Theory in action for this course

This was the last draft of this document before course implementation. Naturally, writing the content and exercises led to some rethinking of the details.

Content goals

Deep learning of a few concepts.

  • Data + workflow = IS.
  • Project framework. Requirements, modeling, building.
  • Structured data. Modeling and implementation.
  • Workflow. Modeling and implementation.
  • Analyzing business performance. Measure and analyze.

Overall course structure

Students’ experiences are primarily:

  • Reading discursive content.
  • Experimenting with existing systems.
  • Creating their own systems.

Students complete three cases, and build a system for each. The systems grow in complexity, with earlier systems scaffolding later ones.

Before each case, show a sample case that’s roughly equivalent to what they will be required to do. The sample case includes requirements specs, models, and a finished system. The sample case helps students understand the goals they’re working toward. It shows concepts in context, but with less cognitive load that building a system requires.

Case 1: Static Web site

Case 1 helps students learn:

  • A project framework. Requirements, modeling, implementing.
  • Tech basics.

Case 1a: Informational Web site

Give students a sample case, requirements spec, site model, and completed site. E.g., a nonprofit looking for volunteers and funding.

Introduce a project framework:

  • Requirements spec.
  • Modeling.
    • List of pages.
    • What information is on each page.
    • Look-and-feel. Impression the site should create.
  • Implementation.

Pseudents can demonstrate how to work through a case.

Case 1b: Personal branding site

An employer wants to hire someone, and a graduate wants a job. A personal branding Web site helps fit the two together. Each student creates his/her own site.

Project framework:

  • Requirements
    • Each student picks a goal, e.g., find a sales job in SE Michigan with little travel outside the region.
    • Model the hiring process of a company looking for such a person. What are the attributes of employees they’re looking for? How do they get that information about candidates? How do they use it?
    • List the requirements of a personal branding Web site to support the student’s goal while being compatible with hiring processes.
  • Modeling. List pages, and outline the content of each page. Sketch site template. Embellish as needed for individual pages.
  • Build it.

KRM: I don’t know the right language to use here, or what hiring processes might be. Perhaps HR faculty can advise.

This project gives students a (relatively) easy win, that’s relevant for them.

In Drupal

  • installation.
  • Creating pages.
  • Using the editor.
  • Adding menu items.
  • Setting up a contact form.
  • Configuring blocks.

At Oakland University: Links to Achieve? AIS?


Done individually. Students submit:

  • Requirements analysis.
    • Their own goals.
    • Goals of firms that might hire them. Expect students to research what employers want from candidates for the particular types of jobs students are looking for.
    • Site requirements that emerge from the combination of the two. Includes emotional impression terms.
  • Models.
    • A site model, listing pages and what info is on each.
  • The URL of their site.

Students could deliver their requirements analyses and models on their own sites. They could link elements of the requirements analysis to the site model to the actual site pages.

KRM: We need rubrics for each part. Thoughts? Do you have rubrics at hand?

Case 2: Structured data

Students learn:

  • How to model data needed for a particular business goal.
  • How to design reports on that data.
  • How to implement the models.

Case 2a: Existing system

Give students a case with:

  • Requirements spec.
  • Models.
    • Model data. Entities, fields, relationships, etc.
    • Report designs.
  • A finished system.

For example, build a system to help manage an exhibition. Exhibition visitors use mobile devices to see information about the exhibition and exhibitors. Exhibitors create accounts and enter information about themselves. Exhibition management see reports on exhibitors.

Case 2b: Students build their own system

Done individually, or in teams of two. Tasks:

  • Specify requirements.
  • Modeling.
    • Data modeling.
    • Design reports.
  • implement.

We might have a few structurally equivalent cases students can choose from.

In Drupal

  • Create content types, with custom fields.
  • Roles, with different permissions for each.
  • Creating user accounts and assigning roles.
  • Views module for reporting.

Views is a complex module. Students will have trouble with it, especially when it comes to relationships. We will have to help students build good mental models of Views and reporting. Do it in small steps to avoid overload. Alternate description, examples, and small tasks.


Students would submit:

  • Requirement? Might give them to students, up to the point of data modeling. Poor RA can derail a student project from the start.
  • Models.
    • Data model.
    • Report designs.
  • The URL of their system.
  • Team evaluations.

Case 3: Data, workflow, and analytics

We could extend case 2, or start with a new case. The former would be faster for students. The latter would get them to repeat data modeling and implementation.

Case 3a: Existing system

Give students a case with:

  • Requirements.
  • Models.
    • Data model.
    • Workflow model, including report design.
  • Complete system.

As before, pseudents could work through the project.

This case introduces analytics. Students export data from the IS to Excel for analysis. Is this the right way to do things?

Case 3b: Students build their own system

Give students a case to work on. They create data and process models. Then implement. We might have a few structurally equivalent cases students can choose from.

Done individually, or in teams of two. Students choose.

In Drupal

There are various ways to implement workflow. What is best depends on the specifics of the processing needed. The Rules module is capable, but can be complex. Site admins set up rules that have:

  • An event. Trigger the rule when the event happens. E.g., a user logs in, or a new article is created.
  • Condition. E.g., the user has a particular role, or the author of the new article does not have the senior editor role.
  • Action. E.g., show a message explaining a change in policy, or email the senior editor that a new article is waiting approval.

Some workflows can be implemented with the permissions system, Views, and other modules. Whatever we do, KISS.


Students would submit:

  • Requirements.
  • Models.
    • Data model.
    • Report designs.
    • Workflow diagrams.
    • Analytics measures, algoritms (is this right?).
  • The URL of their system.
  • An Excel workbook with a sample analysis.
  • Discussion of the analysis.
  • Team evaluations.

Group work

Students can work alone, or in teams of two. They would be left to manage group work on their own. Problems:

  • How many students know how to manage group work?
  • Social loafing.
  • Busy schedules.

We could help students by suggesting how they manage each of the tasks in the case. For example, data modeling is a critical task that benefits from discussion, so there should be a personal meeting for an hour or so. Set a date and time for it. Implementing content types can be done asynch.

We could point students to online tools that help them manage projects. Simple is good. Perhaps Google Drive, with a shared folder. Google Drawing is good for all the graphics they will need to create.


  • Is two the right team size? The larger the team, the more difficult coordination is, and the greater the danger of social loafing.
  • Should students be allowed to work on their own? Disadvantage: easy to misunderstand the task, and make basic mistakes. Advantage: no coordination, no social loafing.
  • Should students choose their own teams? Advantage: some students already know that they work well together. Perhaps let students form groups with people they know, and pair the remainder randomly.


Encourage a growth mindset.

Students should expect that their tasks take time and effort. Help them plan a timetable.

Students should expect to be frustrated at times. Help them learn what to do when that happens.