Academic Program Review SUMMARY* Department under review: Computer Science. Date self-study received in Dean s office: November 21, 2013

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1 Academic Program Review SUMMARY* Department under review: Computer Science Date self-study received in Dean s office: November 21, 2013 Date of external consultant s review: November 2013 Date APR received report: January 7, 2014 APR S summary of self-study Overview/Roles: The department s stated purpose is to provide the highest possible quality of undergraduate- and graduate-level degree programs in computer science and software engineering. The undergraduate program emphasizes software development and includes a broad collection of sub-discipline-themed electives. The graduate program concentrates on technology transfer between academia and industry. The department offers a major and minor in Computer Science, both of which are offered with a Teacher Certification variant. The Department also offers a Master s of Software Engineering degree. Additionally, they offer a five-year Computer Science B.S./Master of Software Engineering dual degree, a Computer Science B.S./Computer Engineering or Electrical Engineering B.S. dual degree in which the engineering work is completed at UW- Madison, and a track in which students enrolled in the Western Technical College Electrical Engineering Technology program transfer to UWL and complete a B.S degree in Computer Science. From 2006 to 2012 the Department averaged about 120 Computer Science majors, and 37 Master s students. The number of Computer Science majors has increased slightly over the past six years. Over this time, approximately 20 students per year graduated with a B.S degree in Computer Science, while 23 per year graduated with a Software Engineering Master s degree. APR s comments including: Notable Strengths: The department continues to be successful in attracting a number of undergraduate and graduate students that is consistent with national trends. Computer science graduates have a 100% employment rate in jobs related to the major; students have offers of employment prior to or shortly after graduation. In , 51 computer science majors received credit for paid internship experiences, a number twice that of any other department in the College of Science and Health.

2 The software development capstone project completed by MSE students is often sponsored by an employer and directly related to the needs of a business. Successful capstones and employer satisfaction are primary evidence that the MSE program is well designed and meets large-scale software development needs. There is ample evidence of the department successfully improving and adapting its curriculum and pedagogy based on the results of systematic assessment. The department is committed to adjusting the MSE program toward areas of emerging significance, new practices, and applications in industry. The reputation of the MSE program attracts a significant number of international students each year, in addition to current contract programs with the South Central University for Nationalities (SCUN) and Wuhan University. Notable Weaknesses: A continuing problem at the time of the self-study involved MTH 225 (Mathematical Logic). CS majors would ideally take the course early in their careers to benefit their study of software design. A prerequisite for MTH 225 has been MTH 207 (Calculus I). Unfortunately, this puts MTH 225 too late in the sequence to be of real benefit, so CS must introduce concepts as needed in CS 120 & 220. The Department describes a continuing concern over a lack of support for CS regarding the operation and administration of CS equipment. Self Study: Purposes The department states that: 1) it sets course requirements at or above the levels established by professional organizations and recognized accreditation boards; 2) it maintains topical diversity through a broad range of course offerings; 3) it connects in-class material with ideas from other disciplines and activities; 4) it prepares students to work in modern computing (by enabling them to employ current ideas, up-to-date technologies and strong engineering principles) or for graduate study (by giving them facility with fundamental principles, practices and core intellectual tools); 5) it provides students with accessible academic advising that allows them to make informed choices about course selection and degree progress; 6) it hires, retains and promotes well-qualified faculty dedicated to teaching and maintaining an active program of scholarship; and 7) it provides a service curriculum that meets the General Education program goals, is accessible to a broad audience, and illuminates concepts and principles of computing and their application to diverse disciplines. The department s strength and reputation comes from its strong undergraduate curriculum which is built around a coherent set of core course requirements combined with a broad array of electives. The MSE program is known for its focus on transferring

3 academic knowledge in software engineering to practical application in industrial settings. These strong curricular programs are the product of a committed faculty. Self Study: Curriculum Majors/Minors: The Computer Science Major requires the completion of 41 credits in Computer Science with 13 credits of requirements in Mathematics, including two semesters of calculus. The Computer Science Major includes a core curriculum of 5 courses, and multiple elective choices from 10 sub-disciplines. The major is also offered with a Teacher Certification variant available in conjunction with the standard teacher education program; this variant reduces the credit load to 39 and replaces an upper-level CS course with MTH 421 (Teaching and Learning Mathematics and Computer Science in the Secondary School). A 20-credit Computer Science Minor and Teacher Certification variant are offered. The department also offers the Masters of Software Engineering degree. The program requires eight courses (five core and three electives) and a 12-credit capstone project for a total of 36 credits. The program is structured to be completed in two years, but returning professional progress at an individual pace. The department offers a 5-year track for completing the B.S. in CS and MSE degrees. Students in this track begin taking graduate courses in their senior year and complete coursework and the MSE capstone project in their fifth year. A dual degree engineering option for computer science majors includes the core CS sequence together with course work in Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics. Upon completing the UW-L coursework, students may transfer into the engineering program at Madison in either computer engineering or electrical engineering. At the completion of the dual-degree program students receive two B.S. degrees. Computer Engineering Technology Emphasis: The department offers a 2+2 track for students in the Electrical Engineering Technology program at Western Technical College. Students with an associate degree from this program are able to complete the B.S. in computer science at UWL in two years. The department has been the offering home for the Computational Science Minor, but the department does not currently offer courses for the program. Self Study: Assessment of Student Learning & Degree of Program Success

