From the first day of MIS 120, I realized that it was not your typical college class. While other classes were busy going over syllabi and conducting awkward introductions, we were teaching a robot how to make a PB&J sandwich. The underlying lesson behind this seemingly strange exercise can best be described as “epiphanic.” In this day and age of “smart” technology, where phones can navigate through Rome, translate Italian, and order a pizza, users often erroneously believe that their phones are just really talented, forgetting about the talented individuals that programmed them. Professor Lucas, in all his engaging glory, taught us that these “smart” devices are actually innately dumb, and require step-by-step coding in order to achieve any intelligence whatsoever.
Fast forward a month and now we are well into the process of becoming proficient programmers ourselves. Using MS Visual Studio as our translator and the C++ as our language, the class is learning to become “computer whisperers,” delegating our machines to find averages, calculate revenues, and count change. Currently, we are tasked with creating a guessing game that requires random number generation and lots of loops. While such a task would have seemed impossible a month ago, the unparalleled instruction from Professor Lucas and his throng of TAs has made it second nature. Like a compiler translates source code into a machine language that the computer can understand, Professor Lucas provides a similar service for the class, transcribing the often arcane C++ language into easily graspable concepts.
The University of Alabama MIS program does a beautiful job exposing its lower division students to both the business and technical sides of the Management Information Systems major. In MIS 120, students are taught how technology works, while in MIS 295 students are shown how that technology can be used to make business work. By making students take the classes simultaneously, the program allows students to decide early whether they prefer the more technical path of MIS 120 or the more business analytic path of MIS 295, and giving them ample time to prepare for that decision.