Strand 3: IT Systems


Students are required to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the technical concepts within the IT systems strand. They are expected to demonstrate this technical knowledge by the use of correct and appropriate technical language and provide, where appropriate, a step-by-step description of how the IT system works.

Teachers must be aware that the technical knowledge should concentrate on breadth of knowledge rather than depth and should bear this in mind during the teaching of the course. In all of the topics, but particularly “Internet”, “Personal and public communications”, “Multimedia/digital media”, “Databases” and “Spreadsheets, modelling and simulations”, students are expected to carry out practical activities to reinforce their theoretical knowledge. It should also be noted that programming is not explicitly required as part of the ITGS course, although it may be used in the development of the project.

Due to the rapidly changing nature of IT systems, a list of new (additional) technical terms that will apply to future examinations will be provided for schools on the OCC.


3.1 Hardware-3.2 Software-3.3-Networks-3.4 Internet-3.5 Personal & public communications-3.6 Multimedia/digital media-
3.7 Databases-3.8 Spreadsheets, modelling & simulations-3.9 Intro to project management
3.10 IT systems in organizations-3.11Robotics, artificial intelligence and expert systems-3.12Information systems specific to the annually issued case study

SL/HL core



The hardware topic deals with a computer system consisting of input devices, output devices, a central processing unit and storage. ITGS students are required to understand the meaning of the terms and concepts listed here and, where appropriate, briefly describe how they work.

The increasing tendency to develop hardware in modular units raises a range of social impacts and ethical issues such as the use of non-renewable natural resources, the global transportation of manufactured components and their eventual disposal by individuals, organizations and governments. Students are expected to discuss possible solutions and evaluate their effectiveness.

Possible scenario

A computer user is planning to upgrade their current computer system to a newer model and must use their knowledge to:

IT concepts to address in this topic

The computer system

Input and output devices



The software topic deals with the software associated with a typical computer system. ITGS students are required to understand the meaning of the terms and concepts listed here and, where appropriate, briefly describe how they work or their relevance to the user.

The development of software can have social impacts such as increased access for disabled people, and ethical issues, for example, only producing packages in a limited number of languages, effectively making English the global language. Students are expected to examine the effects of these developments on stakeholders.

Possible scenario

A computer user is planning to update the software on their current computer system to the most recent versions and must use their knowledge to:

IT concepts to address in this topic


System utilities



This topic addresses the role of networks in a range of different scenarios. Almost all businesses, institutions and organizations, and an increasing number of households, are linked by networks.

The increasing use of networks raises a range of social impacts and ethical issues such as unauthorized access, intrusive software (viruses, worms and Trojan horses), spam, phishing, pharming, spoofing and identity theft. Students are expected to discuss possible solutions and evaluate their effectiveness.

Possible scenario

An organization is considering developing a network to facilitate the sharing and transfer of information. The student must use their knowledge to demonstrate an understanding of:

IT concepts to address in this topic

Network technologies

Network functionality

Network administration



The internet and World Wide Web are omnipresent in contemporary society. This topic introduces ITGS students to the technology that enables access to the internet. The tools and applications that contribute to the creation of web-based resources and websites are addressed under topic 3.6, “Multimedia/digital media”.

The use of the internet for activities such as e-commerce, academic research and social networking can raise ethical issues and have positive or negative social impacts. These may include exposure to undesirable materials, cyber-bullying, e-fraud, improved communication between individuals and groups, intellectual property theft, plagiarism, spamming and the global dissemination of ideas. Students are expected to discuss, where appropriate, possible solutions to a specified problem and evaluate their effectiveness.

Possible scenario

A school is considering using the internet to enhance the learning opportunities of its students. Before making a final decision it intends to obtain an outline of the different facilities available. It must also consider the potential problems of opening this “window on the world”. Where appropriate, the ITGS student should investigate different environments to experience the range of available learning opportunities. This may include research using different collaborative websites, educational websites or online sources of information.

IT concepts to address in this topic




Internet threats and security

Practical techniques

3.5Personal and public communications


Developments in technology have allowed an increasing number of mobile devices to be developed that enable people to communicate anytime, anyplace, anywhere. There is a wealth of information available to society that can be accessed on demand and has changed the way in which people behave.

It is important that the ITGS student is able to discuss the social impacts and ethical issues related to these technologies. These may include the health implications of mobile devices, unauthorized access to wireless networks, interception of communications, storage of personal communications for security purposes, and tracking of people.

Possible scenarios

Students may investigate, both theoretically and practically, the plethora of devices and means of communication that exist in contemporary society, and leading on from this research discuss how they work independently and as part of a network. Further research may lead students to weigh up the benefits and drawbacks of the increasing use of these devices. The ITGS student should also evaluate the potential of existing converging technologies and their compatibility and make predictions about future developments.

IT concepts to address in this topic



3.6Multimedia/digital media


Multimedia/digital media involves the use and integration of media (for example, text, images and graphic elements, animation, sound and music, and video) to create digital products that are available online or offline.

This topic introduces ITGS students to the technologies that make information accessible through different media and online services. It is important that the ITGS student is aware of the actual uses of multimedia/digital media and, bearing in mind the emphasis on practical work in this topic, has practised using the tools in order to be able to evaluate their effectiveness in various scenarios.

Multimedia/digital media raises questions about a range of impacts, issues and solutions that the ITGS student must investigate, including copyright, intellectual property, and current practices and policies used to grant permission for use.

