Site Visit: March 2014 Report: August 2014

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1 Attachment 5 Review of the Bachelor s of Science in Information Science and Technology Academic Program and Curriculum Committee Committee: Dave Clark, Associate Professor of English (Chair) Tian Zhao, Computer Science, Associate Professor Priya Nambisan, Health Informatics & Administration, Assistant Professor Site Visit: March 2014 Report: August 2014 Introduction This review of the Bachelor s of Science in Information Science and Technology (BSIST) was conducted in the spring of 2014 and included review of the self study, a site visit with students, alumni, academic staff, faculty, and administration on March 26, The BSIST is the only bachelor s program offered by the School of Information Studies (SOIS), although within the BSIST SOIS also offers a Health Care Informatics Certificate, and collaborates with L&S and the Peck School in offering the Digital Arts and Culture Certificate and with the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare in offering a Crime Analysis Specialization. The BSIST was last reviewed in 2004, when it was a degree in Information Resources. In the years since, the program acquired the BSIST name (in consultation with alumni and the private sector), better representing the program s curriculum and competencies. The program has also seen significant growth; the 2004 report noted a downward trend in enrollments, but the program has successfully reversed this trend. In 2007, they graduated 34 students. In 2013, they graduated 87, and the BSIST became the College s largest program, overtaking the MLIS. They plan to increase enrollments significantly in the near future, aiming for BSIST enrollments of 800 by 2020 by increasing the numbers of incoming first year students, Flex students, and transfers from two year programs and international universities. In addition the program anticipates creating specialized tracks within the BSIST (e.g., information security, mobile applications). This sort of growth will of course require an expansion of faculty and other resources, and program leaders also anticipate the need to change the curriculum in response to student needs and to the profession. Accreditation & Review There is no accrediting body that focuses on information studies at the undergraduate level. The APCC s 2004 review of the program (attached with this report) made a number of recommendations, many of which have since been addressed or are no longer relevant, including recommendations to revamp internship placements, increase faculty travel budgets, examine their advising ratios, and install air conditioning. Virtually all of

2 the recommendations in that report have been addressed, in part through the switch to the BSIST format. Faculty Standard A: Faculty and Instructional Academic Staff are qualified and in sufficient numbers to provide relevant quality learning experiences We find that the BSIST has sufficient qualified staff to provide quality learning experiences. The School of Information Studies currently employs 26 full time faculty members (40% of time is dedicated to teaching) and 9 full time Teaching Academic Staff (100% dedicated to teaching). Tenure track faculty have a relevant Ph.D., a promising research agenda, an expectation of service, and the potential to achieve excellence in teaching. Teaching Academic Staff whose CVs we were able to review all had at least an M.A. in the field along with substantial practical and teaching experience. In addition, SOIS employs adjunct instructors to teach in their areas of expertise on topics not within the areas of expertise found within the SOIS faculty; each adjunct is approved by the SOIS Executive Committee to teach specific courses. Standard B: At least 25% of tenure/tenure track faculty time is committed to the undergraduate program It is clear that the BSIST is at or very near this standard. At the time of the 2004 review, SOIS had 15 full time faculty members. 7 of those faculty members have moved on to other things, but SOIS has replaced all 7 and in addition created 11 new faculty positions; they now have a total of 26. Of the 26 full time faculty members employed by SOIS, 9 teach primarily in the undergraduate program, a number that has recently increased due to the growth of the BSIST. Given that the faculty teach a standard 2/2 load (with the exception of those with external appointments, like Provost Johannes Britz), faculty teach roughly 50 sections per semester, meaning that the 9 who work primarily in BSIST would need to offer only 12.5 sections to meet the standard. Students Standard: There are adequate numbers of qualified students for meaningful cohorts to meet learning objectives. The growth in the in BSIST program over the past few years has led to the possibility of meaningful cohorts, and the students we spoke to during the review talked at length about the sense of community and belonging in BSIST, and of a school culture that was very welcoming, in contrast to degree programs in which they had begun their UWM careers. Students also spoke highly of the smaller class sizes than in other schools, and of the personal attention available from instructors and advisors. Everyone we talked to (faculty, staff, students, and administrators) spoke in glowing terms of BSIST advising, which plays a critical role in BSIST s high rates of retention (88%) and student success. SOIS s high advisor/student ratio allows for extra attention to be given to at risk students, and programs initiated by the advisors, including peer BSIST Review August 2014 Page 2

3 tutoring and proactive advising (contacting students when needed, monitoring grades, and using the Early Warning System) have proved successful. Curriculum A. There is an organized and coherent sequence of course work that prepares students to meet the educational goals of the program, secure appropriate employment, and pursue graduate study. BSIST students are admitted directly to the School for Information Studies upon matriculation to UWM, and have only two sequencing requirements they must follow in completing their degrees: All required upper division INFOST competencies must be completed prior to the INFOST 490 capstone experience. Math and English proficiency must be completed by the end of the second semester of enrollment. Students are then granted significant flexibility in how they structure their coursework and the courses they choose; further, they have significant opportunities to take both online and face to face courses. And while there are not numerous individual sequencing requirements, the curriculum as a whole requires students to take courses across five categories of competencies in order to become competent across the BSIST s long list of expectations for them. The full list of competencies is in the BSIST self study; here are the larger categories under which those competencies fall. Area I General Education Distribution Competencies* Area II IST Core Competencies Area III IST Upper Division Competencies Area IV IST Cross Functional Competencies Area V General Elective Competencies equivalent to 21 cr equivalent to 27 cr equivalent to 15 cr equivalent to 15 cr equivalent to 42 cr Students are free to select courses that meet their interests so long as they also satisfy these competencies, which include an impressive array of recommended elective courses. Many students select courses that lead them to one of three unique areas of focus within the larger BSIST domain, and the program is seeking approval for these foci (information science, information architecture, and information technology) to become formal transcript designations. B. Learning outcomes reflect expected workforce competencies. SOIS as a whole and the BSIST program in particular have links with area corporations and nonprofits, as well as a number of adjuncts who bring in the workplace perspective as full time workers in the field. As a result, the program is able to and does update competencies, courses, and requirements as employer needs evolve. Their balanced approach to providing academic and employer based perspectives throughout their curriculum can be seen in their statement of program outcomes: BSIST Review August 2014 Page 3

