So, I am currently studying for a module called ‘Professional Issues’ at university (I am currently studying for a generalist award at Masters level in Computer Science). The module itself claims to be accredited by the BCS (British Computing Society), now rebranded as The Chartered Institute for IT (http://www.bcs.org/). I’ve been reading into the BCS and various blogs around the Internet are very critical of the BCS in its current manifestation. The BCS curriculum as taught by my university is fairly lightweight, it covers basic legal principles such as the Data Protection Act, the Computer Misuse Act amongst other things.
A full list of the topics covered below:
1. Knowledge Management (KM)
2. The role of Virtual Teams in the Technology Sector
3. Project Management (Critical Path Analysis + PERT Diagrams)
4. Legal Acts (DPA/CMA/RIPA)
5. Privacy & Competence in Software Engineering
I found the course to be very disjointed, whether this is the fault of the university or the BCS I am not sure, but I found some areas such as legal aspects to be fairly vital (I enjoyed reading about the primary aspects of the DPA and the CMA as I am the type of learner who tries to “see through the bullshit” and I only tend to appreciate concrete concepts).
I took issue however with the field of Knowledge Management (KM). The concepts of tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge are fairly easy to understand but unfortunately most of the field of KM is beleaguered by the classic problems that Academia runs into; the ivory tower. Having studied English Literature for my Undergraduate degree, I am all too familiar with the flowery language of the academic who has too much free time and government funding and not enough actual work on their plate. If we take an excerpt from the preamble of paper “￼Cognition, culture and competition: an empirical test of the learning organisation” by Ashok Jashapara, we can see that actually there is very little substance to back up anything that is being argued in this paper:
These assumptions have given rise to the notion of a learning organization (Garvin, 1993; Jashapara, 1993; Nevis et al., 1995; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Pedler et al., 1991; Senge, 1990; Swieringa and Wierdsma, 1992). Much of the literature is conceptually based on a management science perspective (Garvin, 1993; Nevis et al., 1995) or organizational development thesis (Dixon, 1994; Hawkins, 1994; Pedler et al., 1991). There is little evidence in the current literature to show how the prescribed forms of learning are likely to lead to increased performance among firms. The bias is towards the ’’soft’’ Harvard school of human resource management (Beer et al., 1985; Walton, 1985) rather than the ’’hard’’ Michigan school (Fombrun et al., 1984) focusing on strategic aspects. The urge to prescribe seems to overcome the need to show how data was collected underlying these models.
Hey, lots of references to other papers (that I’m sure are just as “interesting”) but not much being said? Yes, that’s the gold standard in Knowledge Management. I am by no means trying to undermine the work of Mr Jashapara as it seems from a Google search that he is very esteemed in other subject areas, but it seems to me that the field of knowledge management is merely a high-filuten way of describing basic common sense.
Some of the hypotheses posited in the paper are:
1. If an organisation commits itself to double loop learning (changing assumptions/norms within a company rather than settling for the first ‘port of call’ which is apparently approaching a task with a different strategy), then the organisation will be more efficient.
2. Team learning (i.e. teams learn new skills together) increases company efficiency.
I might just be feeling particularly childish today, but surely these are a given, there is NO need to write a 20 page academic paper on this subject – it is common sense that if a learning organisation commits itself to a process of learning, then efficiency of that organisation will naturally be on the up.
So what is the point of my rant on Mr Jashapara?
I won’t link you to the paper (just in case Mr Jash tracks me down and bashes my head in with one of his droll, emotionless reams of drivel), but the point of the above rant is to draw attention to what my ‘Professional Issues’ module is lacking. If I am successful in becoming a Software Dev, then granted I may need to know about the legal aspects of Data Protection, Privacy etc.
But the course completely misses out on covering areas such as unit testing, the software development lifecycle, general day to day factoids about the Software Development industry, that I now will have to spend the time learning on my own.
So in conclusion, it is my opinion that Academia is too highly strung. It needs to get a life, go outside and play a bit on the swings.