The Role of Operating Systems and Network Administration in the IS Curriculum
D. Robert Adams and Carl Erickson
Grand Valley State University
Department of Computer Science and Information Systems
Allendale, MI 49401 USA
The reliance by companies of all sizes on information technology creates strong demand for system and network administration jobs. Information System majors will increasingly find themselves with opportunities and responsibilities in these areas. However, teaching operating systems and networking to information systems major presents many challenges. We have developed a model for teaching these topics to information systems majors in the context of ...view middle of the document...
More and more IS majors may find their future job responsibilities including some system administration duties, even if they are not hired strictly in that role.
A network administrator is a manager: not of people but of computing resources. A network administrator is responsible for installing new hardware and software, creating and managing user accounts, installing and maintaining print services, ensuring that the network is running smoothly and that the computers are communicating efficiently, verifying the integrity (security) of the network, handling user complaints, and so forth.
Traditionally, the role of network administrator has been filled by computer science (CS) graduates, but not because they receive special training for that position. Network administration lacks a traditional academic home - you will rarely find a network administration course at a college or university. Yet, CS students seem to fill the position of network administrator because as students computer scientists gain a fundamental theoretical knowledge of operating systems and networks. A typical CS student has an understanding of processes, distributed services, networking protocols, file systems, network topologies, etc. This fundamental knowledge enables a CS student to learn the high-level managerial aspects required of a network administrator. However, the role of network administrator is suited more to an information systems (IS) graduate than a computer science graduate. Information/computer management issues are the raison-d'être of information systems.
The current publicly available reference for IS curriculum describes the topics of networking and operating systems in two courses (Davis 1997; Longenecker 2000)Error! Reference source not found.. The relevant parts of those course descriptions are excerpted below .
IS '97.4 Information Technology Hardware and Software: "operating systems functions and types; operating system modules: processes, process management, memory and file system management, ... basic network components, ... installation and configuration of multiuser operating systems."
IS '97.6 Networks and Telecommunication: "in-depth knowledge of data communications and networking requirements... Students learn to evaluate, select, and implement different communication options within an organization... architectures, topologies and protocols; installation and operation of [network devices], ... network performance analysis; privacy, security, reliability ... installation and configuration of LAN and WAN networks; monitoring of networks"
Although the current curriculum standard suggests two courses, we feel that in the context of administration, operating systems and networking should be taught in a single course. We justify a single course by the fact that modern operating systems are tightly coupled with networking, and that administration of a "computer system" involves both operating system and...