4 The objective of the undergraduate curriculum in Information Science and Technology is to create graduates who are: Highly skilled in software applications and Web 2.0 technologies Cognizant of the role that information plays in society Dedicated to providing a link between people and the information resources and systems they need Active in research that is pushing information in new directions Specialists in the ethics and theory of information dissemination Adaptable to the information needs of businesses, organizations, and institutions Further, their interest in providing students with critical workplace skills can be seen in detail in their full list of competencies for the program (included in their self study), which includes many competencies selected specifically for their ability to help students Function effectively in the role of information and technology professional. Resources The BSIST program has enviable resources, in many respects: A. For assisting students. The BSIST has two full time academic advisors, in addition to a half time placement officer who will help students identify off campus placements for fieldwork, internships, and practicums. Their ratio of students to advisors is the best on campus, and their advisors provide significant walk in hours and are also available via phone, Skype, and other tools. SOIS also offers these students free access to tutoring, with 12 open tutoring times and the option to schedule additional meetings outside of those times. Students also have access to a wide range of technology resources, including labs, mobile labs, free color printing, LAMP web development space, and many others. SOIS also has a number of well funded scholarships available for its students. B. To provide for program stability. SOIS has significant budgetary resources, which have grown substantially in each of the last seven years (see their self report for a budget summary). In fact, they have been able to provide significant technology, travel, and research funds for their faculty and instructional staff, and have resources on hand for a major renovation of their permanent space in the NWQ. It does also seem likely, however, that in the event that enrollments continue to grow at their present rate, the program will need to invest in new faculty (and possibly advisors and instructional staff) in order to support the demand while maintaining the quality of BSIST Review August 2014 Page 4

5 their offerings. C. For facilities and space within the university. In addition, while the BSIST program is offered online, BSIST students also represent the most significant portion of the on campus SOIS student population, and space is at a premium. An important part of the continued growth of the BSIST will be acquiring additional space for classrooms, new faculty, new instructional labs, and collaboration. Evaluation A. An evaluation process that involves students, faculty, graduates, and community members, as appropriate, is in place and the data gathered is used to monitor the program and direct its changes. SOIS relies on several methods of evaluation and gathering feedback: SOIS uses the university wide course evaluation procedures, and the results are reviewed by the Dean and the Executive Committee. Faculty and teaching academic staff are reviewed annually. Students serve on all SOIS committees SOIS tracks graduates using exit interviews and alumni surveys. They also periodically conduct focus groups to see how graduates are doing and how their degree helped them with their professional goals. B and C. 90% of students complete the program within 5 years. 75% of graduates have satisfactory employment within1 year of graduation. At this point, the program doesn t have actual statistics for these, but anecdotal information, informal data, and observations suggest that the program is hitting those marks. The program s plans to revamp their evaluation strategies will mean better data in the near future and during the next review cycle. D. Relevant credential, if any, achieved within 1 year of graduation. Not applicable. Summary and Recommendations Overall, the BSIST is a very strong, growing degree program that we think rightly anticipates significant additional growth. Their students are happy with the rich experiences and resources provided by the program and are finding that their degrees translate well into the workplace. The program is led by an engaged, active administration and by faculty with active research agendas. The program also provides some of the best mentoring, advising, and support on campus, and prepares students for roles in a growing sector of our economy. In short, we have only a handful of recommendations for the program: Increase formal evaluation. In the BSIST self study, they note that they plan to improve their program evaluation; we agree that this should be a priority, BSIST Review August 2014 Page 5

6 although the program is already well positioned in comparison to its peers around the campus. The WEAVE system and other available tools will make it possible for the program to gather more robust and comprehensive data. Build and enrich industry relationships. An important part of program evaluation is the involvement of industry experts. While the BSIST does include industry specialists in its teaching staff and the program indicates that updates to its curriculum are tied to academic staff knowledge of industry trends, coverage of this in our interviews and in the self study were a bit spotty, and we recommend more formal relationships with nonprofits and corporations. Other programs on campus have made use of advisory boards that include community partners and organizational representatives, and these can be a great source of new collaborations and up to date information. Conduct strategic planning. This, again, is a self recommendation, already listed in the BSIST self study, but we would like to stress the importance of a renewed emphasis on planning, given the expected growth of the program. The self study suggests in a few places that the rapid growth of the program has led, for example, to forced attention to curriculum development and revision. If the program is indeed to grow by 10x in the next 5 7 years, it will need significant planning to avoid a reactive state. Develop new programs and tracks. That said, the program seems to be doing well at anticipating student and program needs, as evidenced by the fact that three of our four bullets here were generated from the self study. Students we spoke to asked for concentrations within the major, and the program is already looking to formalize some tracks. Students mentioned that they would like to see SOIS graduate opportunities beyond the current library offerings, and an MSIST is already in the works. BSIST Review August 2014 Page 6

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