Degrees of difference

With the end of the year in sight, many IT professionals take stock of their career prospects and consider the options available to bag that promotion or go for that dream job.

And with application periods now open for postgraduate studies, universities around Australia are keen to promote their postgraduate IT offerings and attract new students.

So what's new on the IT study smorgasbord for 2006?

University of Technology Sydney (UTS) associate dean for the faculty of information technology David Wilson promises his institution has several new offerings in the IT field, but says there are no dramatic changes in trends for IT postgraduate study.

"There are no major shifts in technology being predicted at the moment, just more mobile, more networked and more focus on value to the business," Wilson said.

"But IT skills highest in demand are internetworking, ERP, technology and business combinations and IT management."

In the past, UTS offered postgraduate courses under several categories, including a professional computer program, an advanced computer program, an information technology program, and an information technology management program.

However, in 2006 the university is offering several new courses, among them a Master of Information Technology management, a program for recent graduates, which is available to both local and international students.

Also, in an attempt to help those professionals hoping to align business with IT in their organization, a new Graduate Certificate in Strategic Information Technology Leadership will be available in the New Year for local IT professionals and managers.

While UTS doesn't offer distance education, there are alternatives to plain classroom learning.

"Subjects do utilize online learning to differing degrees but students still need to attend lectures, labs and tutorials," Wilson said.

Charles Sturt University (CSU) associate professor for the School of Information Studies Irfan Altas hopes that a more holistic approach to study of IT will become popular with students, to help get a foot in both the technological and business worlds.

"If that occurs then students will graduate with a knowledge of how and why the ICT will be used in an organization and they will have the necessary 'language' of both 'camps' as a part of their repertoire," Altas said.

"Time will tell if that trend will become entrenched though it has not as yet."

CSU, which has campuses at Bathurst, Wagga Wagg and Dubbo as well as at Albury-Wodonga, is also offering a range of IT postgraduate courses next year, including a Master of database design and management, in which Microsoft SQL 205 industry certificates will be integral.

But of particular interest is the new Graduate Certificate in ICT education.

"This course is designed to train school teachers and will help them integrate information and communication technologies into their operations to improve student learning, to offer flexible learning opportunities and to improve the efficiency of their business practices,' Altas said.

As for required skills in the future, Altas lists several.

"Mobile commerce and the technology enabling it are likely to be more important or popular in future," Altas said.

"Security of information and the underlying ICT environment will have to be elevated in importance as well."

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All postgraduate courses offered at CSU are offered in both distance education and online mode; however, the degree of e-learning access varies with each subject.

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) also offers students alternatives to classroom learning, with UNSW associate professor and director of educational development and technology centre Tony Koppi claiming the institution has a big investment in e-learning.

"UNSW is one of the world's biggest users of the e-learning platform, WebCT, with about 65,000 student enrolments in online course components during 2005," Koppi said.

"UNSW also uses the iLecture system for digital recording of lectures which are then made available over the Internet. During the last year more than 3000 lectures were recorded and accessed more than 100,000 times.

"Just like online courses in WebCT, students can access these iLectures from anywhere at anytime, and two-thirds of the hits on the servers are from off campus at all times during the day and night."

Despite these universities' offerings, RMIT marketing and industry liaison manager Sharon Hughes believes if a university IT school is not meeting at least quarterly with a wide range of IT industry representatives, then it stands no chance of keeping up with rapidly changing technology requirements.

Therefore the institution's school of Computer Science and IT aims to met quarterly and includes members from senior technical professionals from large multinational organizations with a large IT function or who are IT based, along with small to medium, Australian-based IT companies.

"Recently significant contributions were made by senior IT architects from IBM, ANZ, Infosys, Bearing Point and others from the school's industry advisory committee in the development of the school's new Master's program in Enterprise Architecture," Hughes said.

"Most representatives will also be involved in teaching and assessing some of the new subjects for this program, which has been designed for IT professionals who wish to advance their career to the role of enterprise architect."

Other curriculum advancements made this year in consultation with industry included a new specialization in computer security for RMIT's existing Masters programs, along with new subjects in computer and internet forensics and mobile and wireless computing, and have proved to be popular with current students.

"Each year the school also runs an industry-led professional development program for all of its students in the areas of IT interview and resume writing skills, IT confidentiality, public speaking, marketing and customer service, IT project management, conflict and resolution management, enterprise architecture and others," Hughes said.

Meanwhile, at Macquarie University, IT postgraduate courses being offered now try and respond to industry requirements for more 'soft skills' as well as technical expertise.

