programs was addressed in panel discussions at the
International Conference of Information Systems—
an annual meeting on IS organized by the Association
of Information Systems. While recognizing the possible job loss due to offshore outsourcing, panelists
questioned the accuracy of the extent of IT job losses
reported in the media. They encouraged IS faculty to
think of ways to deal with the negative perceptions
students have developed toward IS job prospects in
light of the publicity surrounding outsourcing.
Realizing the impact of offshoring on the computing community as a whole, ACM took action by
forming the ACM Job Migration Task Force charged
with examining this challenging and serious issue [ 1].
Former ACM President David Patterson [ 6] encouraged deeper and more creative thinking on the offshoring issue in an effort to avert young IS
professionals from making “career decisions they
would later regret. He called on computing educators
and professionals to “share your thoughts with others.”
Dealing with students’ negative perceptions toward
a career in IS is a critical issue for the IS discipline [ 3].
For some IS programs, it may even be an issue of survival. This article presents our experience at the MIS
department of Ohio University where faculty
addressed this issue through curriculum revision and
efforts to change the negative perceptions students
held about IS job prospects.
IDENTIFYING THE SOURCE
The initial step in the process was to determine the
sources of information that gave students a negative
view of IS as a major. By determining why students
were convinced that IS graduates would not be able
to find jobs due to offshoring, effective methods of
addressing these factors could be developed. Interviews were conducted with a focus group of eight
randomly selected IS majors taking an IS course.
Students were asked if offshoring prompted concern
over IS as a major. If so, they were asked about information sources that colored that picture. All of the
student participants said they had negative perceptions toward outsourcing and the IS job market in
the near future.
When asked for the primary information source
regarding IS job loss, 46% of the students responded
they heard this information from their parents, 31%
from the news, and 17% from colleagues (classmates,
friends, or faculty). Further, when asked about the
secondary source regarding the loss of jobs, 29% of
students said they learned this from friends and 21%
from the news. Moreover, 88% of the students
believed their parents and friends received this negative view about IS job prospects from the news.
Indeed, students did not hold firsthand information about the IS job market. Rather they received
their information from three main sources: their parents, the news, and friends.
The information presented in the news can sometimes be biased, which can further be exploited by
politicians to promote their political agendas. Mass
media coverage of offshore outsourcing has created an
unbalanced view of IS job prospects in the last 3-4
Dealing with students’
toward a career in IS is
a critical issue for the
IS discipline. For some
IS programs, it may
even be AN ISSUE
years and readers frequently read articles or viewed
TV programs discussing IS job losses due to offshoring, but seldom saw opposing views. Consequently, it would not be surprising to learn that 100%
of the IS majors in the focus group reported negative
perceptions about IS job prospects. It is also not surprising that many IS programs have recently experienced sharp enrollment decreases.
HOW NEGATIVITY IMPACTS THE IS MAJOR
After identifying the informational sources playing a
role in these perceptions, the next step is to address
the unbalanced IS media coverage directly by presenting factual evidence and counterarguments.
The focus group interviews also showed that
because of the “defensive behavior” of college students, they would not feel comfortable or fully convinced if IS faculty expounded on how the IS major
was still a good major, even with the practice of offshoring looming in the future. A more effective way,
we found, is to ask IS students to do their own
research on this important issue and uncover the