Why Do We Need another Introduction to Information Systems Textbook?

When we began teaching this course, we used one of the many “big publisher” books that almost every Introduction to Information Systems course in the country uses; however, there were several problems with those books. First, they typically taught the material using a traditional style of read, memorize, and regurgitate, which is completely incompatible with the material being taught. We believe that one of the most important roles of information systems (IS) is the application of technology to solve unstructured business problems. These solutions are often unique. No amount of memorizing material will help a real IS professional solve problems that have no single, guided solution. Learning IS requires less reading and memorizing and more doing. Therefore, we use video tutorials as the primary mechanism to transfer IS skills. Since using video tutorials eliminates the plausibility of a paper book, we have adopted the MyEducator platform to allow a smooth integration of text-based concepts and video-based tutorials into an IS textbook.

Second, paper-based books and large publishing companies move far too slowly to keep up with the level of dynamic content in the IS field. As IS professors, we keep our fingers on the pulse of the recruiting market. We attend our students’ career fairs and regularly interview the companies that hire our students for internships to find out what IS skills are in the most demand each year. As a result, we frequently revise the course content and tutorials.

Third, most traditional textbooks are “an inch deep and a mile wide,” or short and broad, in the material they cover. As a result, students end up learning very little content, and they often quickly forget it when the class is over. Students need a set of skills that will help them earn tomorrow’s internships and thrive in their future careers. They need something concrete to put on a résumé that will make them immediately valuable. To help students achieve this, we have elected to cover only the most relevant concepts but to address them in much greater detail.

Finally, topics courses like Introduction to Information Systems do not have much flow and continuity between chapters. When concepts are difficult to connect, they are easily forgotten. If ideas don’t build on each other, then students won’t understand why they need to learn the information in the next chapter. At best, the instructor will have to convince the students of the importance of each chapter. Therefore, we have deliberately ordered the topics in this book to create continuity and to emphasize business intelligence and data analytics. Students begin with such basic concepts as “What are Organizational Systems?” and “Basics of Hardware and Networking” (topics that don’t need a lot of emphasis) and continue with more detail on to “Information Privacy and Security” (which is more relevant in today’s IS environment). Rather than spending several weeks or months on these basic topics, we spend only two weeks, and then we immediately move on to the more practical topic of database design and querying (including ER diagramming, queries, and SQL select statements). After students understand how relational databases are structured and how to extract raw data, they are prepared to learn about the Business Intelligence Stack. We provide datasets that can be analyzed with a suite of tools and techniques that can not only describe data in useful ways (e.g., PivotTables, Tableau, Excel Solver, correlation matrices, ANOVAs, scatterplots, and box plots) but also be used to predict future data (e.g., multiple linear regression and prediction calculators). Once the students understand the power of data analytics, we teach them one of the most critical skills for using data to make smarter decisions: VBA. Students learn VBA in the context of data cleaning and batch processing so that once they’ve pulled raw data from the database, they can write their own script to clean and prepare for further analysis.

We’ve been teaching the course in this manner for several years now, with great success. We have received positive feedback from both faculty of other disciplines (who count this course as a prerequisite course) and companies who hire our students for summer internships. We welcome all questions and any feedback to improve this course. Please contact us if you have any suggestions!