Azure in IS Lab Series

Randy Guthrie – Microsoft Technical Evangelist

Easy, Fast, Be a Hero: pick all three!

The challenge of most survey information systems courses taught in the College of Business is that the hands-on projects tend to teach Microsoft Office skills rather than give insights into IT careers.  This might be why CIS, MIS and IS departments still struggle to recruit students to the major despite a very robust job market. The Azure in IS Lab Series has been designed teach important IS concepts while at the same time giving students a better understanding of technology careers beyond textbook exercises. Students use professional tools and learn skills that can have immediate scholastic and career benefit. Each of the projects is based on the Microsoft Azure cloud-computing platform, but allows the teacher and student to explore several implementation scenarios including game development, web development and predictive analytics via Azure Machine Learning.

These labs are targeted specifically at college students enrolled in survey Information Systems courses with limited technical skills, but could easily be used in tech clubs, middle/high schools, etc. The projects are:

  1. Mobile Game Development: in this project students walk through one or two self-guided tutorials for one of several game types, and then heavily customize the game mechanics, graphics and story to make a unique game. They then publish the game as an Azure website and use social media to drive traffic, get feed back, etc. Students then have the option of taking it further and publishing their game to Windows, iOS and Android device stores.
  2. Web Development: In this project students use Azure to build and host a WordPress website or blog. Almost 25% of the websites on the Internet use WordPress, and students from all business disciplines can benefit from learning how to create and deploy a WordPress site.  As an additional benefit, the Azure subscription through DreamSpark is free, and the websites (students get ten websites per subscription) do not expire, even after the student leaves the university.
  3. Machine Learning: In this project students develop a predictive model using one of a variety of datasets (the Titanic passenger manifest is a favorite) using Azure Machine Learning Studio. They can then deploy their model as a web app, and can then create an API to make a Excel Spreadsheet that uses the model to predict outcomes for the data in the spreadsheet.

All of these projects use browser-based tools, so students can use any personal connected device without the need to download or install software. There are lots of helpful videos, supplemental PowerPoint presentations, grading rubrics, and even guidance for how students can reference their completed projects on a resume or enter their projects in a contest.

These resources are available at no-cost, and technical support is available through the website to help faculty get started and to make sure the projects provide an enjoyable and impactful experience for everyone involved.  In a recent pilot at Arizona State University, over 30 students changed their business concentration as a result of doing the Mobile Game project, and many more thought this was one of the most enjoyable assignments so far in their college experience.

Check out the Azure in IS Lab Series today and give us a call, or forward the page link to a colleague. We think this is a great resource and hope you will too.