Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Course-based portfolio

The following document is an extract from a course-based portfolio for the TRU-OL course BUSM 1371 Management Information Systems (no longer offered). The student has related experiential learning to the detailed course learning outcomes in Module 1: Introduction to Information Technology. Note that there are 4 more modules that the student would need to address. Including sources in the portfolio (with citations and references) is a requirement.

BBUS 1371, Management Information Systems 1

Module 1: Introduction to Information Technology

a) Discuss the social and ethical impact of information technology on our society.

Information technology has changed and continues to change the way we work, learn, communicate and conduct business. Aside from making our lives inherently easier and more sophisticated, challenges are noticeably present in the evolution of information technology. According to Tomorrow's Technology and You, (Beekman, 2008), we've "shifted from an industrial economy to an information-based economy." Having, at an increasingly rapid pace, transitioned from an agricultural age to an industrial age, and now an information age, "most people earn their living (now) working with words, numbers and ideas" (Beekman, 2008). That brings many challenges, as jobs have evolved and many positions have become redundant, requiring a new generation of learners trained in more service or technical oriented fields, or the retraining of workers with outdated and unnecessary skills. In addition to the workforce, businesses have been forced to adapt or fail. Retailers who have not taken to e-commerce, mechanics who don't learn how to use computer programs to detect issues in newer model cars, and hotels who don't offer an online booking system will become obsolete at an increasingly rapid pace. Though on the positive side, new business opportunities open up every day, for those who can adapt to new information technologies. And adaptation the basis of evolution, from the beginning of time? Information technology has simply exaggerated the speed of innovation.

The way we communicate has also evolved, from in-person visits to letters, phone calls from a land line to a cell phone, e-mails, online chat rooms, and now instant messaging , tweeting and text messaging from smart phone to smart phone. Even meetings can be conducted in real-time with participants positioned all over the world, via tele- or video-conferencing. Communication is now instant and constant. Regulatory forces have had to take notice. New laws have had to be instituted to prevent distracted driving, or people typing text messages from their cell phones while behind the wheel. Other technological crimes, such as infringement of intellectual property and computer falsification, are now defined by the Government of Canada and fought C(opyright Act, 1985; Criminal Code, 1985).

Threat to personal privacy is a major issue, as is keeping such vast amounts of data secure. Online electronic commerce transactions happen every second, government forms are filled out over the Internet, people trust their credit card numbers, medical history, financial state, and other information is kept secure. But it is not always kept secure. In a 2012 report by Canada's Privacy Commissioner, about one-quarter of the 25 shopping, travel, and media sites reviewed turned out to be a concern and potentially in violation of privacy laws (Website leaking users’ information).

Governments and businesses face ethical dilemmas relating to technology, and so do consumers. When we download music without paying, are we stealing? Or is it a mere reflection of the fact that we're interacting differently with the musical world and the music companies have been slow to catch up. We now preview music online for free, then if we approve, we share with our friends on Facebook, we save the artist as a "favourite" in our online streaming music station such as Grooveshark, we blog about how great the artist is, tweet about it to our 1,538 followers and then we purchase concert tickets and the band's latest merchandise. Once again, it's up to industries, government, and businesses to keep us with the speed of technological evolution. Some artists are recognizing the trends and adapting better than others, and becoming wildly successful because of it. Canadian pop artist Justin Bieber first produced his music via the free media sharing site, YouTube, and was quickly picked up by talent agents (Elliott, 2011).

The technology revolution is going to continue at a rapid pace. It's up to individuals, governments, institutions and businesses to become aware, and to adapt.

In my role with the [name of organization], I write and publish an investment attraction and business development website, www.businessinrichmond.ca. I also communicate to our clients with social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook. I'm able to use information technology to become more efficient, thus saving the government money and accelerating the speed of information communication for our clients. I have worked with partners to offer an online commercial property search tool, and publish local economic indicator data online as quickly as it's available. Some things I must be cautious of are sharing proprietary information, not crediting contributors for their intellectual property such as photographs, carefully citing my data sources, and being quick to respond to online communication. According to Grown up Digital, “Net Geners are the new scrutinizers” (Tapscott, 2009, p. 80), meaning they have access to so many sources of information, they will not blindly trust one source without validating it. They also expect fast responses to electronic communicaiton.

