Engaging Information Systems Students in a Practicum-Based Project: Employers' Perceptions and Comparison

Engaging Information Systems Students in a Practicum-Based Project: Employers' Perceptions and Comparison

I. Lavy (Yezreel Valley College, Yezreel Valley College, Israel) and R. Rashkovits (Yezreel Valley College, Yezreel Valley College, Israel)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTE.2019010106

Abstract

In a previous study, a practicum-based approach to bridge the gap between industry expectations and Information Systems (IS) graduates' skills was discussed from the students' point of view. The practicum project was initiated to enable students to experience real work in the IS domain in accordance with their professional aspirations and their desired specialty. To complete the whole picture, in this article, we present the employers' point of view as regards to the benefits the students gained from the project and compare between the two points of view. Semi-structured questionnaire and in-depth interviews with employers who participated in the project in the last four years were conducted in order to reveal their perceptions. Many similarities exist between the employers' and the students' perceptions but also some differences stemming from different perspectives on the process were found. The employers' perspectives were discussed and also the differences between the students'; and the employers'; perceptions.
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Theoretical Background

This paper presents a brief theoretical background on preparing IS students for vocational careers during academic studies and on industry practicum for IS students.

Preparing IS Students for Vocational Career During Academic Studies

Technical and non-technical skills are key factors in developing successful career in the IS field (Gillard, 2009; Cappel, 2002). During their academic studies, IS students study various courses concerning applied computing and business, and are supposed to be able to identify and analyze problems, design solutions, and implement these designs into a working application (Bishop-Clark, 1995; Lunt et al.,2008). Also, due to the rapid new development in the computing discipline students are expected to learn and apply new technologies with minimal assistance. Furthermore, they have to be able to work as part of a team, as computer applications have become too complex for one programmer to deal with (Hazzan & Kramer, 2007). IS workers who facilitate business activities by introducing and operating information systems, have to possess, in addition to technical skills, oral and writing skills in order to better communicate with peers, users, managers and other stakeholders (Silva, et al., 2016; Sanahuja Ve´lez & Ribes Giner, 2015; Virolainen et al., 2011; Gorgone, et al., 2003; Capretz & Ahmed, 2010). Moreover, the graduates are expected to organize their work efficiently and provide proved products under time constraints and budget limitations (Lilienthal et al., 2005).

One of the activities during a workshop course, in the college where this research took place, includes the specification and the development of a small information system. The instructor “plays” the customer’s role and the teams have to communicate with him to analyze and design the solution, and to present the developed system. Via the course activities, the students have the opportunity to develop oral and writing skills for the communication with their peers. Though the simulation provides the students with a glance of software development in a real work place, it cannot be considered as a substitute to continual experience in the industry.

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