A Survey of CIS Alumni to Assess Curriculum: Findings, Implications, and Future Directions

Robert C Mahaney, James H. Fisher
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 18  •  2019  •  pp. 571-587

At a public, higher education program in information technology, faculty are frequently asked to evaluate their curricula concerning: course content, the matriculation experience, where and in what capacity graduates are employed, and future academic initiatives developed to keep pace with changes in technology. The problem is determining the best process or mechanism to accumulate the responses.

The increased importance of STEM programs (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), reduced state support, and the need for greater accountability are driving academic technology programs to justify their existence. This paper explores one process for evaluating a Computer Information Systems (CIS) program in a state-supported university in the Midwest USA, through an email survey designed for graduates to capture their unique perspective as ‘customers’.

An email survey was developed, field tested, and sent to 550 email addresses obtained from university alumni affairs. Results were accumulated in a Qualtrics program and analyzed for research purposes.

The contribution of this research is outlining one program’s experience gleaning information on the employment of graduates, assessing the CIS and business core curriculum, and collecting suggestions for future academic courses and experiences through the utilization of an email survey. This is a valuable source of curriculum feedback that is often overlooked by programs that want to enhance their academic offerings.

Among the findings are the following: the CIS program is and has been a viable and relevant information technology program that prepares graduates for meaningful careers in this field; the business core curriculum of accounting, finance and business communication is essential to the career success of CIS graduates; graduates of the CIS program are prepared to assume managerial roles throughout their careers; and Cooperative (Co-op) education is an extremely valuable experience and should be required in the CIS curriculum.

Graduates of an academic program are an excellent source of evaluation material. A well-constructed email survey can gather relevant data on employment and employability, the curriculum, the college experience, and other academic program information. This type of survey is an easy, inexpensive, and expedient means for gathering this information.

The current study surveyed CIS graduates to assess the appropriateness of the curriculum. Future researchers should seek input from IT managers and HR managers who will be hiring CIS graduates in the near future to find their perspectives on the CIS curriculum.

Further research needs to investigate the link between alumni surveys and accreditation. There is also a need to improve and refine survey instruments, increase survey response rates, incorporate survey responses into program marketing initiatives, and define a process for incorporating these results into the development/creation of academic courses.

CIS curriculum development, IT careers, email surveys, Cooperative education, STEM, curriculum assessment
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