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The Challenge of Teaching Information Technology

written by: Steve Mallard•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 5/6/2010

The complexity of Information Technology (sometimes called Information Systems) isn’t merely working with software or hardware. The true understanding of Information Technology relies on the instructor creating a diverse curriculum with true hands-on..

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    Teaching IT

    Several years ago, I remember hearing the radio and television ads on getting your MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) in a week. The ads guaranteed a passing score for the student. This mentality of Boot Camps continued from the 1990’s and can still be heard today. Obtaining this type of certification without any skills is useless.

    With HB-1B visas increasing every year, employers are turning to more skilled workers. Organizations often fail industries by sending personnel to Boot Camps which can create a poorly trained workforce.

    The complexity of Information Technology (sometimes called Information Systems) isn’t merely a certification. The true understanding of Information Technology relies on the instructor creating a diverse curriculum with true hands-on . The student should be trained with technology that goes far beyond simulators. Classes should include internships which would create live hands-on scenarios even if they are voluntary internships with non-profits or other organizations. The goal of educators for IT has always been to get the students certified as quickly as possible or to drag out the education to a degreed level. This type of education is failing the student and future employers.

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    Students and Teachers

    A student without Hands-on requires additional training in the work place. Students who seek degrees often do not get the Hands-on needed and technology changes before the student receives their degree. Several articles in newspapers and magazines show college enrollment in IT/IS falling. I often advise students to pursue a career in Information Technology and then to seek a degree after receiving Technical Training. With the cooperation of two year community colleges and four year universities, technical institutions could become feeders for colleges and universities. Today’s IT world should require minimal training after becoming employed.

    Educators should focus on the Management of Information Technology/Information Systems; create a diverse curriculum that carries the student through hardware, software, various operating systems, networking, security, peripherals, management practices, laws, certifications, compliance and communications. Often instructors say there isn't enough time for this much information. Institutions cannot wait four years to turn out an IT professional.

    With changing times, students should also be taught Worker Ethics and what is expected from their future employer. A versatile student with a diverse background creates a great employee for an employer.

    Students should challenged with 3-4 hour lectures five days each week for over a year. The students should gain approximately four to five national certifications from CompTIA and Microsoft. During their enrollment at our institution, they process live work orders and continually act as ‘volunteer interns’ to our organization.

    With technology becoming more and more advanced, the instructor should go to seminars, training sessions and update certifications as needed for their own personal and professional gain. Instructors should not teach classes if they are not certified in the area taught. Classroom hardware, software and curriculums need to be updated quarterly. Because this is one of the most dynamic careers ever, the instructor and teaching has to be dynamic.