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D. Andersson1, K. Reimers2

1American Public University System (UNITED STATES)
2Mount Olive College (UNITED STATES)
The fields of Computer Information Systems (CIS) and Information Technology (IT) are experiencing rapid change. In 2003, an analysis of IT degree programs and those of competing disciplines at 10 post-secondary institutions concluded that an information technology program is perceived differently from information systems and computer science. In these new subjects, voluntary professional certifications, generally known in the Information Technology field as “IT” certifications, are increasingly used as indicators of professional skill. Recent trends, including two studies described here, one measuring student outcomes and one measuring a subject group’s responses to items that are nearly identical except for IT certification information, investigated the effectiveness and the student perceptions of IT industry certified instructors.

Voluntary professional certifications, generally known in the Information Technology field as “IT industry” certifications, are used as indicators of professional skill, and in the case of university faculty, can be an indicator of the desire to remain current in one’s field and engage students in high-quality learning. The commercial and government CIS/IT world has long made certification a necessary qualification for employment, and has often required employees either to have certification when hired or obtain it within a specified period after hire. The CIS/IT traditional academic world has been slow to follow this lead, a situation in contrast with other academic programs such as the accounting, engineering, law, medical, nursing, and teacher education disciplines, which focus instruction on preparing students for licensing exams.

Two studies have recently provided support for faculty to consider acquiring IT certifications. The results indicated that faculty with IT certification affected both student outcomes and student perceptions of instructor effectiveness, teaching methodology, student engagement in the class, and instructor technical qualifications. The results suggested that students’ learning outcomes improved and student perceptions of CIS instructors with IT certifications positively enhanced their assessment of the instructor effectiveness, teaching methodology, and student engagement, and the perception of the instructor’s technical competence. This has implications for CIS and especially IT academic programs, their faculty, recruiting, and professional development. Results of the current studies suggest that IT certifications of faculty do affect students and that these factors can positively impact student success and program completion - a key aspect of program quality. As programs come under increasing scrutiny in terms of measuring learning outcomes, completion rates, and student success, IT program administrators may need to consider whether additional faculty attributes beyond a terminal degree in IT or a related field is necessary when recruiting new faculty.