In response to this growing need, the university now offers an ICT management specialization, addressing hot areas like IT governance and enterprise management.

In addition, in 2006 a Graduate Diploma in IT will now be offered as a fully external program, and will involve regular, interactive online classes with optional on-campus weekend workshops.

But while in other courses, all students are offered a limited online presence for every unit, with lecture material and assignments accessible online, at present most classroom activity in the Masters course is still on campus.

The University of Newcastle's faculty of Science and Information Technology however now offers a range of courses for those IT professionals wishing to undertake postgraduate study, including a Master of Multimedia available Online, as well as a Master of Information Technology, Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma also Online.

In 2005 a Master of Advanced Information Technology was introduced to specifically target areas which will be accredited by the Australian Computer Society at Professional level.

The university is consolidating the two new programs introduced in 2005 as well as rationalizing offerings between computer science, software engineering and information technology to avoid multiple offerings of the same material.

Finally, the University of Western Sydney offers four postgraduate computing and IT courses including a Master of Computing in Networking and a Master of IT in Web engineering and design.

The Master of Computing in Networking is designed to prepare computing professionals and recent graduates for work in the computing and information technology industries at the highest levels, while the Master of IT in Web engineering and design is organized to address all issues related to Web sites, applications and services development.

Also on offer for 2006 is a Graduate Diploma in professional computing, aimed at graduates who have not undertaken significant studies in computing and who wish to gain a foundation in professional computing to complement their previous studies or to change career path.

At the conclusion of the course it is expected that students will be qualified to enter professional employment in the IT industry or to enter a professional position in their undergraduate discipline with additional professional computing expertise.

Meanwhile, the Graduate Diploma in Computing and IT is especially designed to enable graduates of the Bachelor of Technology or an equivalent para-professional computing or information technology bachelor's degree, to upgrade their qualifications to a professional level, with students who successfully finish eligible for admission to the Australian Computer Society at professional level.

In all courses, students are offered alternatives to traditional classroom teaching with e-learning used to deliver and support some of the available computing units.

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Next generation Computer Science degrees.

A new, elite undergraduate computer science degree that will allow students hands-on research experience in frontier technologies such as robotics and computerized human learning has been launched at The Australian National University (ANU).

ANU officials said the Bachelor of Computer Science (Hons) will provide high-achieving students with top-level theoretical education combined with the study of practical research and development projects from day one.

The program is part of a suite of degrees at ANU requiring a UAI of 98 or above; it is research-led and includes an automatic honours component and aims to attract high-performing students who have a strong background in mathematics and wish to secure a degree with an opportunity to move directly into postgraduate research.

In addition, students will have the opportunity to participate in research projects at ANU and National ICT Australia (NICTA).

According to ANU director of the Information and Sciences and Engineering Institute, John Richards, the new degree will lead the way in research-led education in computer science.

"What makes this degree different from almost any other computer science degree on offer in Australia is the opportunity that it provides for students to access current thinking in computer science from some of the world's best researchers. Students also take part in research projects during the course of their degree," Richards said.

"The BCS (Hons) will appeal to a particular calibre of student focused on developing the next generation of computer systems and shaping how people will use them in the future.

"Our BCS (Hons) students will be working in areas such as this, advancing the development of Artificial Intelligence, and other 'frontier' technologies."

Richards said the broader IT program at ANU aimed to provide a university education that suited the different career paths that graduates could take.

"We believe our approach to computing will help to buck the trend of lowering IT enrolments and provide society with the computer scientists it needs now and in the future," Richards said.

Institutions offering IT-related postgraduate courses

  • University of Melbourne
  • Deakin University
  • Monash University
  • RMIT University
  • Swinburne University of Technology
  • The University of Southern Queensland
  • The University of New South Wales
  • Queensland University of Technology
  • Victoria University
  • University of Western Sydney
  • Central Queensland University
  • University of Technology, Sydney
  • The University of New England
  • University of Wollongong
  • Edith Cowan University
  • Australian Catholic University
  • Australian National University
  • Macquarie University
  • The University of Queensland
  • La Trobe University
  • The University of Newcastle
  • University of Sydney
  • University of Canberra
  • Griffith University
  • The University of Adelaide
  • University of Ballarat
  • University of South Australia
  • Bond University
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Murdoch University
  • University of Western Australia
  • James Cook University
  • Southern Cross University
  • Curtin University of Technology
  • Melbourne Institute of Business and Technology
  • University of Sydney
  • University of Tasmania
  • Flinders University

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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