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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Infosys 110: A Review

Introduction -- A Game of Two Halves

Going into 2014 I had no idea what this course was about. The stories my friends would tell me about it on the train didn't help: "frogs and parking?!?" "make a video" "highest paid job" "what even is an information system?" The course itself did clear up the first three very well (although the third is pretty obvious) but I'm still not confident in saying that an information system is a group of things that work towards a mutual goal and do so with information. It's also not a course I'd have ever chosen to do in the sense that one might choose to do PSYCH 108 over in a BA or a BSc.

Follow-Up Blogs: Exam Resource and Deliverable One.

Aim

To convey the importance of information, systems and IT to business. It is, of course, a core course and the university probably has its own aim for Infosys 110 but, from my perspective as a student in 110, that's what its aim is. It also serves as an intro to its department so some Operations Management promotion creeps in.

Model: What does Infosys 110 Look Like?

Infosys is a big course. When I did it there were apparently 978 students who received lectures in two streams. The lecturers for each stream are, to my knowledge, the same and split the course in half. For Semester 2, 2014 the first lecturer was Anson who had the misfortune to deal with the dead boring business and systems topics. The second lecturer was Andrew who got to deal with the more interesting technologies and transformations units. He's probably also one of the better and certainly one of the more personable lecturers around but any impressions of him are influenced by the massive spike in interest that happens (particularly once one gets to transformations). That split exists primarily to provide a clear framework for the course. You need to understand some basic elements of business before you can, in the words of my description of 110's aim, understand "the importance of information, systems and IT to business". The middle sections of systems and technologies very clearly slot in there and transformations deals with topics like security, ethics and projects... which is basically how the middle part of the course actually manifests itself in practice and how to deal with their consequences (such as the adaptation topic right at the end).

Infosys 110 is one of those courses where the course book is a must. That is to say, the book is a printed version of all the slides (and some administrative stuff) used in lectures so that notes can be written on them. Naturally, there is a digital version that can be substituted in. However, any given lecture will not really extend on what is on the slides too much. Some basic contextualisation on what's on the slides, maybe some explanation, some additional test/exam/assignment information and the odd video (or varying relevance). Andrew will also use numerous anecdotes that, frequently, amuse. In theory, the bulk of the learning is from the textbook but I read very little of that and managed an okay mark (i.e. an A-). This is not something I'd recommend. The course, does actually practice Andrew's "read for your degree" philosophy. The compulsory tutorials function more or less as sessions to explain in additional detail what needs to be done for the two halves (deliverables) of the assignment and also to meet your partner for Deliverable One (D1). They also include a 1% quiz with three questions and multi-choice options..

Assessment

Like all the core business courses that I have done (and indeed, all non-history courses I've done) Infosys 110 comes with an exam and a mid-semester test. Unlike Economics and Business, however, it also has an assignment (in practice, though, D1 and D2 are really two assignments). One could argue that the practical stuff is also an assignment but I wouldn't as all you do is follow some basic instructions in either My IT Lab (for excel) or Code Avengers (for javascript). They're time consuming but parts of the latter are fun and the former comes with a horrible voice so use it whilst muted.

The test/exam side is split into two halves. Firstly, there's the multi-choice section (itself split into two parts, one mark and two mark questions... the latter of which are applied). These are pretty straightforward but, in the exam especially, rote memorisation of otherwise trivial "results from lecture" does pop up. This is, from all perspectives, a bad thing because it means that the example illustrating the concept becomes more important than concept. To phrase that another way, "Memorisation of examples is theoretically a bad idea. You should, instead, understand why they're examples (i.e. what features do they share)." That's something I wrote on Piazza but it's not an issue that occurs in the short answer sections. Furthermore, memorisation is somewhat discouraged by the cheat sheet (we'll return to this). Secondly, there's the short answer section which combines a primary school style reading comprehension test with an NCEA economics/science external approach. That is to say, questions will require students to recognise and explain theoretical concepts in a A4 length case study. Incorporating features from the case study is a must but this does have a few traps... one of which I fell into in the test. All in all, I'd say the exam is noticeably easier in terms of short answer than the test with the mcqs being roughly equal.

The assignment comes in the aforementioned halves of D1 and D2 and an overall summary is that it's about using information systems to help create solutions to real world problems. D1 consisted (for 2014 at least) of a video that provides some context to the problem (causes, size etc.) and outlines a solution. There are many examples of such videos on Youtube. These are watched by all members of the tutorial and feedback is given by both them and the marker. It's also, despite its relatively short 3min length, both fairly easy and time consuming. However, with an even workload between partners, it's not difficult to have it done well before it's due. I'd argue that having a good problem is the hardest part as the videos don't even require narration. D2 is independent and an altogether different beast. It represents an analysis of how a business could actually implement the D1 solution and involves such things as Business Process Modelling, Industry Analysis and a bibliography. It's almost as meaty as a history essay but not as interesting (at least for me). I didn't spend anywhere as much time on it as I should have and, in general, didn't put as much work into it as it actually needed when I did work on it. As a consequence, I (or rather my partner and I) did very well on D1 and I barely scraped a pass for D2. One good thing about D2 is that you can contact your marker and ask for some more specific feedback. I would advise not going, "Yo, can I have more specific feedback, bro?" or anything with that sort of vagueness. I would, and indeed did, provide specific areas for explanation (partly with an eye to getting more marks, partly to improve my exam result).

Looking at the assessments as a whole? Infosys will provide feedback but due to the large course size, this will not always be that detailed but (certainly with the test) it may contain some very interesting data. At the end of the test, for instance, I was given a class rank (as, I believe, was everyone else). However, more feedback is always available if you ask. Marking and return is also prompt... even with the exam (which they sent back... meaning if you recorded your multi-choice answers you could get an exact result for the exam much sooner than in other courses).

