answers for themselves, with the support and guidance of IS faculty.
This alternative method was used in an IS course
taken by junior IS majors. Students in the class were
asked to form groups to do a research project on the
effects of offshore outsourcing on the IS job market,
and explore ways for them to deal with any possible
At the start of the project, the students were provided with some basic information about research
methodology in terms of how to conduct a comprehensive literature review to search for papers with
both positive and negative views on the IS job market.
They were also instructed on how to categorize those
papers based on criteria such as relevance and importance, and how to do a quality review of those research
papers. The students were provided a template for the
quality review process.
Student groups were also asked to present and discuss their research findings and suggested solutions
with the entire class. This exercise revealed three primary findings. First, through their own research and
subsequent presentations, students began to realize
that some news articles written for the general public
were largely biased. Indeed, the media coverage was
peppered with exaggerations regarding the fear of job
loss in the near future. Contrary to previous predictions, the U.S. Labor Department reported that for
the 4,633 jobs moved offshore during the first three
months of 2004, it was less than 2% of the layoffs for
the same time period [ 4].
Further, students discovered some positive news
about the impact of offshoring on the U.S. job market. For example, Delta Airlines, with headquarters in
Atlanta, outsourced 1,000 call-center jobs to India in
2003, but the $25 million in savings from the deal
allowed the firm to add 1,200 domestic reservation
and sales positions. Although 70,000 computer programming jobs were lost in the U.S. between 1999
and 2003, more than 115,000 computer software
engineers found higher-paying jobs during that same
period. In addition, offshore outsourcing between
developed and developing countries can, as a whole,
benefit both countries [ 1].
Based on these research findings, the student
groups discussed ways of dealing with possible job
challenges resulting from outsourcing in the near
future. The faculty guided students through a discussion about which types of IS jobs could be more easily outsourced, and which jobs would be more
difficult to do so. Through constructive arguments
and discussion, students realized that some IS jobs,
such as basic programming, can be more easily outsourced, while higher-level jobs, such as consulting,
project management, and business process analysis,
are more tightly linked with core business processes
and/or local customers and therefore more difficult to
outsource. Indeed, integrating IS skills and knowledge
could better prepare students for dealing with the possible threat of job losses due to outsourcing.
During group discussion sessions, the students were
guided through an analysis of the role of IS in organizations, so that students could clearly realize that IS is
critical in modern businesses. Having high-level busi-ness-related IS skills is a plus for future job hunting
and career development, even with continued offshoring. As a result, through their own research, presentations, and discussions, students arrived at the
conclusion that IS was important to every business,
and the IS major was still an attractive major compared
to other traditional disciplines. Further, when facing
the challenge of IS outsourcing, one optimal solution
was to double major, combining IS and another business major such as finance or accounting.
At the end of this project, a questionnaire was
handed out to each student to test whether the negative perceptions about IS job prospects, outsourcing,
and IS as a major had changed. The survey results
indicated that students originally having negative perceptions now had more balanced views toward IS offshoring. More students ( 31.25%) thought that
outsourcing would be beneficial to the U.S. economy
in the long run than those who disagreed (25%),
while the rest of the students were not sure. This was
a significant difference from the outset, when 100%
of the students held negative perceptions.
As a result of their own research, students no longer
felt as uncertain about their own job prospects.
Instead, they felt they knew how to better deal with
the possible negative outsourcing on the IS job market. Most students (77%) thought the best solution
was to double major within the business college. Only
a few students (8%) thought that being the best student in the class was useful, 8% believed they should
focus on enhancing their skills (communication skills
and business skills), the final 7% thought that becoming a certified IT professional would be valuable.
When asked for additional solutions, 45% recommended broadening their horizons by improving their
skills and knowledge in business, 28% recommended
understanding the industry better, and 27%
responded with a desire to learn and improve interpersonal skills. When asked for a third solution, 33%
of the students responded with business as usual, 17%
cited more emphasis on creativity skills, 17% were
going to build business skills, 17% recommended not
worrying about it too much, and 16% said to drop
the IS major.