The philosophy of our book

The philosophy of our book

When Beth, our editor, and I first discussed the idea of my writing a textbook for the introductory Information Systems course, I was lamenting the typical reaction student have to “the IT course.” Students, both in the MBA and at the Undergraduate level, enter the required IS course with a number of preconceptions and biases. They think that “this IT stuff” is not for them. They complain that the material is dry, that they have to memorize countless acronyms, and they don’t see how the content of the course will further their careers.

The disconnect between the typical “intro course” and student expectations is clear both in the MBA and Undergraduate. In the typical MBA, practically no student in the room is there because she aspires to a CIO career. In the typical Undergraduate class, most student have a very hazy idea of what Information Systems is. This larger branding problem makes it critical that we, the IS teachers, can clarify why there is a technical discipline in the business school.

I was at the School of Hospitality Management at Cornell University when I wrote the first edition of the book. My school valued teaching and it was not acceptable to just “survive” in class. We had to get good evaluations (with good being 4 or above on a 5 point scale), and of course students would evaluate us against each other. Many of my colleagues were master teachers, and none had a less palatable subject than mine. Heck, none of my students enrolled because they loved IT, and I taught the required course!! Early on in one of my performance evaluation, as I was passionately explaining why my required undergraduate IS class was a fundable element of the students’ career development and I was lamenting that the students “didn’t get it,” the associate dean asked me a simple question: Did you tell them that? Did you explain why this material is so important?

That was a pivotal moment in my development as a teacher. It lead to a lot of soul searching about what I was teaching and why. I realized that my material should not be “what IS researchers have studied”, arguably the substance of many textbooks. It should be “what the students need to know to be effective managers.” I started developing my own material  which, five years later, became the first edition of Information Systems for Managers: Text and Cases.

The book is written on the fundamental premise that, in a business school, the primary objective of the “intro course” is to light the fire of excitement in students – excitement about the transformative business potential of IT. This is critical to fight the inherent bias and wrong expectations many students have. For this reason:

  • Our book is organized around fundamental concepts that showcase the centrality of Information Systems in the successful modern enterprise.
  • The material we present is practical and applied. We provide lots of relevant examples, managerial quotes, mini-cases and full-length cases. While we can expect students to learn factual information about IS on their own, we should not expect them to develop deep understanding and analytical abilities without engagement and discussion with a talented teacher. We wrote the book to be the platform on which, like an conductor, you can orchestrate learning for all.
  • The book is written in an engaging style. To this day, the best compliment we can receive from a student is: I actually enjoyed reading the book.

We wrote this book to make sure our students gain maximum value from our class, and we all enjoy the process. If you buy into our philosophy, give the book a try.

– Gabe

PS  Stay tuned, in a future post we will discuss how we use the book in our classes.