The Cheat Sheet

This is, arguably, the most interesting feature of Infosys 110. That is, none of the eight other university courses I've done have allowed students to try and write down every single thing in the course on a single, double sided, hand-written piece of A4. In fact, I haven't encountered anything like that since 2012 when (as far as I remember) I had a completely open book internal assessment in economics (still sat in test conditions). The difference between the two cases is that that internal was purely about working theory into reality whereas the cheat sheet pretty much only helps with theoretical multi-choice questions. That's right, the cheat sheet is of only limited utility for the short answer questions that are worth 50% of both the exam and test's available marks.

Anyway, there are two primary competing schools of thought on the cheat sheet. The first is the "write everything down in your best approximation of size four font" school. I don't know how well that works for them. My friend did this and argued that in the process of doing that you get far more information into your head than otherwise. Obviously, you can refer to it if you get stuck. Personally, that sounds too much like the ultimate cram to me and I already feel as if I cram too much for my own good (cramming has the "look at all this information I knew when I did the test" effect). The second school says that too much time is spent on the cheat sheet and it doesn't matter that much. This is where I belong and my cheat sheet just consisted of a few concepts I knew I wouldn't remember (a bad sign the use of remember rather than know) and some diagrams/other graphics. Come the exam, I just added a few more concepts that consisted of acronyms like FURPS or the "ilitities" that were just there so I'd be able to recall what all the aspects of the components were. In fact, I used the same piece of paper because I went with a "limited preparation, try to cram" approach for the exam. In both cases, I didn't do badly on the multi-choice parts. What let me down in the exam was not having read all of the textbook and not having really learnt some reasonably important concepts. Basically, I think both schools work but for an education purist (in the sense that education is about learning), the second is the one to side with.

Content: I'm Just Copying the Template

While copying the template is something that happens in D2 (to format the report) what I mean is that I am following the template I set out in the Business 101 & 102 review. I actually think I've pretty much covered the content in the general sense I did in that review. However, maybe a bit more explanation is needed.

Business -- the first quarter of the course relates to the vision, strategy, industry analysis type stuff that does pop up, funnily enough, in Business 101. They're definitely distinct towards the end but on the whole this is what this is.

Systems -- the second quarter explains and explores the broad information systems. Transaction Processing (TPS) and Decision Support (DSS) Systems are probably the most useful and they're certainly the most basic ones in the course.

Technologies -- the third quarter deals with some IT concepts. One lecture even rips into a computer, in the sense that Andrew showed us some old components of now 'deceased' computers. Also covers Business Intelligence again, this time in how it relates to data.

Transformations -- as I said before, the final quarter really ties the previous three quarters together or, rather, deals with the three combined rather than in the isolated manners done in the first three quarters of the course.

Finally, the textbook greatly expands on the material. Frequently, it'll have new stuff as well that isn't covered in the lectures (and I read hardly any of it, which should convey an inkling of how much of the course is in the textbook only).

Success: Not Just the Final Lecture

Coincidentally the final parts of the Infosys Course Map and my review share the same title: success. This explains my subtitle. However, I don't really have any real, meaningful advice. I stumbled through this course, riding my luck and whatever work ethic I happened to have on any given day. From what I did do:

  • Read the textbook and take notes. Stay on top of these readings. Seriously, the chapter I did read right at the start was a major crutch when I went to do my revision.
  • Ask questions of your tutor, especially about how to answer short answer questions in the mid-semester test.
  • Infosys 110 is one of those courses where a revision programme that includes stating each concept and an explanation of it works (at least, insofar as it helps you pass.. long term retention? not so sure).
  • Use Piazza. This is important because Andrew may share information that matters with one stream but not the other(s).
  • Do the practicals on time, and if there are bonus marks from something like Peerwise available, don't assume they won't make a difference (in hindsight, I should've gone for them).
Conclusion: Isn't This the Final Part/Conclusions Don't Count

I called Infosys a game of two halves. This is true. The exam/test is split into two big parts. The course comes with two lecturers (one for each half). The assignment is split into two. But, mostly, the course stands out for the stark difference in the levels of interest in half one and half two. The former is mind numbing, the latter entertaining. In the end, I got an A-, which makes it one of three courses that I got an A- for in semester two (along with History 106 and Business 102). I'm happy with that only because the mid-semester test was so average and D2 so bad (which is what I mean by riding my luck). Eventually, I got an 85% in the exam, which I am very pleased with given the aforementioned. However, while parts of this course were definitely interesting and good to know, I feel as if I will only recall things from this by consulting my notes (except, probably TPS and DSS). Having done it, it's still not something I'd tell another me to take except in the sense that it does move out of that comfort zone of economics/history/classics.

Ultimately, the fact that I would describe its being administratively above and beyond as its single most significant positive feature, is a damning indictment. The fun of the second half is, really, rather hollow because it's not the point.


1 comment:

  1. I have made a follow up post.

    http://toorightweare.blogspot.co.nz/2016/01/infosys-110-exam-resource.html

    Also, in retrospect, if you want to pursue statistics beyond stage one, the CodeAvengers basic coding experience makes dealing with R and/or SAS, which both have their versions of coding (not in C++ or Fortran or anything but R or SAS code) as important parts of assignments.

    I would also like to reiterate/make clear that I think Infosys 110 is one particular course where its value is somewhat concealed for the student trying to stay awake in that first half... but quite readily apparent after having had time to reflect on whatever sticks around in the mind.

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