Area of Study Guidelines: Information Systems for Students Matriculated Effective Sept. 1, 2015 Policy


About Information Systems

Information systems specialists focus on integrating information technology solutions and business processes to meet the information needs of businesses and other enterprises, enabling them to achieve their objectives in an effective, efficient way. This discipline’s perspective on information technology emphasizes information and views technology as an instrument for generating, processing and distributing information. Professionals in the discipline are primarily concerned with the information that computer systems can provide an enterprise to aid in defining and achieving its goals and the processes that an enterprise can implement or improve using information technology. Students of IS must understand both technical and organizational factors and they must be able to help an organization determine how information and technology-enabled business processes can provide a competitive advantage.

"The information systems specialist plays a key role in determining the requirements for an organization’s information systems and is active in their specification, design, and implementation. As a result, such professionals require a sound understanding of organizational principles and practices so that they can serve as an effective bridge between the technical and management communities within an organization, enabling them to work in harmony to ensure that the organization has the information and the systems it needs to support its operations. Information systems professionals are also involved in designing technology-based organizational communication and collaboration systems.’" (Computing Curricula 2005, p. 14).

Our guiding authority for this document is Computing Curricula 2005 and the IS 2010 Body of Knowledge. This joint effort by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the Association for Information Systems (AIS) and The Computer Society (IEEE-CS) includes current curricular recommendations from the leading professional organizations in the computing fields. Students should read Computing Curricula 2005 to understand how computing disciplines are related. It is important for students to think carefully about their primary interest. Information systems, as a disciplinary concentration, probably would not be the best choice for someone primarily interested in computing infrastructure needs of the organization; for such individuals, a concentration in information technology would be more appropriate. On the other hand, students interested primarily in the abstract, theoretical concepts of computing would be better served by a concentration in computer science.

There are, of course, many ways to approach information systems. Many professionals and educators have tried to identify different approaches by adding adjectives, which has led to terms such as "management information systems" and "computer information systems." The general understanding was that MIS would be more focused on the management aspects, while CIS focused on the technical aspects. However, as the area has developed, the differentiation between the managerial and the technical has certainly blurred. These guidelines have, therefore, adopted the more general title of “Information Systems,” but they apply to both of those titles as well. Similarly, titles such as “Information Systems Management” also cover the same content.

At Empire State College, the variation among degrees in information systems occurs with the identification of the area of study. Each student must design a degree program that meets the general guidelines for an area of study. The information systems curricular guidelines represent a common core of knowledge, which any information systems degree will contain within those general guidelines. Students who are interested in information systems within the business and managerial perspective might find it appropriate to place their concentration within the Business Management and Economics area of study, while students who are interested in the technological perspective might find it appropriate to place their concentration within the Science, Mathematics and Technology area of study (or, if they are seeking the narrower BPS, this would be done as a concentration within the registered program Technology). All students should make sure that the degree they are interested in is appropriate for their future career and education goals.


Communication: All students should already have (or develop) skill and confidence with communication, particularly communicating in writing. Technical communication, that is the specialty of communicating technical information, is of particular value to individuals in this field.

Quantitative reasoning: Students must develop their quantitative reasoning and mathematical skills. At the most basic level, students should have facility with statistics to support in-depth analysis of data. Typically, in order to be prepared for a course in statistics, students should have facility with algebra.

The choice of mathematical subject matter for development of quantitative reasoning will depend on the student's background and interest. It should be recognized that, as a part of these studies and any other work in mathematics, students should develop skill and confidence with the interpretation of material containing quantitative information and mathematical symbols, and they should have (or develop) an ability to express ideas using mathematical symbols and language. That is, it is important to be able to articulate an understanding of mathematics, not just be able to do calculations.

SMT students must develop their quantitative reasoning and mathematical skill in areas such as discrete mathematics. The discrete mathematics supports algorithmic thinking and such study would cover logic, the concept of complexity, introduction to methods of proof and graph theory. Typically, students need facility in the knowledge gained from pre-calculus to have a strong experience in discrete mathematics.

BME students would benefit from a study in advanced quantitative methods for management, which includes topics such as decision making under uncertainty and linear programming and applications of regression analysis in management.

Information Technology

Foundational learning in IT: SMT students should already have (or develop) an understanding of programming, not just coding. This involves using problem solving with logic. BME students should have an understanding of the fundamentals of computing in organizations and the use of information systems in organizations.

Databases: Students should also demonstrate an understanding of data modeling, database programming and basic database administration concepts at the enterprise-scale.

