Faculty Scholarship 1994 - Present

Collaborative Learning for Acquisition of Critical Skills

Business instructors must search tenaciously for new and better ways to help students master important skills while they are covering the critical content material. Our external constituents increasingly demand that we strengthen student skills. Employers repeatedly tell the academy that graduates may be knowledgeable in their chosen field, e.g., accounting or information systems, but they often lack skills that enable them to succeed in the work place. The AACSB (American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business) has said that they will accredit no business school that fails to pay attention to skills development. AACSB's list emphasizes writing, speaking, and teamwork skills. The information systems literature also clearly points out that graduates must be competent in three distinct areas: information technology, interpersonal skills, and business acumen (Watson, et. al., 1990; Ng Tye, Poon, and Burn, 1995). This paper describes a collaborative learning strategy utilized in a Seminar course. There are many reasons for trying this approach in MIS. Many, if not most, MIS professionals will ultimately work within a group environment. Contemporary organizational literature is replete with predictions for the urgent need and relevance of developing teamwork skills. As one study argues, "...most models of the 'organization of the future' that we have heard about-- 'networked,' 'clustered,' 'nonhierarchical,' 'horizontal,'...are premised on teams surpassing individuals as the primary performance unit in the company" (Katzenbach and Smith, 1993). Thus, proficiency in this mode should be advantageous for the new graduate. In fact, a report on the use of cooperative learning in an introductory programming course concluded that many synergistic effects will accrue for teamwork in the classroom (Dutt, 1994).