Educating Our Students in Computer Application Concepts: A Case for Problem-Based Learning

Educating Our Students in Computer Application Concepts: A Case for Problem-Based Learning

Peter P. Mykytyn (Southern Illinois University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-136-0.ch011
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Colleges of business have dealt with teaching computer literacy and advanced computer application concepts for many years, often with much difficulty. Traditional approaches to provide this type of instruction, that is, teaching tool-related features in a lecture in a computer lab, may not be the best medium for this type of material. Indeed, textbook publishers struggle as they attempt to compile and organize appropriate material. Faculty responsible for these courses often find it difficult to satisfy students. This chapter discusses problem-based learning (PBL) as an alternative approach to teaching computer application concepts, operationally defined herein as Microsoft Excel and Access, both very popular tools in use today. First PBL is identified in general, then we look at how it is developed and how it compares with more traditional instructional approaches. A scenario to be integrated into a semester-long course involving computer application concepts based on PBL is also presented. The chapter concludes with suggestions for research and concluding remarks.
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It probably would not surprise most Management Information Systems faculty and academics that both accredited and nonaccredited colleges of business continue to struggle with instruction in computer application concepts aimed at undergraduate students. A review of business school Web sites would indicate that a wide array of courses, course names, and course schedules exist: Introduction to Computers, Management Information Systems, and Microcomputer Applications might be some course names that could be found. Some of these courses might be sophomore level, whereas others might be found at the junior level. In other instances, more than one course might be found. One class might deal exclusively with computer application concepts, such as Microsoft Office, whereas another might relate more to MIS itself. Furthermore, the topic related to teaching MIS and application concepts is often raised in postings to ISWORLD ( Thus, it is of little surprise that in the end, questions and uncertainties about these classes exist.

The focus of this perception-based chapter is toward teaching computer application concepts such as Microsoft Office. That is not to say that Microsoft Office is the sole way to teach these types of concepts. Indeed, some schools might teach other tools such as HTML, JAVA, Visual Basic, and so forth. In effect, however, my thoughts related to teaching these concepts are independent of the particular tool used in the classroom. At the same time, Microsoft Office, with particular emphasis on Excel and Access but with some instruction focusing perhaps on PowerPoint and FrontPage, seems to be the most prominent tool used today to provide students with basic computer application concepts.

With numerous surveys, questions posed on ISWORLD, questions raised by faculty at conferences, and continuing efforts by textbook publishers to develop the right set of books for these tools and applications, MIS faculty continue to struggle with this type of class. At the same time, students themselves raise objections. On the one hand, some students are already well skilled in these concepts as a result of taking similar classes in high school or at the community college level. Still others have worked with these tools professionally and do not see the need for taking another class that is perceived to have little to no value. In other instances where two required classes are taught, the overlap between the first and second class is so similar as to again provide seemingly little value to the student.

Instead of rehashing the same material over and over again, however, my thought is to suggest an alternative approach to teaching computer application concepts. The approach is called problem-based learning (PBL). This approach is by no means new or unique. However, it does seem to be somewhat unique to teaching computer application concepts; indeed, it appears to be quite unique in colleges of business. Ideally, readers of the chapter may question the approach presented leading them to investigate it more completely in terms of its applicability and use in this type of class. Additionally, new approaches such as this would lead to empirical research as well.

In the next section, a brief overview of PBL, its concepts, and how it might be applied to teaching computer application concepts is presented. A suggested research agenda follows. Conclusions are presented last.

