Course Syllabus

Why Organizations and Information Systems

When you graduate, almost all of you will work in, with, for, or among organizations. Organizations are the primary developers and consumers of computer systems. More importantly, modern organizations depend critically on information and computer systems to function. Information systems and organizations are thoroughly intertwined. Most of the information system design you’re ever likely to be involved in will depend on organizational insights to be effective.

This class explores the relationships between organizations and information systems, and gives you tools for understanding and analyzing these relationships. We’ll spend some time dealing primarily with the structure and analysis of organizations, some time talking specifically about technologies that are especially relevant to organizational life, and some time introducing specific techniques for uncovering and thinking about technology in organizational settings.

Place in the Curriculum

Informatics 162W is the second course in the ICS Information Systems sequence. Informatics 161 introduced you to the social dimensions of computing technology. Now, you will focus on the organizational aspects of information systems.
162W can be taken to satisfy the UCI upper division writing requirement. Consequently, writing will be stressed in this class, and you will be taught a variety of genres of writing that are helpful as you go into organizations, study them, and so on.

The third course in the Information Systems sequence, Inf163, will be offered in the spring quarter. Inf163 is a projects course that provides a practical experience using the ideas introduced in 161 and 162W. 163 uses the same textbooks at 162W.

Class Meetings

Lectures: Tue/Thu, 3:30-4:50pm, Steinhaus Hall 134


Everyone is required to attend both lectures and their discussion section. You must attend the discussion in which you are enrolled.

Instructors and Office Hours


Matthew Bietz
Office: DBH 5208


Mark Baldwin
Office: LUCI Lab (5069 Bren Hall)

Marie Tsaasan
Office: LUCI Lab (5069 Bren Hall)

We will all have office hours by appointment, just drop us an email or catch us before or after class to schedule a time to meet.


I generally follow the table below, although I reserve the right to adjust the grading scale at the end of the course. However, in these cases, I will only adjust grades up, not down (e.g. if you have a 97%, you will get at least an A, but maybe an A+ if grades have been low overall).

Final Score Grade
98-100 A+
94-97 A
91-93 A-
88-90 B+
84-87 B
81-83 B-
78-80 C+
74-77 C
71-73 C-
68-70 D+
64-67 D
61-63 D-
60 and below F


If you feel an error has been made in grading, you may request that we regrade your assignment or midterm. However, we will regrade the entire thing, not just part of it, and it is possible that your grade will go down. Regrade requests must be made within 1 week of receiving the grade.

Weekly Writing Assignments and Critiques (30%)

A major component of your grade will be completing regular writing assignments for much of the quarter. Each assignment will focus on a different style of writing, and you will use your organization observations as the basis for this writing.You will experience five “types” or “forms” or “genres” of writing in this class: Project Overview, Case Study, Progress Report, Research Paper, and Executive Summary.You will submit these assignments in to your team members before discussion, read each other’s writings, and offer critique. During discussion, you will discuss your critiques as well as the various genres you will be using. Your participation in critique is as important to your evaluation as your writing.

All of your writings will relate to a single observational project you will conduct iteratively throughout the term.One of the objectives of the course is tohave you learn and apply the rudiments of “field work” skills that will make it possibleto discover what other people experience as a user of an organizational information system. Thus, you will see some “recommended missions” throughout the schedule to keep you on track. You don’t have to follow these missions, but you may find things easier to accomplish if you do. Additionally, there are no hard and fast rules about how much data you need to collect. In my experience, for the level of writing you will do in this class, approximately 10 hours of observation should be sufficient.

Midterms and Quizzes (20%)

There will be two midterms in this course. You will be responsible for materials covered in the readings, in lectures, and in discussion sections.

We will also have occasional in-class quizzes on assigned readings.

Participation and Attendance (10%)

You will be expected to read the assigned reading before coming to class. I recommend trying to read it twice if you can. We will have both large and small group discussions in class, and so you should be prepared to comment on what you have been reading. Attendance is mandatory in both lectures and discussion.

Writing Portfolio (40%)

The final component of your evaluation is a writing portfolio and term paper. At the end of the quarter, you will be expected to turn in the writings you completed throughout the quarter. Important: you will be turning in revised versions at this point, based on the feedback you have gatheredThis will constitute the bulk of your portfolio. You will then write a short paper that should include references, data and analysis from your organization observations,a summary of the information you gathered from the TA and other students during discussion, and reflection on both those comments and the writing forms*. We expect the total of your portfolio to be in the neighborhood of 5,000 to 10,000 words (though these are not strict limits) and to be typed in a reasonable font (Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, etc. 11 or 12pt).

You should familiarize yourself with the upper-division writing assessment rubric supplied by the writing center. It will serve as the foundation for the specific grading in this class.

Submitting Assignments

Assignment details can be viewed in Canvas and will also be discussed in class. Check the course schedule for the due dates for the assignments.

Due dates and times (usually 2pm on the due date) are specified for each assignment. No late assignments will be accepted.


Successful learning and in-class discussion depends on everyone having common ground when they arrive in the classroom. We expect that everyone will have completed the readings before coming to class. Occasionally we will have in-class quizzes about the readings. I have also been known to call on individuals in class to answer questions or say something about the readings.

Books are available at the campus bookstore and are on reserve in the Ayala Science Library.

Required Book

  • Analyzing Social Settings: A Guide to Qualitative Observation and Analysis. Lofland, Snow, Anderson & Lofland. Fourth Edition, Wadsworth (publisher). c2006.

Recommended Books

  • Images of Organization. Gareth Morgan. (Readings from this book will be made available as scans, but this is a handy book to have.)
  • The Elements of Style. Strunk & White. (Or similar grammar/style guide. I really like The Hodges Harbrace Handbook, but it is obscenely expensive new. There are lots of editions of TEoS - just get a recent one. The basics haven’t changed.)

Other Readings

Other readings will be made available electronically. Links to these readings will be posted in the class schedule below.

Other Course Information

Be sure to read all of the information on this website, especially:


Course Summary:

Date Details Due