Information Technology Asymmetry and Gaps Between Higher Education Institutions and Industry

Yasar Guneri Sahin, Ufuk Celikkan
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 19  •  2020  •  pp. 339-365

This paper investigates the gaps between industry and academia perceptions of information technology fields, such as computer science, software engineering, and computer engineering, and it identifies areas of asymmetry between curricula and industry expectations. The study mainly focuses on the skills required of IT professionals (graduated students) and on how higher education institutes equip students for industry.

Higher education institutes have several IT-related departments. However, it is not clear whether these departments have sufficient content to equip students with industry-related skills. Rapid advances mean that some curriculum topics are redundant before the end of a standard two- or four-year degree programs. Balancing the technical/non-technical skills and adjusting the curricula to better prepare the students for industry is a constant demand for higher education institutions. Several studies have demonstrated that a generic curriculum is inadequate to address current IT industry needs.

The study involved a comprehensive survey of IT professionals and companies using a Web-based questionnaire sent directly to individual companies, academics, and employers. 64 universities and 38 companies in 24 countries were represented by the 209 participants, of whom 99 were IT professionals, 72 academics, and 38 employers.

This paper is intended to guide academics in preparing dynamic curricula that can be easily adapted to current industry trends and technological developments, with content directly relevant to student’s careers. In addition, the results may identify the skills that students need to secure employment and the courses that will provide skills in line with current industry trends.

The results indicate a lack of emphasis on personal and non-technical skills in undergraduate education compared to general computer science, software development, and coding courses. Employers’ and software experts’ responses emphasize that soft skills should not be ignored, and that, of these, analytical thinking and teamwork are the two most requested. Rather than a theoretical emphasis, courses should include hands-on projects. Rapid developments and innovations in information technologies demand that spiral and waterfall models are replaced with emerging software development models, such as Agile and Scrum development.

A multidisciplinary approach should be taken to the teaching of soft skills, such as communication, ethics, leadership, and customer relations. Establishing multiple learning tracks in IT education would equip students with specialized knowledge and skills in IT. An effective communication channel should be established between students and industry. It is also important to reduce the distance between academics and students and to provide an interactive environment for technical discussions. Enterprise level computing and Framework use provide job market advantages.

Researchers and department heads, particularly those involved in curriculum design and accreditation, could use the results of this exemplary study to identify key topics for attention.

Changes of various degrees are required in the current curricula in many higher education institutions to better meet student needs. Societies and technology are dynamic in nature, and information technology-related curricula in higher education institutions should be equally dynamic.

Since technology (especially information technology) transforms and advances itself so rapidly, this study should be replicated t to investigate how these changes affect the gap between revised curricula and current industry expectations.

asymmetry in software education, higher education and industry gaps, in-formation technology education
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