A Web-Enabled Course Partnership

A Web-Enabled Course Partnership

Ned Kock (Texas A&M International University, USA) and Gangshu Cai (Texas A&M International University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch658
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Abstract

This article discusses a course partnership involving a large engineering and professional services company, and a public university, both headquartered in Philadelphia,. An action research study of the course partnership is used as a basis. Like typical action research studies (Checkland, 1991; Lau, 1997; Peters & Robinson, 1984; Winter, 1989; Wood- Harper, 1985), ours aimed at providing a service to the research clients (Jonsonn, 1991; Rapoport, 1970; Sommer, 1994), while at the same time performing an exploratory investigation of the effect of Web-based collaboration technologies on course partnerships. The research clients in question were the students and the industry partner. Also, in line with a subclass of action research, namely participatory action research (Greenwood, Whyte, & Harkavy, 1993; Elden & Chisholm, 1993; McTaggart, 1991; Whyte, 1991), one of the research clients, the industry partner, participated actively in the compilation and analysis of the exploratory research data, as well as in the interpretation of the findings.
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Introduction

Notwithstanding fluctuations in enrollment, virtually every university in the U.S. and overseas has seen a significant increase in demand for information technology (IT) courses and programs in the last 15 years (Greenspan, 1999; Monaghan, 1998; Ross, 1998). At the source of this demand is an ever-growing need for qualified IT professionals in most companies, whether the companies are in technology industries or not (Alexander, 1999; Andel, 1999; Kock, 2005; Lee, 2006; Trunk, 2000; Wilde, 1999).

Given the previous practical motivation, one would expect university IT courses to be closely aligned with the industry’s basic needs. Nevertheless, the gap between industry and academia in the field of IT (King, 1998; Kock, 2006; Kock, Auspitz, & King, 2002; Richter, 1999) seems to be widening rather than contracting, which is evidenced by some symptoms: (a) students complaining about their lack of “real world” IT experience when they graduate; (b) industry representatives pointing out that universities do not prepare students for the challenges and complexity of corporate IT management; and (c) faculty teaching topics that are related to their research yet far removed from the daily reality faced by IT professionals.

One way of addressing the problematic situation just mentioned is to establish industry-university partnerships. Such partnerships, particularly those involving research universities, have been commonplace for quite some time, and are arguably on the rise (Burnham, 1997; Wheaton, 1998). Irrespective of economic sector or industry, the vast majority of industry-university partnerships are of the research partnership type, which predominantly involves applied firm-specific research. In this type of partnership, funding from the industry partner is received in exchange for “intellectual horsepower” in the form of research services and technology transfer (Hollingsworth, 1998; Meyer-Krahmer, 1998).

A much less common type of industry-university partnership is what we refer here to as a course partnership, which gravitates around a regular university course (or set of courses) rather than a research project or program. In these types of partnerships, the industry partner agrees to sponsor one or more courses in which the students are expected to apply concepts and theory learned in class to the solution of some of the industry partner’s key problems. Students benefit from the direct contact with the industry they are likely to join after they graduate as well as professional relationships they are able to establish during the course.

This article discusses a course partnership involving a large engineering and professional services company, and a public university, both headquartered in Philadelphia,. An action research study of the course partnership is used as a basis.

Like typical action research studies (Checkland, 1991; Lau, 1997; Peters & Robinson, 1984; Winter, 1989; Wood-Harper, 1985), ours aimed at providing a service to the research clients (Jonsonn, 1991; Rapoport, 1970; Sommer, 1994), while at the same time performing an exploratory investigation of the effect of Web-based collaboration technologies on course partnerships. The research clients in question were the students and the industry partner. Also, in line with a subclass of action research, namely participatory action research (Greenwood, Whyte, & Harkavy, 1993; Elden & Chisholm, 1993; McTaggart, 1991; Whyte, 1991), one of the research clients, the industry partner, participated actively in the compilation and analysis of the exploratory research data, as well as in the interpretation of the findings.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Action Research: Type of research approach in which the researcher attempts to improve the research client, which can be an organization, while at the same time generating relevant academic knowledge.

Process: Set of interrelated activities through which an organization transforms inputs into value-added outputs. Inputs and outputs can be tangible (e.g., materials, parts) or intangible (e.g., services, information) items.

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