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1. About this Course

It covers the fundamentals taught in an introductory college-level business information systems course. 

"Our course will review the basic principles of information systems, including both vocabulary and concepts in hardware, software, database management, and telecommunications. This course is designed to help you pass the CLEP exam in information systems but it can also be a good start in developing your own skills as a IS manager. Earning a college degree can change your life and you now have what it takes to get started,explains Doctor Gregory Gardner, Professor of Business Administration at the State University of New York at Potsdam.

Our “Information Systems” course is completely self-paced. There are no prerequisites to take this course, and it is entirely free. 

The goal of the creator of this course – Modern States Education Alliance, a non-profit organization – is to prepare you to pass the College Board's CLEP examination and obtain college credit for free.

2. About the CLEP exam

The examination contains approximately 100 questions to be answered in 90 minutes.

The CLEP exam tests knowledge, terminology, and basic concepts about information systems as well as the application of that knowledge.

Notice that it does not emphasize the details of hardware design and language-specific programming techniques. References to applications such as word processing or spreadsheets do not require knowledge of a specific product. The focus is on concepts and techniques applicable to a variety of products and environments. Knowledge of arithmetic and mathematics equivalent to that of a student who has successfully completed a traditional first-year high school algebra course is assumed.

Note: Prior to October 2015, this examination was called Information Systems and Computer Applications.

3. Required Knowledge and Skills

Learners will require to demonstrate knowledge of the following content. Percentages indicate the weight of each topic:

•   Office Applications (10%)

  • Productivity software (word processing, spreadsheet, presentation package, end-user database package)
  • Operating systems (memory management, file management, interfaces, types of OS)
  • Office systems (email, conferencing, collaborative work, document imaging, system resources)

Internet and World Wide Web (15%)

  • Internet and other online services and methods (World Wide Web protocols, Web search engines, Web bots, intranet, cloud computing, communications, push/pull technology, W3C)
  • Web browsers (URLs, protocols, standards, history, cookies, resource allocation)
  • Web technologies (HTML, XML, JavaScript)
  • Website development (analysis, design, functionality, accessibility)

Technology Applications (15%)

  • Specialized systems (knowledge management, expert systems, TPS/OLTP, DSS, GIS, BI, workflow management, project management)
  • E-commerce/E-business (EDI, standards, tools, characteristics, types of transactions, business models)
  • Enterprise-wide systems (ERP, CRM, SCM)
  • Data management (data warehousing, data mining, networking, security, validation, migration, storage, obsolescence)
  • Business strategies (competition, process reengineering, process modeling, TQM, Web 2.0)
  • Information processing methods (batch, real-time, transaction)

Hardware and Systems Technology (15%)

  • Devices (processing, storage, input and output, telecommunications, networking)
  • Functions (computer, telecommunications, network hardware)
  • Network architectures (local area, wide area, VPN, enterprise)
  • Computer architectures (mainframe, client/server, operating systems)
  • Wireless technologies (Wi-Fi, cellular, satellite, mobile, GPS, RFID)

Software Development (10%)

  • Methodologies (prototyping, SDLC, RAD, CASE, JAD, Agile)
  • Processes (feasibility, systems analysis, systems design, end-user development, project management)
  • Implementation (testing, training, data conversion, system conversion, system maintenance, post-implementation activities, post-implementation review, documentation)
  • Standards (proprietary, open source)

Programming Concepts and Data Management (10%)

  • Programming logic (Boolean, arithmetic, SQL)
  • Methodologies (object-oriented, structured)
  • Data (concepts, types, structures, digital representation of data)
  • File (types, structures)
  • Database management systems (relational, hierarchical, network, management strategies)

Social and Ethical Implications and Issues (25%)

  • Economic effects (secure transactions, viruses, malware, cost of security)
  • Privacy concerns (individual, business, identity theft)
  • Property rights (intellectual, legal, ownership of materials, open-source software)
  • Effects of information technology on jobs (ergonomics, virtual teams, telecommuting, job design)
  • Technology's influence on workforce strategies (globalization, virtual teams, telecommuting, outsourcing, insourcing)
  • Careers in IS (responsibilities, occupations, career path, certification)
  • Computer security and controls (system application, personal computer, disaster recovery)
  • Social networking (benefits, risks, ethics, technology, Web 2.0)

4. Course Modules

Following are the main topics and percentages of the exam’s questions, mostly based on the College Board's description of the course:


Module 1: What are Information Systems?

