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Critical reflection of an integrated ICT curriculum designed to increase the quantity of professionally competent graduates

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Herbert, N ORCID: 0000-0003-0536-0745 2020 , 'Critical reflection of an integrated ICT curriculum designed to increase the quantity of professionally competent graduates', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Rapidly evolving technology has resulted in a continuous demand for professionally competent information and communication technology (ICT) graduates, both nationally and internationally. In 2019, the Australian Computer Society (ACS) released figures forecasting that Australia will require an additional 100,000 ICT specialist workers by 2024. A potential source of these specialist workers is tertiary ICT graduates. While the ACS reported that ICT domestic undergraduate enrolments rose from a low of around 19,000 in 2010 to 30,000 in 2017, this growth is not large enough to meet the forecasted demand. High attrition rates in ICT courses – caused by several factors relating to a lack of student engagement, motivation, and academic success – also impact the number of graduates. Despite the fact that the ACS reported there has been steady growth in graduate completions since 2012, there were only 4400 domestic ICT graduates in 2017. This low number of ICT graduates is impacting the national economy by limiting the growth and advancement of many industry sectors and constraining the nation’s ability to compete in the global digital economy.

Previous research indicates that ICT graduates lack competence with some generic employability skills that preclude them from functioning productively in the workplace. Students graduating from ICT courses are generally strong in their technical ability but weaker in their professional skills, in particular their ability to communicate and collaborate effectively in the workplace. ICT graduates lack professional competence with the employability skill set – the ability to combine technical and professional knowledge, skills and attitudes to effectively perform professional tasks to industry standards. The poor quality of ICT graduates has serious implications for the ICT higher education sector as ICT industry employers were reportedly bypassing ICT graduates by employing high-performing students from non-ICT courses and subsequently training them in the required ICT technical skills. The growing demand for professionally competent ICT graduates warrants the need for more effective ICT curriculum design.

The objective of this thesis is to address the core challenge for ICT higher education: how to design ICT curriculum to increase the quantity of graduates professionally competent with the employability skill set. This thesis provides a critical reflection and comprehensive evidence-based evaluation of an entire ICT curriculum. This case study ICT curriculum incorporates the core knowledge and skills from the discipline fields of computer science, information technology and information systems and the findings in this thesis are relevant to all of those ICT disciplines.

The findings of this body of work will be of benefit to both ICT industry and ICT higher education at a national and international level. There are three significant findings:
1. An ICT curriculum that is aligned with the intended graduate career outcomes and related skill sets can increase course commencements and enhance the employability of graduates;
2. Professional skill development can be integrated within an ICT curriculum without degrading technical skill development to result in professionally competent graduates; and
3. Ensuring that students are engaged with academic learning activities and motivated to complete the course by the career opportunities can reduce ICT course attrition.

This thesis has made a substantive contribution to the body of knowledge and practice in ICT curriculum design by identifying:
• A process to classify potential ICT career outcomes and the required skill sets for ICT graduates for the purpose of designing a curriculum;
• A methodology to effectively include professional skill development throughout an ICT curriculum to enhance the employability of graduates; and
• Effective strategies with implementation techniques to increase ICT course commencements and reduce ICT course attrition to increase the quantity of graduates professionally competent with the employability skill set.

This opportunity to evaluate an entire ICT curriculum has identified several key implications for ICT higher education:
• Using a skills reference model in the curriculum design process, such as that provided by the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA), enables curriculum designers and industry representatives to ensure that an ICT curriculum equips graduates with the required skill sets for the ICT industry;
• Integrating professional skill development within an ICT curriculum can result in graduates professionally competent with the employability skill set; and
• Greater support mechanisms intentionally provided to sectors of the student population that commence an ICT course could improve academic success and reduce course attrition.

This thesis is presented as a series of academically peer-reviewed papers that reflect on the design, implementation and empirical evaluation of an ICT curriculum designed to increase the quantity of professionally competent graduates.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Herbert, N
Keywords: ICT, Curriculum, Skills, Attrition, Competency, Employability
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2019 the author

Additional Information:

This thesis includes 18 published articles which have been removed for copyright reasons. The published content contained in the main part of the thesis is cited on pages xv-xxiii of the thesis. Other published articles found in the appendices are cited in the appendices.
Where possible, we have included links to the published versions of removed articles. Some of the links are to freely accessible articles, others provide a starting point for sourcing the removed content.

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