4 For the Computer Science Major, the department has established general student learning outcomes for the major, and more specific learning outcomes tied to sets of courses grouped by topic. The course groups and outcomes correspond closely to the components of the Major Field Test employed by the department for assessment. The department also has an established set of student learning outcomes for the Master of Software Engineering program. The primary assessment tool for the Computer Science Major is the Computer Science Major Field Test, an exam used annually by 175 computer science programs in the U.S. In the spring of 2012, UWL computer science students ranked in the 81 st percentile. In three sub-areas of the exam, UWL students ranked at the 86 th, 74 th, and 76 th percentiles. UWL Computer Science students have performed at this level consistently over recent years. The Department also constantly re-evaluates student performance in the initial three-course software design sequence. Other indicators of program success include a 100% employment rate in jobs related to the major, numerous students obtaining paid internships, and several students per year choosing to pursue Ph.D. programs. The Master of Software Engineering program includes a 12 credit software development project. Typically, these projects are sponsored by the employer of the student, or a local business that has approached the Department in need of software development. The success of these capstone projects and the satisfaction of the employers are primary evidence that the MSE program is well designed and successfully meeting the needs of large scale software development. Employers who have been involved in these projects are anxious to hire graduates of the MSE program. Additionally some projects are theoretical in nature and, judging by acceptance rates of abstracts at regional or international conferences, these have also been successful. Self Study: Previous Academic Program Review and New Program Initiatives The department was reviewed by APR in 2007 and listed the following recommendations: 1. Establish more defined student learning outcomes. 2. Strengthen C-S 101 by working to restore staffing following previous staff cuts. 3. Continue to advocate for a restoration of multi-year IAS appointments. 4. Explore more ways to recruit new students. 5. Closely monitor the balance between the MSE program and the UG major. 6. Consider ways to revive the Computational Science minor. Most of these recommendations have been addressed by the department.

5 In response to Recommendation #1, the department has reworked its Department Goals and Objectives document by re-formulating the programmatic outcomes for the major and by creating a statement on the department s purpose in offering CS degree programs and the principles used in fulfilling that purpose. In response to Recommendation #2, the department explains that it has taken a new approach to its general education offering, which is now CT 100, a course that focuses on principles and ideas about computing that arise from computer science. In response to the restoration of staffing following previous staff cuts, the department notes that CT 100 is taught by tenure-track faculty because the department no longer utilizes academic staff. In response to Recommendation #3, the department states that this issue was resolved by the Department no longer having IAS positions, and by the University allowing multi-year contracts for IAS. In response to Recommendation #4, the department describes having limited means for directly recruiting students, but cites involvement in local career fairs and with local area high school teachers, as well as the piloting of CS 120 in local high schools. In response to Recommendation #5, the department provides examples of the value it places on its undergraduate programs. All members of the department, except for the director of the graduate program, contribute to both the undergraduate and graduate programs (including capstone project supervision). Additionally, the department believes that the 5-year track has had a positive impact on connecting students in the two programs. In response to Recommendation #6, the department cites an interest in reviving the Computational Science minor but asserts that it has lacked the time to propose a restructured program. Self Study: Personnel In the last three years the department has hired five new faculty with the two most recent starting in fall The department now consists of 10.5 tenure track faculty and one ADA. Two previous IAS positions were converted to tenure track because it proved difficult to hire individuals with appropriate credentials at the available IAS salaries. Self Study: Support for Achieving Academic Program Goals (Resources) A. Physical Facilities Since the last review the department has begun operating a number of special purpose computing devices and servers. Located in the Computer Science Lab, the department operates a 16 node cluster that serves as both a computer cluster using grid engine and as a visualization wall. The department also operates a cluster of 4 servers that

6 provide the ability to host 128 virtual machines. The department receives some support from a member of ITS to administer the Computer Science Lab workstations, but the allocation of time from ITS is very small. As the department operates an increasing number of special purpose servers and clusters, it will be essential to increase staff support for deploying and maintaining systems. Currently, faculty commit the time required to perform this work because it is essential to creating interesting opportunities for our students. If these tasks continue to fall on faculty, this will limit the amount of time available for other activities. The department competes for access to necessary classrooms and argues that better access to facilities would enhance introductory courses. Additionally, the department operates a growing number of server systems without an adequate location to house these systems. B. Supplies and Equipment (S&E) Since the last review period the department received some additional S&E funding through the GQ&A program. The availability of startup funds for new faculty to support their research has become consistent; the department believes that this, together with the early-start program for new faculty, has improved its ability to recruit high-quality faculty. In this same period, the campus use of classroom and laboratory modernization funds has also changed: the replacement of equipment in the Computer Science Lab was previously handled through laboratory modernization proposals, but this has been funded directly by the college for the last few years. External Reviewer Recommendations APR s Comments on External Reviewer The department was reviewed by the external program reviewer in The following is a list of major academic concerns/recommendations from the external reviewer: #1. Untenured faculty should be limited in the number of MSE student projects they supervise. #2. The CS department should plan an all-day retreat possibly at the end of the academic year to give in-depth consideration to their undergraduate curriculum. They should ask themselves both what they do well and where changes should be made. Modifications to the curriculum can follow as time permits. #3. Instructors in multi-section courses should consider how to collaborate more fully, both to save work and to learn from each other. #4. The CS department at UW-La Crosse needs a professional system administrator responsive to its needs and who reports to the Chair of the CS department.

