Notes on Information Technology and IT Programs, Departments, and Schools

George Stockman, Summer 2005

This document is under development and should change significantly over 2005. It was begun 1 June 2005 to provide for information and discussion needed for our efforts at MSU regarding consideration of a new focus and organization on Computing and Information. It is a work in progress, and should not be regarded as a finished report.

This is NOT intended to comprehensively cover all of computation and information, but concentrates on recently converging ideas on “Information Technology”.

Forward:  This information has been collected in order to support the current MSU effort considering new research and programs in IT and possibly some new organization to promote these.

Outline of what is here

1.      Some definitions of IT

2.      Motivation for why we should do IT and how IT is different from CS and IS.

3.      What about the MSU IT specialization?

4.      Some links to publications about IT curriculum and programs

5.      Some links to a variety of other university/organization IT sites

6.      Some recommendation for IT at MSU

1. What is IT?

Definitions vary so some alternatives are provided here. For my colleagues, I want to bluntly say that interpretations vary from “a weak techie view of computer science” to a fresh new high level view of “an organizing theme for the next great information age”. We at MSU can choose to operate at any or all levels of IT.

IT Definition 1:  This definition is quoted directly from the web site of a department of IT at The University of Queensland, Australia (BS IT info pages 2005):  This definition would be appreciated by advisers and guidance councilors.

Information Technology is a term that covers all forms of computer and communications equipment and programming software used to create, store, transmit, interpret, and manipulate information in its various formats (eg, business data, voice conversations, still images, motion pictures and multimedia presentations).  Studies in IT combine many disciplines, with underlying principles based in mathematics, logic, physics and psychology. “

IT Definition 2:  A blue sky definition comes from Indiana, which did frontier thinking and reorganization, along with a few other universities. They use the term “informatics”, perhaps to dodge the existing techie semantics of IT. The following is verbatim from their web site

“Informatics is …

·             converting data into information

·             humming a tune and your search engine correcting the pitch

·             predicting the spread of the next flu epidemic

·             combating malicious hackers

·             understanding the human genome

·             exploring virtual reality

·             supporting cutting edge research

·             developing business solutions

·             and more …

Informatics develops new uses for information technology and in order to solve specific problems in areas as diverse as biology, fine arts, and economics. Informatics is also interested in understanding the impact of technology on people. For this reason, some have called informatics “technology with a human face.”

IT Definition 3:  From the joint work of the professional organizations ACM and IEEE we have the definition that has been accepted by the Curriculum Committee of CSE at MSU for its own work. See  from which is taken verbatim the following.

“Information Technology (IT) in its broadest sense encompasses all aspects of computing technology. IT, as an academic discipline, focuses on meeting the needs of users within an organizational and societal context through the selection, creation, application, and integration and administration of computing technologies.”

Core curriculum extracted from the ACM/IEEE draft recommendations for IT

From the 115 page document on  we extract the core concept areas and the number of hours of coverage. Courses are not prescribed. Sample courses are given; however, departments are encouraged to design their own courses to cover the various topics. Detailed topics and objectives are given for each of the 12 major areas below. Roughly, the hours correspond to “lecture hours” of which we would have about 40 for a “typical” 3 credit MSU course. (This is NOT an endorsement of lecture delivery.)  Therefore, delivery of 281 total hours corresponds to a full set of seven 3-credit courses. This is for a MINIMUM coverage of a minimum core. Note that many technical college major programs require about 40 credits or 13 courses “in the major area itself.” 

1)      IT fundamentals (33 hours)

2)      HCI (20 hours)

3)      Information Assurance and Security (23 hours)

4)      Information Management (34 hours)

5)      Integrative Programming and Technologies (23 hours)

6)      Networking (20 hours)

7)      Programming Fundamentals (38 hours)

8)      Platform Technologies (14 Hours)

9)      System Administration and Maintenaince (11 hours)

10)   System Integration and Architecture (23 hours)

11)   Social and Professional Issues (21 hours)

12)   Web systems and technologies (21 hours)

Total recommended :  281 hours


Not community college stuff!

