Connecting Theory to Practice in Information Technology with MIS

Four students talking with one another
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hossein Bidgoli, Ph.D. is a Professor of MIS at California State University, Bakersfield, and author of MIS from Cengage


Teaching students’ first course in Information Systems and Information Technology (IS/IT) is a challenging task. Students come to the course with different levels of knowledge – or none at all. Teaching pure theory to all these levels would be uninteresting, and teaching only technical information could be discouraging. Student engagement is a challenging task. The “so what” syndrome, where students simply shrug off what they learn, is common among young learners!

To help you better engage students in your course, I’ll use this article to examine the challenges of teaching IT/IS and run through the framework my colleagues and I use to engage our students. This framework accompanies my text, Bidgoli’s MIS from Cengage and its corresponding activities in MindTap.

The Challenges of Teaching Intro to IS/IT

Some common challenges of teaching Intro to IS/IT include:

  • Engaging students in class discussions
  • Involving students in and out of classroom
  • Showing students why course concepts play a major role in their personal and professional lives
  • Connecting theory to practice
  • Removing the “boring” aspects of IS/IT
  • Resolving the “so what” syndrome

My Intro to IT/IS course includes two components: IS/IT concepts take up about roughly 70% of class time, and hands-on activities take up the remaining 30%. Hands-on activities usually include learning Excel, visualization techniques (mostly Tableau or Power BI), and in some cases, a module or two on programming basics.

The MIS Framework Breakdown

To help students relate to course material and recognize the practical applications of what they’re learning alongside MIS, my colleagues and I combine the following three elements into our lectures:

  • The Porter models of business
  • Short exercise cases
  • Social media posts

Here’s why each component matters, and how it incorporates into the overall course.

1. The Porter Models of Business

Michael Porter, a professor at Harvard Business School, identified three strategies for successfully competing in the marketplace, as well as a comprehensive framework called the Five Forces Model for analyzing an organization, its position in the marketplace, and how information systems are used to make the organization more competitive.

By leveraging these models that are often reserved for business studies, my colleagues and I teach our students why the skills they’re learning matter in the real world. They discover how information systems can help organizations reduce costs, generate new revenue by offering products and services to customers and assist with differentiation and focus strategies.

Students learn that the businesses that stay competitive are the ones that combine policies and strategies with the latest information technology tools. Then, they walk away with the ability to implement those learnings in their careers.

2. Short Exercise Cases

Throughout the course, I integrate 28 short exercise cases, which are available at the end of module activities in MIS, into my lectures. Each case clearly identifies a problem that can be solved by IS/IT, or a moment where IS/IT enabled a business to gain a competitive advantage.

Why these short cases? Unfortunately, most students do not read long cases! These abbreviated versions concentrate solely on the problem and possible solution or opportunity, so students get all the information they need in a concentrated span of time. Here are a few examples of cases I use in my courses:

  • Mobile Technology: A Key Player for Future Shopping
  • Data Mining Tools at Spotify
  • Telecommuting with a New Twist
  • Protecting the Security and Privacy of Mobile Devices
  • Social Networking in Support of Small Businesses

3.  Current Articles

To accompany MIS, my team and I curate a daily social media post for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn that provides updates on IS/IT applications, new developments, breaking news and IT Jobs.

While the text itself can’t be as current as the day or the week of the lecture, these daily posts help fill the gap. We’ve posted more than 3,200 tweets so far, which match the topics trending on the day I teach the material. Every post is also linked to one of the topics covered in modules 1-14 of the MIS text. A few recent posts include:


By combining practical knowledge from Porter’s models with short exercise cases and the currency of social media posts, students are prepared to tackle real-world issues in IS/IT before graduation.

For more from Hossein Bidgoli, Ph.D. about engaging students in their first IS/IT course, watch his full lecture from the 2022 Virtual Computing Experience conference.