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Information Systems Minor

In the fall 2009 semester, the Faculty of Management introduced the Information Systems Minor in response to demand from both organizations and students. The IS Minor helps students better understand what information technology and data mean to all areas of organizations. It does not require any programming but you can include this if you choose. The focus is on the business use of information and technology to improve organizational productivity and performance.

Frequently asked questions:

What is Information Systems?

Information systems (IS) studies how people and organizations can use technology and information to perform their work more effectively and efficiently. This requires an understanding of the following:

  1. Organizational strategies and goals
  2. How people work
  3. How technology can help
  4. How to organize data and retrieve information to improve decision making

Information systems is much more business-focused than Computer Science. As we move towards an increasingly digital economy, information systems will be even more critical to your success and the organizations you work with.

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What is the Information Systems Minor?

With information technology skills in high demand, the four-course IS minor is a valuable complement to any other management major to improve your employment opportunities. Most students can complete the IS Minor using electives, so you don’t need to take extra courses. You can find the official description in the University calendar, Management section under "Minors" or in the Program Planning Guide at: uleth.ca/ross/ppgs/management/is_mgt.pdf.

To complete the IS Minor, you must take Mgt 3830 Contemporary Database Design and three of the following:

  • Mgt 3821 – Visual Programming Applications
  • Mgt 3850 – Accounting Information Systems (may not be listed in the Program Planning Guide)
  • Mgt 3862 – E-Commerce
  • Mgt 3920 – Project Management
  • Mgt 4380 – Management Issues in Information Systems (not offered in 2010-11)
  • Mgt 4840 – Systems Analysis

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Why should I take the Information Systems Minor?

There are several good reasons for adding the Information Systems Minor to your degree (and it will appear on your transcript).

First, all but the smallest of organizations run on computer-based systems, so understanding how they are built and used is an increasingly important skill for everyone.

Second, because of that, the IS Minor should improve your job prospects. Students with an IS minor complementing their major tend to have more opportunities than those with just the major. With an increasingly competitive job market, you need to stand out.

Third, working with information systems gives you tremendous insight into how your organization operates. There are a lot of IS professionals out there who were never programmers, just people who want to improve the way organizations run.

Accountants work with information systems every day. They need to understand how these systems work, so they are often involved in system development projects.

Financial analysts rely on similar data as accountants but often need substantial data from external sources.

Marketing has seen major changes in the past decade and now uses information systems to manage customer relationships, sell directly to them through e-commerce, determine optimal pricing and inventory levels, and assess effectiveness of advertising campaigns. Wal-Mart has petabytes of data, but even smaller companies can improve their sales with good data analysis.

Human resources management makes extensive use of information systems for recruiting and analyzing employee data. HR plays a key role in managing organizational change, which usually involves changes to information systems.

An IS minor is a great fit for those interested in running their own business, especially if it’s web-based.

Did you know: one out of every four new jobs created between 2006 and 2012 will be IT-related! (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

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What will I learn?

First, organizations run on data and databases. Understanding how databases are organized and how you can get data out of them are essential skills. Designing databases is fundamentally a business, not a technical, skill — you need to know how organizations work in order to know what data they need.

Most IS Minor students will also include E-Commerce, Project Management and Systems Analysis. E-Commerce sales in the US exceed $200 billion even with the recession, and double-digit growth rates will resume as the recession eases. But it’s still only about 2.5% of sales — there’s a lot of room for further growth.

Project management is an important skill for all areas of business, not just IT projects.

The Systems Analysis course builds on Mgt 3830. You will learn how organizations determine what types of systems to build and how they should be designed. Most project teams have client representatives, and participating in a system development project can be a great way to understand how your organization works.

For those in accounting, the new Accounting Information Systems (Mgt 3850) course can also count towards the IS Minor.

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Will I have to do a lot of programming?

Actually, you won't have to do any.

There is one programming course (Mgt 3821) which can be part of the IS Minor if you wish, but you have to take Computer Science 1620 (or something equivalent) as a prerequisite. If you have some programming experience but not CS 1620, ask about the possibility of a waiver.

There is no programming in any of the other IS Minor courses but programming can be a very useful skill. Even a couple of basic programming courses will enhance your ability to manipulate data in Excel and databases and to better understand what other programmers have written for you.

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Are these IS courses really hard? (I’m not so good with computers.)

If you compare taking the IS Minor to taking the four easiest electives you can find, then yes, the IS Minor courses will take more time and be more difficult. The IS minor, however, doesn’t require extensive computer skills; it’s much more about business information than computers.

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I’m graduating at Christmas – can I still do the IS Minor?

Maybe.

First, you need to have room to take four of the required courses (unless you have already taken some of them). All the IS courses in the minor are offered in the fall semester except Mgt 3821 (Visual Programming) and 4380 (Management Issues), so unless you’re in accounting, you would have to take Mgt 3830, 3862, 3920 and 4840. Accountants could substitute the Mgt 3850 AIS course for one of 3862, 3920, or 4840.

While Mgt 4840 requires Mgt 3830 as a prerequisite, we often allow them to be taken concurrently instead. The key parts of Mgt 3830 that are needed for 4840 are covered first so it can be done.

Talk to an advisor about whether that would work for you.

If you are graduating next April, you have a couple more options. Both Mgt 3850 (AIS) and 3862 (E-Commerce) are offered in the spring so they can be deferred until then. Additionally, Mgt 3821 (Visual Programming ) is taught in the spring, but you will need to take Computer Science 1620 this fall if you don’t already have credit for it.

If you aren’t graduating until 2011–12, you can spread the courses out more effectively.

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How do I get into the IS Minor?

Talk to an advisor to make sure this program will fit with your goals and schedule. If so, start with Mgt 3830 (Database) this fall and see how it goes.

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