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Expeditionary Learning in Information Systems: Definition, Implementation, and Assessment


Corresponding author.


In the natural sciences, collecting, cataloguing, and comparing living specimens have long been a popular, collaborative mode of discovery and learning. New species are discovered, and the relationships between species are theorized. From Aristotle's “History of Animals” to Darwin's “On the Origin of Species”, and beyond, this process of learning through expedition has yielded bountiful knowledge and insights to students of science. In this paper, we propose that expeditionary learning can be applied to a softer science: the field of information systems. In the field of information systems, specimens (information systems) are created by humans, evolving with great speed. Expeditionary learning—where students collaboratively discover, catalog, and compare rapidly evolving information system specimens—is an innovative approach for learners in the IS field, and is effective in increasing IS program visibility and delivering significant, measurable community impact. Our results indicate that learning by expedition has a strong, positive community impact through educating external learners (such as high school and community college students, and the general public), and compares favorably to conventional experiential and service learning styles. Though expeditionary learning does not yield improved course evaluations, we demonstrate that learners’ perceived self-knowledge and intentions to pursue the subject area are improved.