Today I participated in the annual meeting of the advisory committee for the undergraduate CIS department at Post University in Waterbury, CT (as I have on previous occasions). Most of the students participate in the program remotely, which is a definite indication of current and future trends in the education space, but that doesn’t have much affect on the board’s discussions or recommendations. Rather, the discussions and recommendations centered on the material to be emphasized in the curriculum and the various concentrations offered.
Here’s what I wrote in response to the after action survey.
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I thought the participants brought up a lot of good points in general. I was on fire to discuss business analysis subjects and did not mind in the least when the group stole my thunder by bringing it up first before I could. I’ve been doing all the elements for my entire 30-year career and had a whale of a time communicating my value and skillset to potential employers. However, the world finally seems to be getting it, and Post U should definitely make the context clear to its students.
Regarding certifications, yes, they might be a ridiculous and expensive cottage industry meant to part fools from their money, but I also observe that much of the educational model in this country and around the world is going to change at all levels. It’s going to be more self-directed, granular, gamified, customized, flipped, and streamlined into a vocational model with a specific end. About two-thirds of the second-rate little schools are going to disappear because the cost-benefit ratio for many subjects doesn’t work for the students. Legions of third-rate liberal arts professors are going to have to get real jobs when that happens, which will be to the good of everyone. Certifications are going to be part of the more granular and ongoing process of continuing education that adults will pursue as their interests and professional needs move them. Market forces will continually shape this process from the demand side, as well. It might be nice if the university structured their normal degree program so graduating students were prepared to pass the relevant BA certification exams at an appropriate level. The IIBA had three levels (I have a CBAP) and is considering a fourth (higher) one. PMI has its own version, because it seems to have a cert for everything. I’m less familiar with its tiered structure, if any.
Whether students choose to avail themselves of an exam or certification or not, being conversant with the material will be useful to the curriculum designers at Post. I strongly agree that structuring coursework along the lines of performing a business analysis for a case-based scenario is a very good idea. It might be an even better idea to work through a handful of smaller cases and one larger one near the end. This is probably as or more valuable than exposing students to the concepts of Agile/Scrum/Kanban and Waterfall and hybrid management approaches. You might also have someone come in and tell horror stories about how messy things get in the real world (see Rodney Dangerfield trying to straighten out the professor of business early in the movie, Back to School).
The other interesting subject was the use of Microsoft Excel. Being able to use the important aspects of this tool (and its free variants) is critical to any capable professional. People mentioned VLookups and Pivot tables, but there are a lot of other useful capabilities, especially including tables. They have a lot of powerful functionality built in that very, very few people appreciate.
In the end, every profession is about solving problems. Including instruction on a specific, ubiquitous tool and a general context for problem solving in the enterprise (which is always about solving customer problems in some way) is a solid approach for the near future.
Thank you very much for allowing me to participate in this exercise. I learn from it as much as I hope I provide some value for you.