July 30, 2019—Students in a management information systems (MIS) course at Michigan Technological University are seeing the benefits of a partnership with the provider of the largest cloud platform for developing integrated, custom business applications. Students in Russ Louks’ MIS 4100 capstone course have developed applications using the Quick Base low-code/no-code platform.
Louks, management information systems professor of practice in Michigan Tech’s School of Business and Economics, said “One of the challenges we face in providing experiential learning opportunities for MIS students, is ensuring the tools and projects offered are in line with the learning curve.”
He said MIS intersects business and technology with graduates developing into “IT Swiss Army Knives.”
Relying on nearly three decades at Ford Motor company, Louks maintains a network of professionals eager to support his business students. One of those connections, Tech alumnus Evan Rice ’06, senior director of IT operations, information and analysis services for CCI Systems, an Iron Mountain-based communications solutions provider.
Rice, who is also a member of Michigan Tech’s MIS advisory board, was instrumental in implementing a new classroom technology tool that is rapidly becoming a model for educational settings across the country.
“Evan suggested low-code/no-code as a concept our students should learn,” Louks said. CCI employs Quick Base in their professional work and offered to sponsor the licensing of the emerging technology for capstone students.
CCI Systems Business Analyst and Application Development Manager Janet Plumley, led the student project for the past two years. She said, “In traditional settings, students would start by writing code, which can lead to frustration and inefficiencies.” MIS students use a data-model first approach; it’s an easier development environment.”
Louks added “Students enjoy the experience of going from nothing to having a finished product in one semester and a possible career path using the skills they have developed in the program.”
Plumley, who serves on the Builder Advisory Board for Quick Base, has another Husky connection; her son, David, is a current student.
The collaboration was so successful after the first year that CCI Systems expanded the program to include multiple student teams with Tech’s MIS faculty and Quick Base’s Builder Program, that provides no-cost builder accounts for learning purposes. Additionally, CCI adopted the application students developed in class and hired Tom Strome, a Houghton native and ’19 MIS grad.
Plumley said this real-world knowledge of up-and-coming technologies in their toolkit makes Michigan Tech MIS students even more valuable, whether they pursue IT or another high-tech field like finance. “It empowers them to solve their process improvement challenges.”
She added that because these students have a sound knowledge base, they catch on to new challenges quickly. “They aren’t doing theory — they are doing real work that can positively impact a real company.”
"The applications the students presented at the end of the semester were amazing in how closely they mapped to the requirements provided to them by CCI and Michigan Tech," said Mark Levitt, Quick Base builder program team member. "These students are very well prepared to solve business problems that they encounter in the workplace."
What began as an industry partnership between CCI Systems leaders and MIS faculty has now evolved into a great lesson about the value of this kind of partnership between universities, commercial organizations and service providers dedicated to helping to equip students with the tool and training they will need in the workplace.
Management information systems at Michigan Tech continues to provide Huskies with a broad background in modern technologies to solve business problems so employers will continue to value hiring its graduates.