In my personal life as well, information technology helps me greatly. When planning mountaineering trips, for example, I still pull out my trusty map and compass. But now I also have access to online trip reports, downloadable GPS tracks, and Google Earth software with which to scope out my route before embarking on the trip. These trip planning aids bring their own social and ethical issues. It's important not to rely solely on technology to be safe in the mountains, nor to call for help prematurely, when in the past, no helicopter ride out was available at the press of a button. As long as I'm careful and aware of social, ethical and legal issues around information technology, it proves quite valuable in my professional and personal lives.

b) Describe the basic structure and organization of a computer.

A computer is a machine, an electronic device, that's used for storing and processing data based on instructions set and built into a program. A computer combines input devices such as a keyboard and mouse that allows a user to direct the actions of a computer, as well as output devices such as a printer or monitor which feeds back information to the user. A computer combines both hardware (the machine itself, made up of wires, transistors and circuits) and software (the instructions and data). Memory enables a computer to store data and programs, and mass storage allows it to permanently retain the large amounts if data. The central processing unit of a computer is what executes the instructions provided by the software or program.

Computers come in many forms, the most common being a personal computer used by a single person at a time in common household and workplace applications such as word processing, graphic design, data calculations and electronic communications. A supercomputer is a very fast and powerful computer meant to perform “calculation-intensive work” such as “weather forecasting, telephone network design, simulated car crash testing, oil exploration, computer animation and medical imaging” (Beekman 13). A mainframe computer is very large and used by large organizations that need to compute large amounts of data. It is very expensive and can communicate with several networked computers at the same time. A server is a computer specified to connect multiple computers to a network, allowing multiple users the same access to data and programs. An embedded system is a microprocessor, or very simplified computer used in many common household, industrial and institutional electronics and meant to provide specific functions which aren't meant to be altered by a user except on a basic level, such as car stereos, appliances, traffic lights, ferry navigation, and vehicles.

At the [name of organization], many users are connected to a Microsoft Exchange Network. We share access to the same printers, files, contact lists, calendars and data. I use a personal computer daily to produce reports, e-mails, to input and evaluate data, to manage my projects, and to update our website. I’ve also witnessed unique application of computers recently at a visit to a friend's farm. Beside the door there is a screen that tells him exactly how many days are left until garbage and recycling day. When the day has arrived, there is a light that flashes red (Student name PLAREV1). This system is built using sensors, microcontrollers, a virtual machine and a computer. The dashboard on the screen uses a computer to pull information from a website. The website simply hosts a database with information automatically input from microcontrollers connected to sensors. This database is the input, and the output is the screen you see in the photo, communicating information back to the user, i.e. the light is red when it is garbage day. Also on this dashboard are temperature, well depth, sun altitude, azimuth of the sun and solar radiation levels. This information is gathered from sensors placed throughout his property. Outside in his fields he has placed sensors which measure soil moisture content and alert him when it is too low or too high, based on data he has pre-programmed. Based on which crops are planted where, he has programmed ideal soil moisture levels into the computer attached to a sensor in that particular portion of his land. These are examples of some of the diverse ways computers are integrated into my life and the lives of my friends.

b) Describe Microsoft Office programs.

The Microsoft Office suite of programs is intended to increase efficiencies for users in data management, word processing, desktop publishing, presentation delivery, electronic communication and project planning. They are also built to inter-relate and work together. So, when you create an Excel spreadsheet, you can export its data into other programs, such into Word for a mail merge or Outlook to create a contact list. As well, toolbars and other functions are consistent across programs to help the user easily apply skills learned in one program to another in the same suite. Most commonly used are Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, Publisher and PowerPoint. Microsoft Access, Project and Visio are among others less commonly used. Below are more detailed descriptions on some of the most commonly used Microsoft Office programs. Microsoft Word is omitted here, as it is elaborated on in the following section.

Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet application that can be used for entering, displaying, formatting, organizing or manipulating data. Data entered into Excel is automatically classified by the program as “a piece of text, a value, or a formula.” (Harvey, 2010, p. 53). A blank document, called a worksheet and with an .xls file extension, is organized into columns (labeled as A, B, C, D, etc.) and rows of cells (labeled 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) where you can input any number of numerical values, such as percentages, dates, dollar amounts and numbers with decimal places. Numbers can be formatted so they display as such, for ease of reference. Formatting can be changed at any time. For example, you can enter .5 and have it displayed as 50%, $0.50, or 0.50000, simply by changing the formatting of the cell or cells. Based on the data you enter and using simple mathematical operators (+, -, *, /) , you can also create formulas, which is where Excel proves most valuable. A formula is typed into a blank cell, anywhere in the document and most often starts with the equal sign, =. Data values in a formula are represented by the reference number of their cell, i.e. A1. Shortcuts exist as well. For example, instead of entering a formula as =A1+A2+A3+A4, you can enter it as =SUM(A1+A2+A3+A4), =SUM(A1:A4), or you can enter =SUM(, followed by clicking and dragging all the sequential cells you'd like to calculate. Other functions include sum, total, difference, average, minimum, maximum, as well as logical functions.

As with all other data and word processing applications, Microsoft Excel exists to increase efficiencies. There are a myriad of tricks to employ in this program. Data sequences can be expanded simply by clicking your mouse, selecting cells, and dragging, using a command called Fill Down or Fill Right. For example if you have entered 1, 2, and 3 in cells A1, A2, and A3, and then you click and highlight these three cells and drag downwards, Excel will automatically pick up that you're trying to create a sequence, and it will fill in the remaining values (4, 5, 6, 7, etc.) until you release the mouse. Forumulas can also be expanded in this way. Data sets can be visualized with charts and graphs. Numbers and text can be formatted similar to how they are in Word, and data can be exported for use in many other programs and applications.

Microsoft Outlook is an application used primarily for sending and receiving electronic mail, but also for task creation, calendar management, maintaining contacts and distribution lists, and note taking. As a stand-alone application it's useful, but also as part of a Microsoft Exchange Server to connect multiple users who share access to calendars, contacts, and resources such as meeting rooms and equipment. Advanced users of Outlook can use additional features such as delivery delay, to send an e-mail at a specified future time, and the rule function through which users can program actions to be taken against certain e-mails . For example, all e-mails from a certain sender can all be automatically added to a predesignated folder for easy organization. I have recently created a rule in Outlook, sending all e-mails received from the e-mail address Infomart.alerts@infomart.com to the folder titled “Infomart” which I created. I get from 40-50 media monitoring notifications per day, and this greatly reduces the clutter in my inbox.

Microsoft PowerPoint is software used for creating and delivering visual presentations, which use the .ppt file extension. Slideshows can be composed of a number of slides containing a mix of text, graphics, images, sound, videos, and hyperlinks. Animation, such as the “fly in” effect, can be applied to some or all elements in a slideshow. Transition between slides can be customized by adding effects such as a 3-D transition. Notes can be added for the benefit of the presenter, which are not shown during SlideShow mode when giving a presentation, and can be either included or not when the presentation is printed for distribution to the audience.

Microsoft Access and Publisher are two additional, though less commonly used, Office applications. Microsoft Publisher is a beginner's desktop publishing program. More advanced design is done using professional graphics software such as the Adobe Creative Suite, though Publisher can be used effectively for basic posters, invitations, business cards, and other such documents. Many templates are pre-loaded into the software, to assist a novice designer create documents. Access is a database management system that's used to reference, store and analyze data. It's intended to manage larger amounts of data than Excel spreadsheets can effectively handle. Advanced users can employ Access to build software applications.

I use Microsoft Office applications on a daily basis for by job at the [name of organization] for data processing, report writing, electronic communication, and basic desktop publication and presentation preparation. Some programs apply to my current position more than others. Throughout this portoflio and in the appendix you will find evidence of such.

b) Demonstrate Microsoft Word techniques.