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
Steve Clarke
Chapter 1
Jeremy Fowler
Although the discipline of information systems (IS) development is well established, IS failure and abandonment remains widespread. As a result, a... Sample PDF
Information Systems Success and Failure—Two Sides of One Coin, or Different in Nature? An Exploratory Study
Chapter 2
Jeanette Eriksson, Yvonne Dittrich
This chapter reports on a case study performed in cooperation with a telecommunication provider. The telecom business changes rapidly as new... Sample PDF
Achieving Sustainable Tailorable Software Systems by Collaboration Between End-Users and Developers
Chapter 3
Marvin D. Troutt, Douglas A. Druckenmiller, William Acar
This chapter uses some special usability and ethical issues that arise from experience with what can be called captive end-user systems (CEUS).... Sample PDF
Usability, Testing, and Ethical Issues in Captive End-User Systems
Chapter 4
Jonathan P. Caulkins, Erica Layne Morrison, Timothy Weidemann
Spreadsheets are commonly used and commonly flawed, but it is not clear how often spreadsheet errors lead to bad decisions. We interviewed 45... Sample PDF
Do Spreadsheet Errors Lead to Bad Decisions? Perspectives of Executives and Senior Managers
Chapter 5
Lixuan Zhang, Randall Young, Victor Prybutok
The means by which the U.S. justice system attempts to control illegal hacking are practiced under the assumption that hacking is like any other... Sample PDF
A Comparison of the Inhibitors of Hacking vs. Shoplifting
Chapter 6
Dewi Rooslani Tojib
he last decade has seen the proliferation of business-to-employee (B2E) portals as integrated, efficient, and user-friendly technology platform to... Sample PDF
Developing Success Measure for Staff Portal Implementation
Chapter 7
Peter Baloh
Improving how knowledge is leveraged in organizations for improved business performance is currently considered as a major organizational change.... Sample PDF
Contingencies in the KMS Design: A Tentative Design Model
Chapter 8
Beryl Burns
We report the findings of a field study of the enactment of ICT supported knowledge work in a Human Resources contact centre, illustrating the... Sample PDF
Users as Developers: A Field Study of Call Centre Knowledge Work
Chapter 9
Raymond R. Panko
This chapter describes two experiments that examined overconfidence in spreadsheet development. Overconfidence has been seen widely in spreadsheet... Sample PDF
Two Experiments in Reducing Overconfidence in Spreadsheet Development
Chapter 10
Steven John Simon, David Paper
Voice recognition technology-enabled devices possess extraordinary growth potential, yet some research indicates that organizations and consumers... Sample PDF
User Acceptance of Voice Recognition Technology: An Empirical Extension of the Technology Acceptance Model
Chapter 11
Peter P. Mykytyn
Colleges of business have dealt with teaching computer literacy and advanced computer application concepts for many years, often with much... Sample PDF
Educating Our Students in Computer Application Concepts: A Case for Problem-Based Learning
Chapter 12
Elaine H. Ferneley
End user development (EUD) of system applications is typically undertaken by end users for their own, or closely aligned colleagues, business needs.... Sample PDF
Covert End User Development: A Study of Success
Chapter 13
Steven Hornik, Richard D. Johnson, Yu Wu
Central to the design of successful virtual learning initiatives is the matching of technology to the needs of the training environment. The... Sample PDF
When Technology Does Not Support Learning: Conflicts Between Epistemological Beliefs and Technology Support in Virtual Learning Environments
Chapter 14
Tom Butler
The study’s objective is to arrive at a theoretical model and framework to guide research into the implementation of KMS, while also seeking to... Sample PDF
A Theoretical Model and Framework for Understanding Knowledge Management System Implementation
Chapter 15
Jun Xu, Mohammed Quaddus
This chapter develops a model of adoption and continued use of knowledge management systems (KMSs), which is primarily built on Rogers’ (1995)... Sample PDF
Exploring the Factors Influencing End Users' Acceptance of Knowledge Management Systems: Development of a Research Model of Adoption and Continued Use
Chapter 16
Wei-Na Lee
In today’s global environment, a myriad of communication mechanisms enable cultures around the world to interact with one another and form complex... Sample PDF
Classifying Web Users: A Cultural Value-Based Approach
Chapter 17
Annette Hallin, Kristina Lundevall
This chapter presents the mCity Project, a project owned by the City of Stockholm, aiming at creating user-friendly mobile services in collaboration... Sample PDF
mCity: User Focused Development of Mobile Services Within the City of Stockholm
Chapter 18
Cristina Hava Muntean, Gabriel-Miro Muntean
Lately, user quality of experience (QoE) during their interaction with a system is a significant factor in the assessment of most systems. However... Sample PDF
End-User Quality of Experience-Aware Personalized E-Learning
Chapter 19
High-Tech Meets End-User  (pages 302-320)
Marc Steen
One challenge within the high-tech sector is to develop products that end users will actually need and will be able to use. One way of trying to... Sample PDF
High-Tech Meets End-User
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