The Department has run a part time postgraduate programme for candidates from industry for over twenty years. In the early days this was a Masters in Data Processing. Later the Honours in Information Systems became the flagship of the Department. It has generated hundreds of alumni over the years, many of whom hold leading and prominent positions locally and abroad. In the mid to late '90s we started to experience some problems with the programme:
- There were many keen and experienced applicants who did not meet the academic prerequisites for entry to the course.
- The field had expanded to such an extent that an all encompassing course covering development, management, technology and applications was becoming increasingly unmanageable and superficial (too broad, too little depth).
- Many students were not completing the programme due to the increased standards, workload and external pressures (including: changing technology, new methods, new applications and Year 2000 deadlines, as well as the general increase in IT intensiveness in most industries).
- Many students completed the first year of the old 18 month programme for the knowledge update and intensive learning, but failed to complete the further research block and Technical Report, for a variety of reasons, including: decreased staff contact, tight deadlines for submission, lack of interest in research and loss of group support.
So, for 1999, the Department elected to suspend the programme for a year, encourage those still in the process to complete their degrees, and to undertake a rethink and design of a new programme. This activity, as well as careful consideration of the old programme's strengths and weaknesses, and consultation with past, current and future candidates, resulted in the exciting new programme now on offer. This programme ran for the first time in 2000.
The SAQA requirements for post-graduate diplomas necessitated a further change to the program and for 2006 a work-related project was introduced to comply with the SAQA requirements. This project, intended to demonstrate the student's understanding and learning in his or her workplace, must be completed as soon as possible after the coursework but no later than September in the year following the coursework.
In short, there are now two related modules:
- A one year part-time coursework based, Post Graduate Diploma in Distributed Commercial Information Systems, followed by a work-related project.
- A one year follow on conversion to Honours for those invited to continue after the Post Graduate Diploma coursework component. Students converting do not have to complete the work-related project.
Changes in the focus and approach of the programme include the following:
Coverage focussed on "Distributed Commercial Information Systems" which allows more depth than the old. all-encompassing programme, but still allows for inclusion of topical but enduring sub-disciplines, including: client server, event driven systems, Internet/intranet and extranets, distributed objects and components and e-Commerce.
- Inclusion of Project Management as a module in its own right, which was frequently requested by past students.
- Abbreviation of the previous heavy management block to focus on Strategic Management of IT.
- Improvements and extension to the System Development and System Delivery methods and techniques module to allow more depth.
- Research Methodology will now be covered in the second year, with those candidates continuing on to higher degrees, when it is directly relevant to their research.
- In the Honours module, more time will be available (some 8 months) to complete the Technical Report, and there will be supervised interim deliverables to support students and guide progress.
- Advantages of the new programme include:
- Access to tertiary study for non-degreed candidates who have suitable practical IT experience and show academic ability.
- A knowledge formalisation and update (via the PG Diploma) without requiring a research report and the time and commitment that this involves for those candidates not wishing to pursue higher degrees.
- Another route for potential candidates for the Honours and Masters programmes.
- Much greater support and structure for candidates progressing on to the Honours level.
- A formal qualification (the Diploma) after 12 months, if candidates are unable or do not wish to continue further.
Our target is to keep the class size relatively small - ideally limited to a maximum 25 to 32 students. In the first year of the new structure (2000) we enrolled 24 PG Diploma students. In the second year (2001) some 18 students achieved the honours while we enrolled 32 diploma candidates. In 2002 there were 40 diploma candidates and some 26 honours students. Demand for places in 2002 was exceedingly high with 106 applicants which is why numbers were lifted beyond the ideal class size. Those accepted typically had three years tertiary education or more and five years experience or more. 2003 and 2004 saw numbers back to the more manageable level of 25 and 27 respectively. Enrolment for 2005 was back up to 31 PG Diploma and 19 PT Honours students.
Enrolment for 2006 for PG Diploma was 37and PT Honours 15, for 2007 PG Diploma 33 and PT Honours 16, for 2008 PG Diploma 39 and PT Honours 20, for 2009 PG Diploma 27 and PT Honours 25,for PG Diploma 2010 20 and PT Honours 47, for 2011 PG Diploma 23 and PT Honours 25. Despite the high number of applications, the department intends to limit intake for the PG Diploma to 32 students.