Possible scenario

A school would like to create a print yearbook with an online version. The print version would contain only text and photos. The online version would also include audio, video and multimedia files. The yearbook team is also considering burning the website version on to a DVD and including it in the back of the printed version of the yearbook. A number of factors need to be considered in producing the print yearbook, the website and the DVD. These are:

IT concepts to address in this topic

Theoretical concepts

Data collection

Product development



Graphics, images and animations



Integrating the components

Generic techniques

Word processing and desktop publishing (DTP)

Interactive multimedia, slideshows and websites



Databases lie at the heart of most IT systems whether in businesses, organizations or other institutions. Databases enable organizations to maintain accurate and comprehensive records. In order to appreciate the role that databases play, the ITGS student must have an understanding of how they work, which can only be gained from the design and creation of basic relational databases as well as by examining how databases are used in specified scenarios (for instance, schools, retail stores, online shopping, online reservations).

The increasing use of databases raises a range of social impacts and ethical issues such as the rights of individuals with respect to the storage and potential sale of their personal data or the ease of data mining and data matching. Students are expected to discuss these issues and, where appropriate, evaluate possible solutions.

Possible scenario

A vet requires information about pet owners and their pets. The ITGS student must be able to develop an original IT solution to meet the vet’s needs. This knowledge should be acquired through a practical activity where the student creates a (minimum) three-table relational database (first normal form only) that uses queries to interrogate the data, forms to enable the easy input and viewing of data, and reports to provide printed information as required.

IT concepts to address in this topic

Database organization


Data storage and access

Practical database techniques

3.8Spreadsheets, modelling and simulations


The increasing capabilities of computers have allowed individuals and organizations to develop software that can be used to test “what-if” scenarios and create simulations and models of real-world events.

Spreadsheets, through the use of worksheets and graphs, can be used to manage, predict using a series of “what-if” scenarios, and display financial details of businesses.

Modelling and simulations can be used to recreate or predict the conditions that may result from an event, for example, the areas that will be affected by coastal flooding as a result of different levels of global warming.

It is important that the ITGS student is aware of the benefits of creating accurate spreadsheets, models and simulations as well as the social impacts that could result from simulations being unable to replicate the real world, and the ethical issues that may arise during the development of the model.

Possible scenarios

Students are expected to carry out practical activities using spreadsheets, for example, the development of a spreadsheet that allows a teacher to add marks from a class test so as to generate information such as the grade for the test.

Students are expected to use modelling and simulations to reinforce their theoretical knowledge, and to apply the ITGS triangle to a range of real-life scenarios.

IT concepts to address in this topic

Theoretical and practical concepts for spreadsheets

Modelling and simulation technologies and considerations

Developing and using models and simulations

3.9Introduction to project management


All IT development requires a management method. Knowledge and understanding of the product development life cycle (PDLC) should be used as a framework to develop an IT solution for the internal assessment. It is recommended that this topic is covered before students start work on the project.

IT concepts to address in this topic

Theoretical fundamentals

The product development life cycle (PDLC)

Practical techniques

HL extension

3.10 IT systems in organizations


This topic builds on the concepts introduced in “Introduction to project management” and provides students with a more in-depth understanding of the development of IT systems.

Most organizations, at some stage in their development, require the introduction of a new IT system as well as the maintenance and eventual retirement of their current systems. The ability of the organization to manage this change can determine the future viability of the organization.

Students should consider the interrelationship between stakeholders, IT systems, data, processes and policies, which provides the framework for the different project management approaches needed in order to accomplish the specified task. For example, students should research real examples of the role of IT professionals who maintain legacy or develop new IT systems, to reinforce the theoretical concepts addressed in this topic.

Possible scenarios

Students may take the development of their internal assessment as a starting point for the application of the theoretical and practical aspects of this topic. This may take the form of producing a Gantt chart to indicate the stages in the development of the solution, on the agreed date, or how differing methodologies may lead to variations in the completion of tasks.

Other scenarios may include a city government that wishes to introduce an improved IT system to provide a more secure and effective method of record keeping in its public libraries. This would include the replacement of the storage area network (SAN) to accommodate the increased amount of data requiring archiving, along with the need to provide a disaster recovery system.

IT concepts to address in this topic

Information systems, people and teams

The system development life cycle (SDLC)

Project management issues

3.11Robotics, artificial intelligence and expert systems


The increasing capability of IT systems has allowed developers to implement systems that attempt to understand and imitate human behaviour. These systems have already had profound effects on society, although their effectiveness is largely determined by the accuracy of the algorithms that underpin them.

The increasing use of robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and expert systems raises a range of ethical issues. For example, at which point should humans hand over key decision-making to a computer? Should robots have the same rights as humans? What social impacts might arise with the replacement of human workers or the creation of smart weapons?

Possible scenario

A hospital administrator is considering using a computer-controlled robotic device to assist with knee surgery. The robotic system models the patient’s knee area prior to surgery. During the procedure the robot is controlled by the surgeon using a joystick. The system eliminates the effects of tremors in the surgeon’s hands and limits the range of movement of the cutter to areas of the knee that have been predetermined by the model. Although there are claims that the surgery is less invasive and patients have a shorter recovery time, questions may be raised about the reliability and the cost of the system.

IT concepts to address in this topic


Artificial intelligence

Expert systems

Applications of robotics, artificial intelligence and expert systems

3.12Information systems specific to the annually issued case study

Additional subject content may be introduced as part of the annually issued case study. The additional terms will be listed as an appendix in the case study.