iris S. Wolstein professor of management design at Case Western Reserve University, and a distinguished visiting professor at Aalto University, Finland. He is among the top five information systems scholars in terms of his h-index (91), and he has the highest network centrality among IS scholars. He is the LEO Award recipient (2013), AIS fellow (2004), and the former chair of IFIP WG 8.2 “Information Systems and Organizations.” He has published more than 400 refereed articles and edited or written more than 30 books or special issues. He conducts research on digital innovation concerning its nature, dynamics and organization, design work, requirements in large systems, and emergence digital infrastructures.