Yesterday, I made the case for including Windows Phone 7 as a part of an IS curriculum. Today, I would like to expand on that thought a little more and offer up a course sequence that I believe most universities can sell as a “Mobile Development Specialization” or something to that effect that will serve as a value add to their base curriculum while opening opportunities for other value add specialization opportunities.
Why do I Even Care?
I guess the first question you are asking yourself is why you would want to even look at adding something like this to your curriculum? This is probably especially the case for my colleagues at the larger, more research oriented schools, that put a premium on research productivity rather than pedagogical innovation. My answer to this question is a simple one. Look at an IS program from the perspective of a business. Much like the business needs revenues in order to function, an IS program needs student enrollment.
As we all know, enrollments in IS programs have fallen over the past 5 years (although they seem to be making a slight comeback), and this has resulted in some IS departments being merged into other departments, faculty being released, or the total elimination of the IS program all together. If you don’t think it could happen, just ask my friends at my alma mater, Central Florida (UCF). At the time of it’s demise, I believe that UCF was #5 in the world in research productivity. They had the most prolific publishing researcher in MIS on their faculty, as well as the editor-in-chief of the #1 ranked journal in the discipline, MIS Quarterly. However all of this was not enough to save the program when it came time for the budgetary axe to fall because enrollments did not justify keeping it around.
So, without digressing too far from the topic of this post, which is what a curriculum could look like, I wanted to stress that even if you don’t add Windows Phone 7 (or any other mobility platform) to your curriculum, you need to look at how you can make yourselves more attractive to students. Remember that students equal revenues, and revenues allow you to stay in business whether that business is research focused, teaching focused, or a blend of the two.
The Method to this Madness (or the Logic Behind the Design)
Just as you would not want to design a system to be monolithic and non-flexible, you don’t want your curriculum to be that way either. That is another reason why I love the Microsoft set of technologies in the Windows Phone 7 toolkit for developers, they all can be leveraged elsewhere. For example, one of my reasons that Windows Phone 7 made sense for IS programs was that it was a natural extension to what is taught in many object-oriented programming (OOP) courses. The same can be said for other elements of the Windows Phone 7 toolkit. While differences exist in the Silverlight associated with Windows Phone Apps and traditional Silverlight, a course in the technology can be leveraged in value added specializations that deal with mobile development, game development, and Web development. The same can be said for the XNA framework that supports Windows Phone, XBox360, and the Windows OS. Again, you can see that one course can be taught and leveraged in several different areas.
However, it is not just about one course being used in multiple areas, it is about student enrollment. Having a course on a technology that can be leveraged in different specialization areas means that students from different areas can all take the same course. This is critical to justifying the existence of the program. Let me provide an example. Let’s say you have 5 students interested in game development and 15 interested in mobile development. If you teach one class that focuses in on the XNA framework for gaming and another focusing on the XNA for mobile development, the gaming course is likely to be cancelled because of low enrollments. This will leave these students pretty ticked off and more than likely you will lose them from your planned specialization area, if not your major all together! Luckily, if you use the Microsoft technologies, you can teach one course that serves both interests and avoid losing students from your program.
A Sample Curriculum
The core course in my curriculum is the OOP course. This is a core course in the major and can be used to recruit students into whatever specializations that you choose to implement. A few of the other courses that I would like to offer are:
Silverlight with Microsoft Expressions – this will be a course that covers both Silverlight and Silverlight for Windows Phone 7. It could also be a course in any gaming or Web development type specializations that you might choose to add to your program. You may even find that you can pull some students from IT, CS, and even graphic and web design programs that may be interested in learning the technology.
XNA Framework – This is included for many of the same reasons that we just listed with Silverlight. It is applicable to many different specialization areas.
Securing Mobile Devices – Security is an important concern for all business organizations, and it is a difficult enough goal to achieve within the organization’s walls without the added elements that mobile devices bring. This course will focus on those added issues and instruct students on how to mitigate security issues specific to mobile devices. It may be a good place to leverage the Security Development Lifecycle (SDL). However, I am a firm believer that the SDL should be leveraged in all IS coursework, but that is a topic for another post.
Digital Entrepreneurship – This course was born as a result of some discussions with my colleagues at UALR. It would be, in essence, a capstone course for the specialization and would involve the students taking the knowledge that they learned in the other courses and leveraging it to market and sell a mobile app (or even a game) on the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace. Remember that IS is all about the blend of business and technical knowledge. This course would be an excellent opportunity for students to do that, and maybe even make some money as they could keep the profits from their work!
Here is how I envision the courses fitting together.
Of course, these are just my initial thoughts on the subject. You could alternatively skip the courses on Silverlight and XNA and cover those items in mobile development if you do not have the flexibility to add those items as extra courses. I plan on talking a lot to fellow faculty members, students, and people in the business community to see if they see the value in this type of program. However, I can tell you that I am excited about looking at this and I feel that it (if done in a thoughtful manner) will be a valuable addition to any IS curriculum. If you have any ideas on the subject, I would love to hear them!