Information technology is a label that has two meanings. In the broadest sense, the term information technology is often used to refer to all of computing. In academia, it refers to undergraduate degree programs that prepare students to meet the computer technology needs of business, government, healthcare, schools, and other kinds of organizations. In some nations, other names are used for such degree programs.
IT is a new and rapidly growing field that started as a grassroots response to the practical, everyday needs of business and other organizations. Today, organizations of every kind are dependent on information technology. They need to have appropriate systems in place. These systems must work properly, be secure, and upgraded, maintained, and replaced as appropriate. Employees throughout an organization require support from IT staff who understand computer systems and their software and are committed to solving whatever computer-related problems they might have. Graduates of information technology programs address these needs.
Degree programs in information technology arose because degree programs in the other computing disciplines were not producing an adequate supply of graduates capable of handling these very real needs. IT programs exist to produce graduates who possess the right combination of knowledge and practical, hands-on expertise to take care of both an organization’s information technology infrastructure and the people who use it.
The academic discipline of IT is quite new but is now recognized by ACM as well as IEEE as a peer in the menu of computing disciplines along side computer science (CS), information systems (IS), and computer engineering (CE). The below diagrams illustrate how IT compares to CS and IS, the other two most closely-related computing disciplines.
IT is a more applied computing discipline rather than being strictly theoretical in nature. Specifically, IT focuses on meeting the needs of users within an organizational and societal context performing the following for computing technologies:
IT programs aim to provide IT graduates with the skills and knowledge to take on appropriate professional positions in Information Technology upon graduation and grow into leadership positions or pursue research or graduate studies in the field. Specifically, within five years of graduation a student should be able to:
There are two ACM published reports that help define IT referenced against other computing disciplines and lay out the details of the IT model curriculum:
IT 2008: Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Degree Programs in Information Technology. (Nov. 2008). Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and IEEE Computer Society.
Computing Curricula 2005 Overview Report. (Sep. 2005). Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Association for Information Systems (AIS), Computer Society (IEEE-CS).
SIGITE has compiled a summary of these documents that can be downloaded here.
This past weekend I attended and presented at the SIGITE Conference located in Midland, Michigan. It was the second weekend in a row that I was going to be gone, and all of that in the middle of the quarter, so I wasn’t as enthusiastic going into it as I normally am about conferences. As it turns out it was the best conference experience I’ve had in a long time!
The sessions at the conference are scheduled so that each talk has a 45-minute slot, with 30 minutes for the presentation and 15 minutes for questions. In most of the sessions I attended, including my own, the questions were in fact intermixed with the presentation. And what a difference it makes to have more time and a more interactive environment. I got excellent feedback on my work and was able to provide a lot more background information than was on my slides because of the questions. The questions themselves were also terrific. I was impressed by the insight that the audience members had into the work. I also got good questions and offers for collaborations after the talk, but it was the interactive presentations that really had me hooked.
SIGITE is the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Information Technology Education. Our members include information technology faculty (teachers and researchers), students, and industry professionals.
With over 400 members worldwide, SIGITE drives the creation and dissemination of the computing discipline of information technology. The organization has created a model undergraduate curriculum and helped create accreditation guidelines for IT programs, and is now defining and promoting IT research.