Computer Information Systems


IS Curriculum Design

Information Systems (IS) is an academic field that manifests many challenges in self-identity that are reflected in IS curriculum design. There are two common names for similar programs in IS: Management Information Systems (MIS) and Computer Information Systems (CIS). CIS programs are typically more technical than MIS.

As information technologies (IT) continue to advance, IS educators have to regularly evaluate and revise their curricula in order to produce graduates with the knowledge and skills required by the dynamic environment of the modern world of work. This presents a great challenge that faculty have to adapt their curriculum structures to a wide variety of specializations and accommodate the rapid expansion and evolution of IT.

A leading-edge curriculum that makes IS graduates attractive to the IT industry is part of the culture and tradition of CIS at Cal Poly Pomona. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, CIS faculty members advocated the separation of business programming from computer science and were early leaders in the development of a model curriculum that emphasized business applications, known as the Cal Poly/DPMA Model Curriculum.

Career Track Design

There are two essential perspectives to structuring an IS curriculum: offer a broad spectrum of knowledge and skills, or offer options or concentrations in one or more particular subdisciplines. The first approach results in a curriculum with diversity, while the second creates a curriculum with specialization. Career track design is part of the second approach, in which a set of generalized core courses in a fundamental body of knowledge is offered and followed by a number of electives in a specialization area. Since the IT field is becoming far too broad for one individual to master, the IT workforce has been increasingly specialized with IT skills often categorized into an array of specialized skill sets.

One of the major challenges in IS curriculum design is to find a proper balance between generalization and specialization in a wide spectrum of IT subjects and to effectively structure the electives into an intellectual arrangement of career tracks. The resulting tracks should be competitive in the marketplace, administratively manageable, flexible enough to change, and sustainable over time. These career tracks allow graduates to present themselves to employers as proficient in a career area that is in demand.

The 2002 IS Model Curriculum suggested that IS curriculum design must be driven by a clear vision of the career path for the graduates. In a subsequent effort, the IS Model Curriculum 2010 devised a new curriculum model which recommends, for the first time, customization of IS curricula for variable local contexts through the specification of career tracks.

History of CIS Career Track Development

The CIS faculty first developed career tracks in 1980. They revise tracks regularly, based on changes in the IT industry and the availability of new faculty to teach courses in different areas. In 1994-1995 they completely overhauled the curriculum to include object orientation. Four career tracks emerged from that revision: Business Systems Analysis, Application Systems Development, Executive Support Systems, and Telecommunications.  To meet the rise of the Internet, the Executive Support Systems track became Interactive Web Development in 1997, and all the courses in the track became web-based. In 2003, the Telecommunications became Telecommunications and Networking to broaden its coverage in the field of data communications, and Interactive Web Development evolved again into Internet Programming and Security to accommodate yet another new area, Internet Security. Security is a growing area, in which CIS again is a leader, evidenced by its designation in 2006 as a Center of Academic Excellence from both the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. Later in 2010, since most of business applications have become essentially web-based and the security in IS field became mature, Internet Programming and Security track was divided into two tracks: Applications Development and Information Assurance.

Amid the emergence of data analytics, the CIS department has again adopted to create a new track called Business Intelligence to be effective in Fall 2018.  At the same time, the department has also renamed the Information Assurance track to Cybersecurity and Computer Forensics to reflect more closely what the curriculum offers.