I find teaching in general to be rewarding. Based on my background and interests, being able to impart valuable lessons on analytics and system design to my students gives me great joy. And there’s more: Because I teach capstone courses, I get to help students solve organizations’ real data- and tech-oriented problems.
It would be foolish for me to think, though, that I’ll always teach these courses.1 Times certainly change and colleges adapt their curricula as well based on new trends. ASU is a case in point. I’ve been contributing material to a new blockchain course.
Over the past few months, I’ve contemplated additional courses that I’d enjoy teaching and/or developing at some point in my career. Four come to mind, at least two of which already exist in some form at different universities.
Platform Thinking: Lessons from Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google
Prospective audiences: Undergraduate seniors, MBA/MIS grad students, executive education
Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, and other über-successful companies predicate their entire business on platforms. The Age of the Platform, Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy, and many other texts have explored this phenomenon. Why not take the best texts and literature on the topic and create a proper undergraduate or graduate curriculum?
Imagine a 13-week course that explores how platform thinking. I could see this course covering strategies, benefits, and drawbacks of true platforms. With regard to the latter, there’s no shortage of the latter these days. Some prominent folks such as Scott Galloway of NYU’s Stern School of Business are even calling to break up the Gang of Four. Unlike when I wrote The Age of the Platform in 2011, it’s not a difficult argument to make these days.
No, a course on platforms isn’t a crazy idea. Prominent schools such as Boston University already offer one and, put bluntly, more should. Case in point: Given the success of Airbnb, Uber, and other newfangled platforms, it’s obvious that the most important business model of the 21st isn’t going away any time soon.
Data and Ethics
Prospective audiences: Juniors, seniors, and grad students
For a long time now, corporations have been able to do both powerful and scary things thanks in large part to massive troves of data. Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix might be the highest profile of the lot, but they are hardly alone. Yes, you can opt out of ads, but that won’t guarantee anything. Organizations can still do things with data that may make you uncomfortable, but should they?
There’s plenty of precedent for a course on the ethical side of data and analytics. Click here for information on a course at Santa Clara University. I can think of few more important topics to cover these days than the intersection of data and ethics.
Technology and Communication
Prospective audiences: Seniors and grad students
All too often, we think that we’re communicating effectively when we are not. Sure, we send that e-mail or memo but did our recipient really understand our point?
Drawing upon lessons from Message Not Received, I’d really enjoy teaching a course on business communication. Surely, the course would cover effective public speaking and writing as well as the perils of excessive e-mail and jargon. Beyond stating the obvious problems with the status quo in corporate communication, I’d discuss solutions by way of the case studies explained in the book.
Amazon: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Prospective audiences: All undergrad and grad students
Perhaps no company is as controversial, powerful, innovative, and customer-centric as Jeff Bezos’ brainchild. I could envision a course that starts with the company’s modest beginnings and covers AWS, Alexa, as well as failures such as the Fire Phone. The way that the company uses data and tech continues to amaze me. What’s more, it’s certainly not an easy place to work.
Critical Thinking on Steroids
Prospective audiences: Seniors and grad students
This course already exists at the University of Washington. If I were 21 again, I’d enroll immediately in Calling Bullshit: Data Reasoning in a Digital World.
The need to think critically will only increase for the foreseeable future.
I think more than ever about the downsides of all of this tech and data. Those who only see the upsides are fooling themselves. (Couldn’t resist.) In an era of pervasive disinformation, the need to think critically will only increase for the foreseeable future. Those who dubiously answer questions with “I saw it on the Internet” will continue to appear ill-informed.
As I continue my academic career, I hope to explore these rich and evolving subjects in more depth.
What say you?
- True to form, weeks after penning this post, my department needed me to teach an introduction to information systems survey course.