IT infrastructure: Students should be familiar with the technical foundations of information systems. This typically includes knowledge in operating systems and networks. Students are expected to be able to explain the capabilities and limitations of different networking devices. Students have a clear understanding of different types of networks and network protocols, layers, standards and topologies. Students are able to explain the benefits of small office/home office (SOHO) networks and the technology requirements essential to install, configure and maintain them. Students should be prepared to keep up with new developments in the networking field. For BME students, their understanding of IT infrastructure should include the technologies of e-commerce.

Security: Students are able to describe different types of security risks and threats against networks and information assets and have basic knowledge in designing secure systems and detecting and mitigating threats to the systems.

Professional Behavior and Responsibilities

Professional, legal and ethical responsibilities: Students must understand their ethical, social and professional responsibilities as information systems professionals. This would typically include analysis of professional roles and responsibilities, exploration of major categories of issues, and identification of ethical issues and value conflicts, analysis and evaluation of claims using ethical frameworks. For SMT students, this also should include analysis of the context for the technological system, including recognizing the organizational and legal context and identifying the stakeholders.

Organizational understanding and professional behavior: Students should develop an understanding of how individuals and groups function or behave in organizations. It is expected that students will develop, either through direct study or as a part of other activities, their skills in leadership, collaboration and negotiation.

Theory, Development, and Management of Systems   

Systems analysis and design: Students must include systems analysis and design as central to understanding information systems. This knowledge should encompass an understanding of the systems lifecycle along with issues in requirements definition and system implementation. This knowledge should be at the advanced level. The student should know the system analysis and design lifecycle from analyzing the business case through requirements modeling and system architecture to system operations and support and the major activities in each phase, as well as understand how the process helps address the larger organizational needs

Project management: Students must also have skills in and knowledge of project management methodologies and skill in applying the techniques of project management. This would include the project lifecycle from planning to closing, and the key knowledge areas such as scope, cost and time management to ensure that organizational resources are planned and deployed effectively and that evaluation and quality are maintained in the system development process.

Information Systems in the Broader Context: Students are expected to apply the concepts of IT strategy to evaluate the organization’s use of IT in the context of its overall strategy, analyze the relationships between business and IT and apply these concepts to real-world situation.

Individual Context

Each student brings his or her own goals and background to the study of IS. It is these goals for future study or work which will provide the context for the student’s degree. Students should address their choice in the rationale.

Students in SMT should develop an appreciation for the type(s) of organization in which they work, or intend to work, as well as the interpersonal and communication skills needed to be successful in that environment. For example, a student who intends to work in government (federal, state, local) should understand bureaucracies, politics and regulations, while a student who works in a scientific research environment should understand how scientists view data, design studies, etc., and a student who works in a health care setting should include informatics as well as policy issues.

Students in BME are expected to understand the business context within which they will be working. As such, they need a background of at least two of the functional areas, such as accounting, finance, marketing, human resources and operations management. Since this expectation is very dependent on the student’s individual goals, it is vital that students, in consultation with their mentor, identify their learning needs and explain their reasoning in their rationale.


Information systems and the environment in which they exist are always changing. Degree programs must demonstrate currency in the field and show understanding of emerging and evolving technology and environment relevant to their individual context.

Currency can be viewed in two ways: on the one hand, currency refers to current technologies; on the other hand, currency can be seen as not-obsolete. If students want to use earlier learning in their programs, they should consider several issues related to how old, how specialized and how extensive the earlier learning is. Courses which encompassed analysis, problem definition, algorithms, data structures, programming concepts and testing methodology may provide a useful foundation to explore recent developments in computer technology. Courses which are product-specific (hardware or software) may be less useful. When earlier learning is judged to provide a useful foundation within the program, students should be sure to incorporate opportunities to bridge to newer platforms or applications within their degree program.


Students should explicitly discuss in their rationale essay how each of the above topics is incorporated in their degree program, how the program is designed to meet their goals and how the program meets the currency criteria discussed above. It is not necessary that the specific terms used above appear in individual study titles.

Additional Studies

Students who wish to enhance their knowledge and skills might consider incorporating additional areas into their studies including human-computer interaction, which would include concepts and approaches, such as user differences, user experience and collaboration, human factors, ergonomics, accessibility issues and standards, user and task analysis and the ability to implement user-centered design and evaluation methods.

Applicable Legislation and Regulations

Related References, Policies, Procedures, Forms and Appendices

Introduction to the Area of Study Guidelines

Link to Official College Policy

Area of Study Guidelines: Information Systems for Students Matriculated Effective Sept. 1, 2015 Policy

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