Improving student learning about a threshold concept in the IS discipline

  • Cope C
  • Staehr L
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The threshold concepts of a discipline are the portals to a deeper understanding of disciplinary
knowledge, form the keys to learning progression, and are typically difficult to explain and learn.
The notion of information systems (IS) as social systems is proposed as a threshold concept in the
IS discipline. From this perspective IS are considered to be systems of people performing pur-
poseful organizational activity, supported by embedded information technology (IT). Without an
understanding of IS as social systems students are unlikely to come to terms with the complex
notions underlying the development of IS in business organizations. This paper describes a study
that sought to improve undergraduate student learning about IS as social systems. Three learning
activities were designed to specifically target key aspects of IS as social systems. Questionnaires
were used to categorize 30 students’ understanding before and after participating in the learning
activities. A statistically significant improvement in students’ understanding was identified.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Information systems education
  • Phenomenography
  • Social systems
  • Threshold concepts

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  • Chris Cope

  • Lorraine Staehr

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