Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Digital Business Core Curriculum

Every college business curriculum that I know about has a "core curriculum." The core curriculum is a set of courses that every business student takes, regardless of their major. A core curriculum in business typically contains an accounting course, a finance course, a marketing course, a business law course, and so forth.

What I have been thinking about is a set of technology courses that every business student should take. At a minimum, I think every business major would benefit from knowing how to access and manipulate data. But to be truly attractive to potential employers, I think a business graduate should know much more.

Here are my Digital Business Core Courses:

Digital Information Processing I (aka DIP I) – This course would focus on the best current technology for manipulating primarily quantitative information. Currently, it would likely be built around spreadsheet technology.

Digital Information Processing II (aka DIP II) – This course would focus on identifying and using digital information resources. Whereas DIP I would provide data to students to be manipulated, DIP II would focus on identifying data sources and teaching students how to mine the data in those data sources. (In today’s world, DIP I would be based on spreadsheet technology; DIP II would be more likely to involve database technologies.)

Business Process Analysis – This course would look at business processes from a systems perspective. Students would be taught to model common business processes by identifying data sources, information flows, decision points, and data outputs.

Business Social Media – This course would incorporate communications (and other) theories to identify appropriate business uses of social media and effective approaches to realizing common business goals. Students would be expected to use the best current technology to construct a social media presence in a business context.

Information Policy – A study of existing laws governing data use; public versus private data; concepts of data property, access, privacy, and accuracy; the value of data; data quality; and corporate responsibility with respect to data.

Digital Resource Management – This course would examine the strategic purchase, use, and retirement of digital processing assets. It would specifically recognize the dynamic nature of the digital technology environment which contains increasingly more powerful, yet less expensive, advancements and innovations that may be destructive to existing business strategy. Students will be taught to construct a feasible plan for digital resource management given a specific business context.

The Digital Business Future – This course would examine future business environments. Topics could include the impact of price updates in real time, advertising reacting to the presence of customers, inanimate objects communicating with business information systems (or other objects), crowd-sourcing, and information markets. 

This core would not replace the typical existing business core. Rather, it would be implemented in a concurrent fashion with it. To be effective, it must begin in the first semesters so that subsequent discipline-specific courses (i.e., in accounting, finance, etc.) could take advantage of the information processing skills developed in these courses. I suggest one of the following approaches:

A “Traditional” Approach

First semester: Digital Information Processing I and Business Process Analysis
Second semester: Digital Information Processing II and Information Policy
Third semester: Digital Resource Management and Business Social Media
Fourth semester: Digital Business Future

This approach has the basic skills courses in the first semester and builds in a traditional way to a “capstone” like course that is future-oriented.

A “Non-Traditional” Approach

First semester: Digital Information Processing I and Business Process Analysis
Second semester: Digital Information Processing II and Digital Business Future
Third semester: Information Policy and Business Social Media
Fourth semester: Digital Resource Management

This approach moves “thinking about the future” to an earlier point in the curriculum so that students may be encouraged to think more innovatively in later classes. It still ends with a “capstone / strategy-like” course.

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