Microsoft Word is an extremely useful application for professions requiring a lot of word processing. Aside from general formatting options such as font style, size and colour, page size, character and paragraph spacing, there are several features of the program which I've found particularly useful in my current and past roles. In editing, I use Word Count, Spelling and Grammar Checking, and Track Changes often. When producing a document which must be constrained to a specific length, such as a 400-word newspaper column, I use Word Count to quickly calculate how many words I've typed so that I can adjust accordingly. Spelling and Grammar checking is invaluable, particularly for a quick typist like me. I prefer not to allow my computer to check as I go, but instead to do a complete scan once my document is drafted. Errors such as typos, transposed letters, and incomplete sentences are all detected quickly based on programming built into the application, which can be modified by the user. For example, if an acronym is used frequently in your company but not recognized by a dictionary, you can add it to Microsoft Word's dictionary on your personal computer so that this frequently typed acronym is no longer viewed as an error by the computer. Track Changes is useful when multiple users are editing the same document. Any changes made are highlighted and can be either accepted or rejected by the author. Comments can be added by any user, adding clarification or expanding on a thought or suggestion. This tool means that one document can be worked on by several members of a team electronically, and changes can be incorporated easily without having to transcribe edits back to the original document; by clicking “Accept”, the changes are automatically typed for the author.

Templates and Mail Merge are two other very useful tools, emphasizing the efficiency built into a computer generated word processing application such as Microsoft Word. For frequently produced correspondence of a routine nature, templates with a .dot file extension can be created that are specific to one computer, work group, or network. The framework for letters, memos, and other correspondence can be saved, eliminating time required to start from scratch each time. Additionally, when similar or identical correspondence is to be sent to multiple recipients, information can be pulled from a database and specific fields input into a template; this incorporates the Mail Merge feature of Word. For example, if a welcome letter is to be sent to multiple businesses, the letter template can be set up with the same text. Then the template can be linked to a database, and different fields can be input such as <name>, <company>, <address>, <type of business >. Once the database is linked to the template, a unique letter is automatically generated for each record in the database. If the database contained 100 businesses, 100 letters would now be contained within the completed mail merge document. Individual letters within the mail merge document can be customized if desired, and certain records can be eliminated if necessary. The same template can be reused at a later month, linking to a new database.

Simple graphics, tables, and mathematical calculations can be added to a Microsoft Word document, though there are other programs in the Office Suite which are better suited to these functions, and which are mentioned in the previous section.

An example of my application of Microsoft Word in a past role, when working for the [name of organization] I held the position of [name of position] for a year. The position involved preparing agendas and minutes for [name of organization] board meetingsand committee meetings. Because we were governed by the [name of governing body] policies as to how we prepared these documents, I worked from, and created other, document templates. In addition, I requested the use of a laptop to transcribe minutes at meetings, since shorthand skills had become obsolete and were no longer taught in modern college programs. The [name of organization] obliged and was pleased with the efficiency of this technology. For example, I created auto text entries which, from only a few characters, entire sentences, paragraphs, or other sections of text were produced. There was one situation which was repeated over and over again which warranted the creation of auto text. This method involves accessing a computer, or a network's, normal.dot template. This template is the basis of any Word document created, and is typically found in C:\Documents and Settings\User Name\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates. To add programming, such as auto text, macros, or custom toolbars that are available to any new document, the normal.dot template must be updated. The situation involved one particular frequently voting "opposed" to a motion, when all other [organization board members] were in favour. I created an auto text entry so that each time I typed "nosh", followed by pressing the "Enter" button, the following entry would appear.

It was moved and seconded that the recommendation be adopted. The motion carried.

Opposed: [name of opposed person]

Please refer to the following hyperlink for an example of minutes which I prepared for the [name of organization] using a template I created, as well as various auto text entries. [name of student PLAR Ev2]

Other features I employ frequently at my work and when using Microsoft Word, include mail merge, templates, and general document formatting.

Works Cited:

Beekman, George, and Quinn, Michael J. Tomorrow’s Technology and You. 8th ed. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2008. Print.

Copyright Act, R.S.C., c. C-42 (1985). Retrieved from http://lawslois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-42/index.html.

Criminal Code, R.S.C., c. C-46 (1985). Retrieved from http://lawslois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-46/page-1.html.

Elliott, Amy-Mae. (2011). “15 Aspiring Musicians Who Found Fame Through YouTube.” Mashable. 23 Jan. 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2013.

Harvey, Greg. (2010).. Microsoft ® Excel ® 2010 for Dummies. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley Publishing,

Tapscott, Don. (2009) Grown up Digital. New York: Mcgraw-Hill,.

"Websites leaking users' information, privacy watchdog warns." The Canadian Press. CBC News, 25 Sep. 2012. Web. 17 Apr. 2013.