Practicing and Evaluating Soft Skills in IT Capstone Projects

Information technology (IT) professionals have constantly stressed the importance of soft skills and used them as a key factor in hiring and career development. The soft skills are often difficult to be practiced and evaluated in IT curriculum, specifically in a subject or a skill focused course. We took on the challenge in an IT capstone course where students complete a term-long real-world team project. We re-designed the capstone course to systematically embed soft skill requirements in the capstone project, facilitate the development of soft skills, and finally evaluate students’ competences in terms of soft skills. In this paper, we present our experiences and findings on curriculum improvement and students’ soft skills development and assessment.

The paper was presented at SIGITE 2015. The manuscript can be downloaded at

Visit our IT 4983 capstone course website for more information.

Engaging Students as Co-Lecturers in Information Systems and Technology Courses

Engaging students in the learning process is critical to their learning experience. One common practice is to have student do the work and report it back in classroom as presentations. However, many of these presentations are solely presented by students and are crowded into specific presentation class sessions. This is suboptimal in achieving a teaching (learning) environment with balanced information exchange. This paper presents a collaborative lecturing methodology, which engages students in the complete process of learning design, topic research, and collaborative lecturing in classrooms. Key activities and features of the method are presented in a four-stage life cycle. The method has been employed by the author in multiple IT and IS courses of different subjects and levels. Past experiences and lessons learned will be discussed.

The paper has been presented at EDSIGCon 2015 and will be published at ISEDJ. The manuscript can be visited here

Business Intelligence in Health Information Technology Curriculum

Business intelligence (BI) and healthcare analytics are the emerging technologies that provide analytical capability to help healthcare industry improve service quality, reduce cost, and manage risks. However, such component on analytical healthcare data processing is largely missed from current healthcare information technology (HIT) or health informatics (HI) curricula. In this paper, we took an initial step to fill this gap. We investigated the current HIT educational programs, BI industry, and healthcare BI job listings, and students’ perceptions of BI and how BI could be incorporated into HIT programs. The student survey results showed strong interests from students in a HIT course containing BI components or a BI course specialized in the healthcare context. Based on the student survey and investigation of BI industry and job market, as well as HIT educational programs, we developed a general curriculum framework and exemplar implementation strategies to demonstrate how BI can be incorporated into an HI or HIT program. To the best of our knowledge, this research is the first of its kind. Our approach of integrating information from students, the HIT industry and other HIT programs can also be used as a model for general HIT curriculum development and improvement.

The most recent publication appeared in the Journal of Information Systems Education, Volume 25 Number 4, 2014, and the manuscript is provided at

A New Generation of Learning Management Systems and Environments

Traditional LMSs mainly support formal and organization-centered learning environments. With the advancement of Web 2.0 particularly on open content sharing and social networking services, a new generation of systems is emerging to facilitate teaching and learning. The new systems (or new features added to current systems) are expected to support newer teaching and learning environments as well as to impact the traditional administration and business models. What features of these systems are desired, and how will they impact higher education? The following are some of the features I see of most importance.

  • Open: the traditional LMS is a relatively closed environment with restrictions on registration, access control, resource sharing, and long term availability. A more open environment is expected to interact with external resources and applications easily, and it should provide easy and flexible access and lifelong support.
  • Social: a social learning network (a social network created specifically for the purpose of learning) is an open online learning community for learning, discussion, resource sharing, and collaboration. Being social is a human nature in learning needs. The new system incorporates common social networking features such as learner profile, learning progress update, cross-course forum, study group, special interest group, public learning material review, etc.
  • Flexible learning organization: traditional way of learning in higher education institutions is organized by rigid courses and semesters. The new system may need to support more non-formal and informal learning, and help to incorporate the recognition and assessment of them to the formal structured learning system. Some features may include flexible learning units at various levels/lengths (single task, learning module, course), knowledge map or learning path, and gamification (which somewhat complements the formal credit system). This flexibility can greatly increase subject coverage and number of learning tracks, which is particularly true in the ever growing IT industry.
  • Personal learning environment: a personal learning environment is learner-centered. The system is expected to provide adequate self-service in a personal space where learners can store and manage their own learning materials, monitor learning progress, build resources and knowledge repository, all with lifelong access

Some pilot systems and services have emerged to realize more open, social, flexible, and personal learning environments, including CourseSites, OpenLearning, OpenClass,,, CodeAcademy, etc. Most of these systems do not yet share a common understanding of open and social learning, and they vary greatly in features and structures. The evolution of the system also requires, and probably as a driving factor for, the change of the current higher education business model. It’s a challenge as well as an opportunity for the development and adoption of such systems in higher education.

The discussion above is from our book chapter:

Stone, D. and Zheng, G. (2014) “Learning Management Systems in a Changing Environment”, in Wang, V. C. (Editor), Handbook of Research on Education and Technology in a Changing Society, Hershey, PA: IGI Global –

Social Learning through a Blog Network

I have tried and developed a team blogging method designed for a graduate class which surveyed the concepts and practices of system integration. To facilitate student participation and knowledge sharing, a project based on a network of team blog websites was designed. I summarized the experience in a conference paper ( and a presentation.

Example course sites:

Adult Learning

Adult learners are loosely identified with a larger group characterized as “non-traditional” learners or adults age 25 or older considering going back to college or attending college for the first time. As more working adults consider going back to college and taking distance or e-learning education courses, it is essential for educators and administrators to recognize adult learner characteristics and learning profiles, design and deliver the courses to meet their needs and support adults students to reach their goals. We did organized a workshop which introduced adult learner characteristics and reviewed teaching strategies and best practices. We also discussed the following in the workshop:

  • common adult learner characteristics
  • teaching strategies, technology adoption, and future trends
  • adult education support and PLA (prior learning assessment)