In keeping with "hot" technology trends particularly in mobile, security and cloud computing, a number of schools in Singapore have introduced new courses or revamped existing curricula to groom a workforce ready for the new demands of the IT sector.
The School of Informatics and IT (IIT) at Temasek Polytechnic (TP), for example, recently rolled out a new Diploma in Digital Forensics to cater to the rising demand for IT security professionals with the skills to investigate crimes committed using computers and digital devices. The first batch of students will join the course this April.
In an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, course manager Mandy Mak explained that digital forensics involves the scientific analysis of evidence from sources as computers, cell phones and computer networks to prosecute those who have hacked into the computers and information systems of organizations.
The landscape of IT security, noted Mak, is ever changing. While ensuring the security of information systems remains an imperative for corporations, there is a growing need to respond to and investigate security threats and incidents due to the pervasive use of digital and mobile devices in society, she pointed out.
"The increasing concern over data breaches, fraud, insider trading and [other] crimes using digital devices has led to a need for digital forensic experts who can gather evidence and trace how a crime has been carried out," Mak elaborated.
Over at TP's School of Engineering, the Diploma in Infocomm & Network Engineering has been tweaked. Formerly called the Diploma in Info-Communications, course manager Yin Choon Meng said the change was to more accurately reflect the focus of the course curriculum and the competencies of the graduates, especially in the area of network and communications engineering.
Yin highlighted in an e-mail that besides the technical foundation of information, network and communications engineering, students under the program are also exposed to social media, network security and cloud computing. This is to provide students the insight into complete ICT ecosystems and hence equip them with the capabilities to flourish in the IT, networking and communications industries, he noted.
According to Yin, companies are increasingly making use of new media channels and cloud computing, which give rise to concerns about network security. In addition, the proliferation of smartphones and tablets and the introduction of Singapore's next-generation national broadband network are giving rise to new business offerings and new ways rich media can be delivered, he said.
Academia keep watchful eye on industry
Mak, who is also the deputy director of Technology & Academic Computing, said that the IIT faculty keeps a close watch on tech trends including virtualization and "inevitably covers such topics in some of the existing subjects we teach".
Mobile applications are also a "hot tech trend", she noted, adding that the Diploma in Mobile & Network Services offered by the IIT, has become increasingly popular with students. She attributed this to the "interest in creating mobile apps" for platforms including the iOS and Android.
The growing trend of mobile communications also popped up as a brand new course at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). An ITE spokesperson replied in an e-mail that the high penetration rate of smartphone users in Singapore made it "timely" for ITE to launch a new Mobile Systems and Services certification course. The program is designed to produce a "new breed of mobile systems support associates who are well-versed in mobile network infrastructure and capable of developing mobile applications", she explained.
At the Nanyang Technological University's School of Computer Engineering (SCE), the curriculum is reviewed and tweaked annually to incorporate what it deems as "sustained IT and industry developments as opposed to short-lived fads", according to Professor Thambipillai Srikanthan, who chairs the SCE.
In an e-mail interview, he explained a course update can range from revising existing syllabi to keep up with new technology and industry advances such as programming languages like HTML 5, to introducing new electives.
Srikanthan said the SCE recently introduced a host of new final-year electives as part of its revamped curriculum, which include cloud computing and its related applications, augmented and virtual reality, and data analytics and mining.
Trends influence, not dictate
While tech trends do play a crucial part in the planning of IT courses, they do not dictate the entire curriculum, Srikanthan emphasized. The curriculum not only has to train graduates for current times, but more importantly, to prepare them to adapt to the rapidly changing IT technologies, he pointed out.
The SCE curriculum, for example, is carefully designed to achieve a balance between the fundamentals and technologies so that the students' skills do not become obsolete by the time they graduate, said Srikanthan. "It is the fundamentals which will serve as a bedrock to allow the graduates to remain versatile and adapt to the evolving technology developments."
Benjamin Cavender, principal analyst at China Market Research Group, concurred. He noted there is a need for courses and students to stay current as standards are changing extremely quickly and the development time for new technologies is shortening.
"It's definitely important that the curriculum focusing on current and emerging trends, but it's important that information is presented in a way that encourages students to stay current throughout their careers," he said. "In that sense, learning how to learn becomes more important than what they learn."