Information Technology Concentration
About Information Technology
IT programs exist to produce graduates who possess the right combination of knowledge and practical, hands-on expertise to take care of both an organization’s information technology infrastructure and the people who use it. IT specialists assume responsibility for selecting hardware and software products appropriate for an organization, integrating those products with organizational needs and infrastructure, and installing, customizing, and maintaining those applications for the organization’s computer users. Examples of these responsibilities include the installation of networks; network administration and security; the design of web pages; the development of multimedia resources; the installation of communication components; the oversight of email systems; and the planning and management of the technology lifecycle by which an organization’s technology is maintained, upgraded, and replaced (Computing Curricula 2005, p. 14-15).
An information technology concentration will include organizational and social context, along with technical content and theory. This is a field in which there are external expectations; our guiding authorities for this document are Information Technology 2008 and Computing Curricula 2005. These joint efforts by The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), The Association for Information Systems (AIS), and The IEEE Computer Society (IEEE-CS) include the latest updates of curricular recommendations from the leading professional organizations in the computing fields.
Students should read Computing Curricula 2005 to understand how the various computing disciplines are related. Information technology, as a concentration, probably would not be the optimal choice for someone primarily interested in information and the use of information technology as an instrument for generating, processing and distributing information. For such individuals, a concentration in information systems would be more appropriate. On the other hand, students who are interested primarily in the abstract, theoretical concepts of computing would be better served by a concentration in computer science.
To be successful in the workplace, students must understand the role(s) of IT in organizations as well as develop good communication and interpersonal skills. In addition, quantitative skills are foundational for study in IT.
- communication skills:
All students already should have (or develop) skill and confidence with communication, particularly communicating in writing. Technical communication, that is the specialty of communicating technical information, is of particular value to individuals in this field.
- quantitative reasoning and analytic skills:
All students already should have (or develop) skill and confidence with the interpretation of material containing quantitative information and mathematical symbols, and they should have (or develop) an ability to express ideas using mathematical symbols and language. That is, it is important to be able to articulate one's understanding of mathematics, not just be able to do calculations. The choice of mathematical subject matter for development of quantitative reasoning will depend on the student's background and interest. Facility with algebra (or technical math) is a necessary foundation. In addition, students should have an understanding of basic statistical concepts and discrete mathematics. Through these studies and others, all students already should have (or develop) skill and confidence with an analytic approach to problem solving.
All students already should have (or develop) an understanding of programming, not just coding. This involves using problem solving with logic.
Breadth in Information Technology
Students should show, through their degree program and their rationale, that they have both foundational knowledge and knowledge beyond the foundation in this area. Typically, at least some content in the information technology area will be at the advanced level.
Students should demonstrate an understanding of networking (data communications and computer network models).
- platform technologies:
Students should demonstrate an understanding of platform technologies (operating systems and computer architecture).
Students should have a familiarity with database systems and database administration concepts.
Organizational and Social Context
professional, legal, and ethical context:
Students must understand their social and professional responsibilities as computer professionals as well as the role(s) of IT in the organization. This might include a combination of social context of computing, professional and ethical responsibility, methods and tools of analysis of issues, risks and liabilities of computer-based systems, information security, intellectual property, privacy and civil liberties and history of computing.
Theory, Development and Management of Systems
Students must include theory, development, and the management of systems in their degree plans. This includes analysis and design, human computer interaction, information assurance, web systems and project management.
- analysis and design:
Students should recognize analysis and design as central to understanding information technology. This knowledge must encompass an understanding of the system development lifecycle with particular emphasis on issues in requirements definition and system implementation. For a student focusing on information technology, the emphasis should be on analysis of technical requirements; it is not necessary to place much emphasis on software design. This knowledge should be at the advanced level. The student should know the system analysis and design lifecycle from analyzing the business case through requirements modeling and system architecture to system operations and support and the major activities in each phase, as well as understand how the process helps address the larger organizational needs.
- human computer interaction:
Students must have a competence in user-centered methodologies and an understanding of how these fit within organizational contexts such as they would develop in a study of human computer interaction. Topics generally include human factors, ergonomics, accessibility issues and standards and user and task analysis.
- information assurance:
Students must have an understanding of information assurance; a well-rounded knowledge of security and policy issues is vital in this field. Such knowledge includes information security governance, organizational needs, security risks and options for addressing these risks. Security risks include the physical, infrastructure and human threats. A focused study in network security and cryptology is insufficient.
- project management:
Students must have skills in and knowledge of project management methodologies and skill in applying the techniques of project management. This would include the project lifecycle from planning to closing, and the key knowledge areas such as scope, cost and time management to insure that organizational resources are planned and deployed effectively.
- web systems:
Students are expected to have competence with design, implementation and testing of web technologies and related applications. Topics generally would include information architecture, user-centered web development, web technologies, rich media, standards and standards bodies and vulnerabilities.
Information technologies and the environment in which they exist are always changing. Degree programs must demonstrate currency in the field and show understanding of emerging and evolving technologies and environment relevant to their individual context.
Currency can be viewed in two ways: on the one hand, currency refers to current technologies; on the other hand, currency can be seen as not-obsolete. If students want to use earlier learning in their programs they should consider several issues. These relate to how old, how specialized and how extensive is the earlier learning.
- Courses that encompassed analysis, problem definition, data structures, programming concepts, computer organization, networking models and testing methodology can provide a useful foundation to explore recent developments in computer technology.
- Courses that are product-specific (hardware or software) might be less useful.
When earlier learning is judged to provide a useful foundation within the program, students should be sure to incorporate opportunities to bridge to newer platforms or applications within their degree programs.
Students should explicitly discuss in their rationale essay how each of the above topics is incorporated in their degree program, how the program is designed to meet their goals and how the program meets the currency criteria discussed above. It is not necessary that the specific terms used above appear in individual study titles.
Effective July 1, 2011