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 course in the country uses; however, there were several problems with those books. First and foremost, they typically teach the material using a traditional read/memorize/regurgitate style, which is completely incompatible with the type of material (information systems) being taught. We believe that one of the most important roles of information systems is the application of technology to solve unstructured business problems. These solutions and creations are often unique. No amount of memorizing rote material will help a real IS professional solve problems that have no single, guided solution. Learning IS requires a lot less reading/memorizing and a lot more "doing." Therefore, we use video tutorials as the primary mechanism to transfer IS skills, which eliminates the plausibility of a paper book. We have adopted the MyEducator.com platform to allow a smooth integration of text-based concepts and video-based tutorials.

Second, we are keeping our finger on the pulse of the recruiting market. We attend our students' career fairs and regularly interview the companies that hire them 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. Paper-based books and large publishing companies move far too slowly to keep up with this level of dynamic content.

Third, traditional textbooks are "an inch deep and a mile wide" in the material they cover. As a result, the student ends up learning very little content that may be quickly forgotten when the class is over. What students need is a set of skills that will help them earn tomorrow's internships and thrive in their careers. They need something concrete to put on a résumé that will make them immediately valuable. To accomplish this, we have elected to cover only the most relevant concepts, but in much greater detail.

Last, "topics" courses like Introduction to Information Systems do not have much flow and continuity from chapter to chapter. When concepts are difficult to connect, they are easily forgotten. If concepts don't build on each other, then students don't understand why they need to learn the next chapter. At best, the instructor has to "re-sell" the students on the importance of each and every chapter. Therefore, we have crafted this book with a deliberate ordering of topics and emphasis on business intelligence and data analytics. Students begin with basic concepts such 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 "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 immediately move into 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 then prepared to learn about the Business Intelligence Stack. We provide data sets 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, box plots) but also be used to predict the future (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 needed to be truly effective at 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 it for further analysis.

We've been teaching the course in this manner for three years now with great success and 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 any feedback, questions, and good ideas to improve this course. Please contact us if you have any suggestions!