It’s important to emphasize that the IT program outlined above should not be confused with community college level work as some XYZ Technology programs have been. IT is not a “weak CS” degree, but rather a different challenging program. IT grads will be much more information engineers than a CS, IMS,or TCC grad. As IT units continue to appear across all organizations, industry will have as clear an identity for an IT grad as they have for a software engineer or production manager of a TV station.

It’s also important to emphasize that there are many opportunities for strong 3-course sequences to provide critical IT knowledge to the other 100 or so majors at MSU, perhaps each culminating is some domain-centered senior level course in the vaious departments.

Does MSU have faculty resources to teach all the core concepts recommended above?

Yes and no. CSE itself has enough core knowledge in its faculty to begin such a program. CSE faculty would have some tough prep to do for some of the hours defined above. With faculty from all of MSU, it would be easy to find expertise to cover all topics. In the long run, new faculty who are interdisciplinary according to today’s standard disciplines and who have done research in IT areas will take ownership of the new discipline.

Load and resources must be considered. A simple low lower bound computation would be that MSU would teach 7 new courses once per year and thus 2 FTEs would be required to staff this program. However, the new major is likely to graduate 100 seniors after a few years: this number implies a much larger FTE than 2. A mitigating factor is that courses supporting an IT major would be heavily shared with the existing CS major and other majors and some current CS and TC students would move to the new IT major. Some universites have reported no decline in CS after instituting the new IT major. We need to have some discussions about the numbers of CS, Business, and TC majors interacting with a new major. Possibly, an even larger load would be created by many students of other MSU majors using a 3-course IT stovepipe in their program.

2. Motivation for doing IT

The reasons for developing IT programs and for students to pursue IT are several.

1.      IT knowledge is critical for designing, installing, and maintaining information systems to support applications and serve people, companies, governments, businesses, etc. It has been estimated that the US economy needs many more IT employees; perhaps 5 times as many as programmers/software engineers. Consider the following quote from the Oakland (Michigan)University website [ ] The long-term projections produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate that 70% of the projected job openings in science and engineering in coming years will be in IT. According to Gartner’s human-capital-management practice group, there will be a shortage of 4 million IT workers in 2012. Thus, it is a great time to enter into an IT degree program.

2.      IT professionals do not build individual modules (hardware, software, tools) themselves – that is the domain of computer engineers and software engineers; however, they must understand what modules exist and how they can be made to interoperate. The IT professional works more on integration of modules to put applications into service. The IT professional needs knowledge of existing CS disciplines but will operate on their seams (see paper by Ekstrom and Lunt).

3.      Because IT employees will be more integrated within the structure of an enterprise, it is believed that they may be more immune to outsourcing than either computer engineers or software engineers. This, together with the number of jobs available, could make IT a more rewarding and more popular career than CS or CpE. It may also be a career with more impact on the economy as well.

4.      HCI is core to training IT professionals, whereas HCI is elective to CS training. IT preparation core also contains web programming and database design and programming, which are often not core in CS programs. IT shares the same mathematics and logic background with CS. IT has less depth in programming and computing theory than CS: the depth in IT is placed in modeling and integration and in understandin how information systems interface with humans and human processes.

5.      Through project work, capstone courses, or cognates or minors, IT students must prepare on real cases of integration and problem-solving.

