Engaging IT undergraduates in non-IT content

Sandra Gallagher (School of Systems, Management and Leadership, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia)
Alan Sixsmith (School of Systems, Management and Leadership, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia)

Interactive Technology and Smart Education

ISSN: 1741-5659

Publication date: 10 June 2014



This paper aims to report on the efforts made to enhance the engagement of IT students with non-IT-specific content. The mechanism to foster this engagement was the introduction of an eLearning information system (ELIS) for a finance-related subject within an IT undergraduate degree at the university. The subject developers were primarily concerned with both the learning design and the engagement of the student to enable the effective incorporation of an ELIS into the classroom.


This interpretive research used a comparative case study as the aim was to gain an in-depth understanding of a particular situation. The research approach also allows an open-minded interpretation of the collected data as the researcher is interested in looking for the “Why and not the How”. Data were collected via an online university student feedback survey.


Four key themes emerged from the data as follows: IT students learning non-IT-related content was a major driving force behind the changes to the course; staff change brought fresh eyes to the subject content and enabled improvements to occur; introducing the ELIS assisted the teaching staff to reduce preparation time while also helping students learn at the own pace; and collaborative group work helped facilitated student insights into real life work scenarios. The findings show that each of the key themes identified played a role in improving student engagement and satisfaction with the non-IT subject matter.


The value of this paper is from its practical perspective. Engaging IT students in non-IT subject matter is a challenging proposition for which there is no simple solution. This paper shows that over a five-semester period and through a phased implementation of major changes, student satisfaction and engagement with non-IT subject matter has improved steadily. This paper is of interest, and hence value, to academics who encounter problems or issues of engaging students in non-domain-related subject matter.



Gallagher, S. and Sixsmith, A. (2014), "Engaging IT undergraduates in non-IT content", Interactive Technology and Smart Education, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 99-111. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITSE-04-2014-0004

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