What makes a great course? Part 2
In the second of our series of articles on the MSc in Information Systems for Business Performance (UCC), we hear how the course prepares students for industry and why it delivers for its growing network of commercial partners.
William Hynes of Future Analytics Consulting says working with the ISBP was a natural progression for the firm, developing a relationship that had been established during many years of working with UCC in terms of European economic research.
“The best thing about the ISBP is that it’s very practical, very grounded and, to the benefit of both students and employers, it is very close to market in terms of what businesses are looking for. The ISBP provides an excellent level of good, applied, evidence based research. We’re very happy to work with UCC on this course and continuing to develop what it offers. For industry, it’s incredibly important that courses like ISBP work so closely to develop strong links with companies across a whole range of sectors. The ability to help execute ambitious projects, with real-world objectives and applications is very important for both students and industry partners. We’re involved primarily in the field of urban economics so the nature and scale of the projects which are being undertaken at ISBP is both extremely encouraging and relevant for current data-based research trends”.
The graduate view
For graduates of the ISBP programme, this proximity to industry is one of the greatest attractions of the course. For Tim Riordan, a recent ISBP graduate who is now working with EY, it gave him great direction in terms of getting started in his career. “It’s a great course for someone who has an interest in this area, but not the skills, as the ISBP is very much focused on honing these skills. It reaches out to almost all sectors and provides students with a great level of exposure to industry. For me personally, the greatest challenge was to engage fully with the scale of the programme and to keep up to date with what was relevant to the industry in which I wanted to work. I had a particular interest in the financial sector and for my group project I worked with Bank of Ireland on a new payment services directive. As our project developed, we received a great level of support from both BOI and UCC, and it was great to be able to rely on that during the development of the project.” For Tim, the development of soft skills through the evolution of the course is another of its great benefits. “ISBP is a very group oriented course and the different personalities really add to how you confront challenges or come up with solutions for problems. In addition to the hard business and industry related skills, there is so much you pick up in terms of transferable skills.”
Grace Tyrell, postgraduate of MSc ISBP, 2014/2015, highlighted the many presentations from well-known companies throughout the course. “I took a gamble and waited until the course had finished. I applied for analyst and project roles and found the right fit with Trustev/TransUnion in Cork.”
Grace reached out to UCC, UCD, CIT and WIT about possible conversion courses when she found herself interested in software systems, applications, analysis and projects but without the qualifications to make the career change. “If you’re looking for an outstanding conversion course that will create new career paths, then ISBP in UCC is for you.”
The course directors view
For both Dr Audrey Grace and Dr Karen Neville, the ISBP Course Directors, maintaining the proven ability of ISBP students to add value to an organisation is paramount to the continued success of the course. Of course the research and evidence based skills are vital, but also the ability to adapt to the working environment. “Soft skills are something that we obviously do focus on, most commonly through experiential learning, things like working on presentation skills and communication skills with the students and giving them feedback, both from our observations and those of our industry partners,” said Audrey. “In order to add value to any organisation, students must understand the complexities and nuances of the organisational context. They must build acceptance for applying new perspectives to an organisational problem or goal through the leveraging of current research and best practices in the area. In order to empower students in this regard, they are coached on listening and probing skills, relationship building skills, and the soft skills involved in challenging beliefs and assumptions held within an organisation, while remaining sensitive to the standpoint and views of all stakeholders involved.”
Karen Neville adds that the group dynamic, which fuels the ISBP projects, is a powerful enabler when it comes to developing soft skills; “any group project requires an evaluation of how people work together and how they deal with problems and challenges that they face. Presentation skills are a great way of developing a number of key soft skills, and enhancing them too. Our feedback is crucial in how our students develop their skills, so that they are better able to contribute to our industry partners, and create more career opportunities for themselves. The success of the course in delivering value for industry is evident in former graduates like Tim Riordan from EY, and other graduates from major firms like Johnson & Johnson, returning to us here at ISBP to suggest new projects, and its then that you really value what this course has provided and why we’re committed to continuing to develop it.”