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Athabasca University

Program Overview

AU's Master of Science (specialization in Information Systems) program is based on the MSIS 2006 Model Curriculum, with the additional rigour of a technology specialization within a broader context of changing IT industry needs and leverage the rich and diverse resources within the School of Computing and Information Systems at Athabasca University. In particular, our curriculum emphasizes the tie between Information Systems and other disciplines such as Computer Science and Software Engineering.

AU's MSc (IS) program accommodates a diversity of educational credentials and professional work experience with information technologies:

  • Foundation courses are designed to remediate shortcomings in students' credentials and experience. In particular, the model specifies the business and information skills required as prerequisite to the rest of the curriculum.
  • Core courses are designed to advance students' knowledge and skills in the basics of information systems. Core courses include technical courses (e.g. database design, enterprise-wide network infrastructure, advanced topics in software engineering, human computer interaction, advanced distributed systems), and managerial courses (e.g. information systems project management, ethical, legal, and social issues in information technology) in addition to a required course in research methodology.
  • The elective career track component allows students to choose electives in information systems and one of the following routes: course based essay route (COMP 696), project route (COMP 697-699), or the research-intensive thesis route (COMP 676-680) to complete the program.

Students with the appropriate combination of academic credentials and professional-level work experience can expect to complete the program in less than two and a half years of full-time study or three and a half years of part-time study. Students requiring the full complement of foundation and core courses may need up to three and a half years of full-time study or four years of part-time study to complete the program. The MSc (IS) degree must be completed within five academic years.

The MSc IS program's operations facilitate part-time participation by working IT professionals: online grouped study courses are offered in three sessions each academic year. See Delivery Mode for definitions of these terms and descriptions of the delivery methodologies.

Program Features

  • AU's MSc IS degree enables access to educational opportunities in flexible ways so that students may achieve both the program goals and their personal and professional aspirations.
  • The distance delivery of the MSc IS program allows students to develop professional skills while continuing working in the workplace.
  • Distance education is often at the forefront of educational innovations in design and delivery of courses. This program is no exception, for it uses innovative techniques in both curriculum design and delivery.
  • Courses are characterized by instructional consistency; that is, objectives, information, and evaluation are clearly and directly related to each other. In addition, students are provided with regular feedback on their performance.
  • Frequent and timely interaction between students and instructors is a critical component of successful graduate education. Interaction between and among students is equally important. The use of computer-mediated communications supports these types of interactions, both for formal course work and for informal communications.
  • Every effort is made to accommodate students' needs and interests. The assessment of credentials and experience at admission is designed to credit all learning, including that achieved in non-traditional situations.

Program Outcomes

The many and varied outcomes of this program will be largely dependent on the students, the nature of their commitment, and the focus of their elective course work. Graduates will be expected to demonstrate expertise and leadership in the field of Information Systems (IS). The program enables graduates to fill key positions in the burgeoning information technology and services sector. This will include taking positions in systems management, project management, IT management, systems design, research and production. Through its high quality of training, and the focus of training on applied skills, the program enables graduates to demonstrate significant entrepreneurial activity in their chosen areas. In addition, the program will be invaluable for those wishing for careers with public and private organizations providing IT training and education. The newly-developed MSc IS thesis route is designed for those who want to pursue a PhD in Information Systems in the future.

Graduates of the MSc IS program can look forward to challenging careers in academe, industry and government. The program will prepare the graduate to:

  • Demonstrate critical thinking and ability to analyze and synthesize IS concepts and skills with ethical standards through graduate-level evaluative and creative written assignments and oral reports.
  • Develop leadership skills
  • Be aware of future and current trends in the IT industry
  • Develop a core of IS management and technology knowledge
  • Demonstrate specific IS skills leading to a career
  • Develop analytic, evaluative, and procedural competencies in the integration of IS and business foundations
  • Develop excellent communication, interpersonal, and team skills
  • Critically analyze the factors that influence policy formation and participate in policy development and evaluation
  • Apply management principles in a rapidly changing IT industry
  • Develop innovative strategies to address issues in systems integration, project and change management, digitalization, and new trends in computing such as ubiquitous computing, social computing, green ICT, personalization, adaptivity, and intelligence
  • Demonstrate ability to conduct in-depth research, both individually as well as in teams, in a specific IS area and ability to maintain currency in IS through lifelong learning
Job titles of those occupations requiring an MSc IS degree include:
  • Senior Programmer Analyst
  • Database Developer
  • Software Developer
  • Lecturer
  • System Software Programmer/Analyst
  • Business Operations Specialist
  • Engineer/Scientist, Systems Engineer
  • Researcher
  • Instructor
  • Programmer/Analyst
  • System Administrator


Updated October 01 2015 by FST Technical Staff

AU, CANADA'S OPEN UNIVERSITY, is an internationally recognized leader in online and distance learning.