Preparing students for a virtual world

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Advanced technology is changing the face of business on a daily basis, and having a trained, adaptive workforce can make a real difference in how companies operate. 

Preparing students with the experience to innovate in a technology-driven business world is a priority for the Department of Business Information Systems. Here, faculty members identify three tech trends that are transforming business, and how students will be ready to embrace those innovations head on.

Artificial intelligence

Businesses are increasingly using various forms of artificial intelligence to address company needs. Processing large amounts of data in real-time and using chatbots for customer service are just two examples. Utilizing AI for business strategy will soon become a necessary skill for new employees entering the workforce. 

“Artificial intelligence is influencing business in every possible way,” says Dr. Mike Tarn, chair of business information systems. “Interacting with and understanding AI is critical to being competitive in the job market. Students need to know how to use it for informed decision making.”  

Experiential learning helps students prepare to work with innovations in which AI might play a role, such as automation or personalization. “We focus on hands-on projects in data warehousing, company analyses, enterprise resource planning systems and more,” Tarn says.

Cloud computing

Through its vast delivery of computing services—including data storage, networking, software, analytics and intelligence—“the cloud” is making business operations faster and more innovative. 

“Cloud technology is extremely agile, accessible and beneficial,” Tarn says. “A reliable cloud platform allows business to be conducted in a shared, flexible and cost effective way because it provides services rather than products.” 

As recent events have shown us, business is becoming more mobile and being able to navigate various cloud platforms will be even more crucial for students.

“Working with external companies is very common in our curriculum,” Tarn says. “These experiences teach students the significance of technology in enhancing information sharing, collaboration and communication in both intra- and interorganizational settings.”


Of course, the caveat to companies becoming smarter, faster and more accessible is the risk it poses for information security. “Cybersecurity is the most important trend affecting business from a socio-technical standpoint,” says Dr. Alan Rea, professor of business information systems. “We have so many new technologies in place, yet we are not quite sure how to integrate them while still maintaining data, personnel and operational security,” he says. 

“The majority of our security courses include hands-on cybersecurity labs in sandbox virtual environments, which are tools used by developers and researchers to test new software within a controlled setting. This enables students to see how attackers compromise systems in a safe virtual space, so they can learn how to better protect them.”

The digital age is here to stay

Preparing students for the virtual world means giving them the same experiences they will encounter in their careers. 

“It is impossible to deliver skill-based technology content without experiential learning,” Tarn says. “The digital age is here to stay. While students must learn the concepts necessary for their majors, technology will continue to be a constant part of their future careers. We are preparing them for a virtual world where organizations, employees and devices are all connected, and information is available whenever and wherever needed.”