  1.0 Introduction   

  1.1 Introduction to Information Systems

  1.2 What Is Information?

  1.3 Key Elements of Information Systems

  1.4 History of Information Systems

  1.5 Information Systems Today

  1.6 What We Mean by “Digital”


Module 2: Hardware and Systems Technology

  2.0 Introduction

  2.1 What is a Computer?

  2.2 How Does a Computer Operate?

  2.3 Types of Data Storage and Memory

  2.4 More About Memory and Storage

  2.5 Telecommunications – How We Move Data

  2.6 Telecommunications – Bandwidth

  2.7 Wireless Technologies

  2.8 Input/Output Devices

  2.9 Networks and Connected Computers

  2.10 Servers and Routers

  2.11 Network Architectures

  2.12 Mobile Technologies

  2.13 Satellites and Microwaves

  2.14 RFID and GPS


Module 3: Software Development and Programming Concepts

  3.0 Introduction   

  3.1 What is Software?

  3.2 Primary Types of Software

  3.3 Operating Systems

  3.4 Software Applications

  3.5 Common Office Applications

  3.6 Spreadsheets

  3.7 Software Development

  3.8 Common Software Development Processes

  3.9 Coding and Common Software Languages

  3.10 Implementing New Software Tools

  3.11 Software Standards

  3.12 Software Methodologies

  3.13 Programming Concepts 


Module 4: The Internet and the World Wide Web

  4.0 Introduction   

  4.1 History of the Internet

  4.2 The World Wide Web and the Browser

  4.3 What Browsers Can Do for Us

  4.4 What is a Website?

  4.5 Website Design

  4.6 Other Creatures on the Web

  4.7 Key Web Software Tools

  4.8 Search Engines

  4.9 Intranets and Cloud Computing

  4.10 The Internet of Things


Module 5: Technology Applications

  5.0 Introduction  

  5.1 What is a Database?

  5.2 Types of Databases

  5.3 Choosing the Right Database

  5.4 Database Programming Tools

  5.5 How to Search Your Database

  5.6 Data Warehousing and Mining

  5.7 Enterprise-Wide Data Systems

  5.8 And More Enterprise Systems

  5.9 Specialized Systems – GIS and Experts

  5.10 Integrating Modern Databases


Module 6: E-Commerce

  6.0 Introduction  

  6.1 Business on the Internet

  6.2 Business and Competition

  6.3 Common Business Internet Transactions

  6.4 Threats and Opportunities Online

  6.5 The Likely Future of E-Commerce


Module 7: Social and Ethical Implications and Issues

  7.0 Introduction   

  7.1 Security and Risk

  7.2 Malware, Privacy, and Encryption

  7.3 Identity Theft - Who Are We?

  7.4 Privacy and Social Media

  7.5 Intellectual Property Rights

  7.6 Workforce Impacts

  7.7 In and Out Sourcing

  7.8 Jobs and Job Designs

  7.9 Health and Ergonomics

  7.10 Artificial Intelligence - People 2.0?

  7.11 Careers in IS Now and Tomorrow


4. About Dr. Gregory Gardner, SUNY Potsdam

Dr. Gregory Gardner is a professor of business administration at the State University of New York and teaches management and international business at the campus in Potsdam, New York. He has over 20 years of experience at SUNY, both as a teacher and as a former Dean of Business at Jefferson Community College.

His areas of specialization include management and strategy, with an emphasis on International Business. He also has 11 years of experience as a manager and strategist in a Fortune 100 company, and as a managerial consultant.

As a Fulbright scholar and Fulbright Senior Specialist, he has taught graduate and undergraduate coursework in business and economics in Ukraine and Hungary. He is the author of over 40 articles and academic conference presentations on business topics, especially dealing with Eastern Europe. He is on the editorial board for the Journal “Economic Policy”.

An Air Force veteran with over 30 years of military experience, active and reserves, he retired in 2014 as a Colonel in the New York Air National Guard. His Ph.D. is in Organizational Management from Capella University.


5. How CLEP Works

Developed by the College Board, CLEP (College-Level Examination Program®) is the most widely accepted credit-by-examination program.

CLEP’s credits are accepted by 2,900 colleges and universities, according to the College Board. These tests assess college-level knowledge in 33 subject areas.

On average, a college course costs $700 while a CLEP exam costs $80.

Modern States Education Alliance is the non-profit organization behind these edX-style courses. Its project is called “Freshman Year for Free” and its mission is to make college more accessible and affordable through free, high-quality online education.

• CLEP® Information Systems: at a Glance

• 'Passing the CLEP and Learning with Modern States' orientation course