6.      A major resource on the themes of IT and the kinds of careers possible is the 2004 paper by Barry Lunt et al Defining the IT Curriculum…

7.      Apparently, Michigan has 3 formal IT programs: at CMU, UM, and (in process) Oakland. The Michigan programs are unique and at the grad level, whereas those at Oakland and CMU are primarily at the undergrad level. Other model programs can be found at Indiana, RPI, RIT, and Cincinnati (see links below). These web sites contain motivation as well as program and course details. The Oakland curriculum, set to formally begin in Fall 2005 follows the recommendations of IEEE/ACM and documented by InSITE

8.      Finally, some quotes from the RPI web pages. “It's an IT world. Information Technology (IT) is, and will continue to be, the driving force of every industry on the planet. IT is computers and communication. IT forms the infrastructure of business. IT is the enabler of the information age. IT permeates your everyday life. IT brings it all together. It has been called "the largest human resource challenge in the nation." The May 2002 survey of employers conducted by the Information Technology Association of America documents a predicted shortfall of more than 500,000 IT workers next year. Demand continues to outpace the ability of colleges and universities to produce qualified IT graduates. This tremendous demand has no end in sight.”


3. MSU IT Specialization

The IT Specialization at MSU is a limited opportunity for a limited number of students in certain majors. It provides 4 core courses and several electives in each of three colleges (Business, CommArts, and Engineering) and a capstone course.  Currently, (a) there is no major in IT available, and (b) many other majors at MSU have limited opportunites to study the importance of IT in their own fields.

Consider someone studying urban planning or geography, where it is important to extract and relate information from digital aerial images, maps, and geographic information systems. Such specific skills are best taught within the departments where the discipline skills and concepts are used. However, the underlying fundamentals of representation of images and geographic information are introduced in CSE 240 and could be taught to almost all MSU students. Notions of database query are also taught in CSE 240 (and CSE 103 at the current time), which are also generally relevant to any modern professional area. The mechanism of a 3-course sequence or short stovepipe in IT could be available to all majors.

Consider someone studying forensics or business. Concepts of biometrics are important to both fields as are concepts in privacy and security of information systems. Once again, a 3-course sequence in IT fundamentals could be available to these students as well.

It is important to note that there are mathematical foundations taught by the Math Department that must be considered necessary background.

4. Some useful links to publications

K. Alford et al, A Curriculum Framework for Evolving an Information Technology Program

J. Ekstrom and B. Lunt, Education at the seams: preparing students to stitch systems together; curriculum and issues for 4-year IT programs, Proc. ACM Special Interest Group on IT, ISBN:1-58113-770-2(2003) pp196-200

H. Said et al,  An implementation of a core curriculum in an information technology degree program, Conference On Information Technology Education: Proceedings of the 5th conference on Information technology education, Salt Lake City, UT, USA  (June 2004) PP94 - 100   ISBN:1-58113-936-5


H. Reichgelt et al, A Comparison of Baccalaureate Programs in Information Technology with Baccalaureate Programs in Computer Science and Information Systems, Journal of Information Technology Education, Volume 3, 2004 Editor: Christine Bruce


S. Leung et al, Enroute to making an IT baccalaureate program, Conference On Information Technology Education: Proceedings of the 5th conference on Information technology education, Salt Lake City, UT, USA (June 2004) PP255 - 260   ISBN:1-58113-936-5  ACM Press


Princeton Review article on IT and programs at RPI,

5. Some useful links to organizations

1.      Brigham Young  School of Technology contains a Dept. of IT

2.      Central Michigan University

3.      Illinois State School of IT

4.      InSITE Confernce 2005: Informing Science + Information Technology Education, Flagstaff, AZ (16-19 June)

5.      Missouri Tech

6.      Penn State School of Information Sciences and Technology has programs and organization at both the undergrad and grad level

7.      Oakland University, Rochester Michigan

8.      Univ. Queensland, Australia

9.      RIT has been an early entrant into undergrad program development. Several of its faculty have been active on national committees. Rochester Institute of Technology, Dept. of IT within the College of Computing and Information Science

10.  RPI is an innovative leader, along with Indiana, of extensive campus reorganization around IT themes at both the grad and undergrad level, with a “high level” view of what IT is. You must go to the web pages; it is impossible to adequately summarize what they think and do. Renssalear Inst. Of Technology


6. Some recommendation for IT at MSU

To be determined.

1)      Decide to make a move or get out of the way

2)      what else?