Identifying and evaluating COBOL competencies for four-year information systems programs

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

This study determines how the COBOL competencies taught in information systems programs and those attained by information systems students compare to those needed on the job. Five research questions were posed:

  1. What are the introductory COBOL programming competencies required to be a COBOL programmer?

  2. To what extent do information systems program faculty perceive that they have taught COBOL programming competencies?

  3. What level of competence in COBOL programming do prospective employers expect information systems graduates to have on the job?

  4. To what extent do information systems seniors perceive that they have developed COBOL programming competencies?

  5. Which COBOL programming competencies did the faculty, prospective employers, and seniors rate similarly in regard to level of skill?

The respondents in the study were information systems faculty, prospective employers of information systems graduates, and information systems seniors. Usable responses were received from 85.4% of the total population.

Findings reveal that there were two competencies for which the groups responded differently. These competencies were both in the preparation area. They were "Prepare a card record layout," and "Prepare a system flowchart." The two competencies which the groups had the least disagreement on were "Be familiar with group printing," and "Be familiar with accept statement."

Based upon the findings in this study, the following conclusions were drawn:

  1. The competencies identified through the search of the literature and validated by the panel of experts are the competencies needed on the job for COBOL programming and therefore appropriate for inclusion in the four-year information systems programs.

  2. The information systems faculty are adequately emphasizing in their programs the COBOL competencies they should be.

  3. The faculty rated the competencies taught somewhat higher than the prospective employers felt they were needed.