7 #5. The CS department, with possible intervention from the Dean, if needed, should work with ITS to find a permanent home for the current high performance computing equipment and any future equipment the department obtains. #6. Expand the CS lab hours to the building hours. #7. The CS department should work to establish a laptop lounge or similar space for their students. Department s response to the Reviewer Recommendations APR s Comments on the Department s Response In response to recommendation #1, the department completely concurs; new faculty will have the opportunity to participate in capstone project supervision but not at a level that detracts from their other activities. In response to recommendation #2, the department explains that it routinely reviews, vigorously debates, and continues to review its curriculum. The department cites examples of course creation, evaluation and introduction of new coursework in several emerging areas of importance. The department also explains that legacy courses remain in place because of deliberate choice and not neglect, noting that these sub-disciplines have contributed important ideas that continue to influence computer science. In response to recommendation #3, the department understands and concurs, stating that they already do everything that the external reviewer recommends here to a greater extent than may have been evident to the reviewer during his visit. They are aware that they need to regularly address this issue as new faculty join the department. In response to recommendation #4, the department concurs, but notes that they have encountered significant problems using ITS managed classrooms (due to software not having been installed and configured in a timely manner, workstations not being configured identically, and unreliable connection to the data projectors).the department argues that these problems have been frequently reported and ITS has attempted some repairs but problems remain. The department asserts that this could be solved by better coordination of the resources in ITS. Additionally, ITS is staffed and organized to serve the needs of the campus at large, but the CS department has needs that extend far beyond normal activities, and to support these needs, it operates a variety of systems that require unique skills, problem solving abilities and a significant commitment of time. In response to recommendation #5, The department concurs, explaining that they have requested that ITS allow all three CS server racks to be located in the ITS machine room, which is designed for such equipment with appropriate power and ventilation. The department states that ITS has expressed concerns about this and no solution has been found so far.

8 In response to recommendation #6, the department merely states that it concurs and is working on ways to increase the number of available hours. In response to recommendation #7, the department explains that a portion of the CS lab is used for this purpose but this is not ideal since it cannot be used for this purpose when classes are also utilizing the lab. The department understands that space on campus is currently at a high premium given the increase in faculty and that this situation is not likely to improve until the Cowley and Wittich Hall projects are completed. Dean s Letter APR s Comments on Dean s Letter The Dean noted: That the Department of Computer Science has a strong commitment to teaching excellence and the engagement of well-qualified faculty who, as teachers and scholars, are genuinely interested in the needs and success of their students. The curricular content of the program is both current and relevant, being kept up-todate through faculty scholarship as well as by faculty participation in state and national conferences. Overall, the internal and external review of the program is extremely positive, with numerous strengths and no serious weaknesses. The Dean noted that the external reviewer s report recommendations were insightful, and that the Department s response did adequately address some of the concerns. The Dean in particular commented that: Discussions have been initiated with the intent of finding solutions to the department s need for (1) a system administrator that directly reports to the department chair and (2) an appropriate, permanent home for the high- performance computing equipment. The department s self-study states that the core curriculum for the major only captures 79% of the topics included in the 2008 ACM/IEEE-CS curriculum guidelines, with another 14% covered in elective courses. The department acknowledges there are some areas within the guidelines they would like to improve, such as net-centric computing, information security and intelligent systems, but they have found that credit constraints on program size limits their ability to include such new information. The Dean concurs with the external reviewer s description of CS curricula as both current and relevant. The Dean is confident that the program will be updated as needed, and when possible, through the department s ongoing program assessment and review process.

9 APR s Recommendations Recommendations: Major: Continue discussions with the Dean and ITS to find a long term home for the current high performance computing equipment, and equipment acquired in the future Work with the Dean to address the need for a system administrator and/or other measures to resolve the lack of software and hardware support that CS has experienced Continue to monitor enrollments and graduation rates in the CS graduate program and take any steps necessary to maintain or surpass current numbers. 4. Strengthen efforts to communicate the importance of CS to the public at large, and, in the interest of Inclusive Excellence, promote student diversity among majors, minors, and graduate students. Minor: 1. Continue to develop the Computer Science course in discrete mathematics (first offered in ) to be taken in place of MTH Continue assessment of the curriculum with an eye toward including more of the 2008 ACM/IEEE-CS curriculum guidelines in the core curriculum of the CS major. X No serious areas to address review in 7 years Some areas to address review in 7 years Some areas to address assessment * APR s report to faculty senate will consist of this completed form in electronic form.

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