Results
 

Results - Findings and Recommendations

  Corpus: A large collection of writings of a specific kind or on a specific subject. A collection of writings or recorded remarks used for linguistic analysis.– Dictionary.com

Introduction
SIMS Identity
Curriculum Synergy

Continuity & Community
Online Presence


Introduction

Although a variety of methods were utilized in conducting our research, common themes emerged. At a high level, each of our findings tied back into our observation made at the beginning of this project--"more fundamental questions about the nature of SIMS and the SIMS experience have to be answered". The following findings and supporting recommendations, summarized in Table 1 on the following page, attempt to break down this overarching statement and pinpoint specific areas that can be addressed. By compartmentalizing specific findings and recommendations in this manner, the task becomes more manageable.

A committee consisting of students, faculty, and individuals from the professional community could be assigned to work on each area. These individuals would be responsible for charting a path which addresses the findings as well as leads to the implementation of the supporting recommendations or, if deemed necessary, devising a more appropriate strategy. In support, references are made to “committee members” and their involvement throughout the 15 recommendations outlined below.

Areas of Focus Findings Recommendations
Sims Identity Stakeholders have widely varying characterizations of the work being done at SIMS; this issue must be resolved prior to implement systems support the work.

1. Continue to define SIMS ‘Areas of Focus

2. Develop internal programs to develop shared meaning of SIMS experience

3. Incorporate mechanisms to publicize the work done at SIMS to external stakeholders
Curriculum Synergy
SIMS courses are distributed in an irregular manner thereby preventing connections to develop between courses and students.
4. Engage in Better Planning for Even Course Distribution

5. Accelerate Core to First Semester
a. Schedule IS 255 for the Summer prior to Admission
b. Create IS 200 Project Seminar Course

6. Add Depth to Curriculum
a. Add More Specialized Courses
b. Add Courses to Bridge Competencies

Continuity & Community
SIMS lacks a sense of community

7. Reorganize Curriculum to Support Continuity and Community

8. Participate in Professional Information Management Organizations

Information Access Much of the power of the SIMS website is lost because individuals cannot navigate or customize the content to meet their needs. 9. Develop Common Vocabulary for Describing the SIMS Corpus

10. Continue Development of Component Data Models

11. Establish Policies and Procedures for Publishing Content

Online Presence SIMS website sets unrealistic expectations regarding core teachings and does not reflect competencies. 12. Make the Work People Do at SIMS More Prominent on the Site

13. Utilize SIMS Class Projects to Enhance Aspects of SIMS Infrastructure

14. Implement uPortal as SIMS’ New Web Technology

15. Incorporate Student Projects into uPortal

 



Sims Identity 

Findings
Initially, our project set out to build a model of the SIMS Corpus. However, successive research methods revealed stakeholders have widely varying characterizations of the work the school does; an issue that must be resolved prior to implementing systems that support the work. In the absence of consensus, we set about articulating the most obvious points of convergence and divergence in people’s opinions about the SIMS identity. Organizational identity, or the distinguishing characteristics for which an organization is known, is derived from the image projected externally, how that image is perceived, and the expectations that image creates. We sought to quantify these different dimensions through the research methods we used.

Recommendations
The purpose and expertise of the SIMS educational experience must be clearly articulated and subsequently publicized in order to develop a strong identity for the school. This identity should be developed in collaboration with faculty, students, administration and staff. Once agreement is reached on the core components of that identity, internal and external mechanisms should be in place to support the ongoing development of the SIMS identity.

1. Continue to define SIMS ‘Areas of Focus’
We applaud and recommend SIMS’ faculty and administration continue with its recent effort to define its ‘Areas of Focus.’ It is a task that must be undertaken with the recognition that the people at SIMS are leaders in this area of thought and may have to create a definition where no agreement exists. Students perceive competencies to be clustered into two large groups: Usability and User Interface Design , which can be extended to Human Computer Interaction (HCI), and Document Engineering and Information Architecture . These competencies were also reflected in our analysis of degree tracks, which revealed students have taken courses that clustered around these disciplines. Optimally, competencies would develop such that a natural synergy between areas would breed courses and projects that could serve the ends of students and professors in each area. As needs in the field change over time, the supporting committee members would be aware of current developments and identify ways SIMS’ competencies might need to shift and change in order to retain their relevance.

2. Develop internal programs to develop shared meaning of SIMS experience
Cognitive unity around SIMS’ mission should be mirrored by tangible opportunities for dialogue between students and faculty about information issues that cross the bounds of competency areas. Ideally, internal mechanisms, such as seminars, would be put in place to discuss and collaborate on faculty and student research. The two case studies below describe how other diverse programs have accomplished this task. SIMS could incorporate these ideas by utilizing what has traditionally been the SIMposium in a similar manner; faculty could choose a theme each semester or year that corresponds to one or more of their research areas. And, in order to ensure each of SIMS core competencies are addressed, the committee assigned to this area could take responsibility for planning two SIMposiums a year (e.g. one per semester).

3. Incorporate mechanisms to publicize the work done at SIMS to external stakeholders
Currently, student research and projects are available via the course website in which the work was done or the students’ personal websites, if at all. These projects and papers are often impressive examples of the nature of the work done at SIMS and should be made available via the public SIMS website. Setting aside an area on the site to showcase current work being done at SIMS would help to reinforce the identity of SIMS. Making this possible may require that professors change the format in which assignments are submitted, however, here again committee members assigned to this area could help chart the direction. For example they could devise a process by which content is regularly gathered and updated. The resulting work could be highlighted on a specific area of the SIMS site or directed towards sites, such as the CDE, which are linked to the main SIMS site.


Curriculum Synergy

Findings
As a professional program, SIMS graduates should possess an understanding of their field and the value of their skill set. A curriculum with a logical coherency between areas of concentration/competence would provide a framework for students to inform their interests. The core courses would provide the essential skills in each area of competency so that students receive a common foundation in the necessary terminology, techniques, and skills to succeed after graduation. Successive courses and projects in concentration areas would allow specialization in a defined area of competency.

Recommendations
4. Engage in Better Planning for Even Course Distribution
Balancing the number of non-core courses offered in the Fall and Spring semesters would go great lengths in alleviating this issue, giving students more of an opportunity to specialize and take the classes they are interested in taking. We recommend the supporting committee members institute feedback loops from students and professors, which would serve to reveal issues around class scheduling. In addition, we suggest tighter collaboration with industry to determine the skill sets they require of students, and then incorporate those requirements into new, existing, and/or advanced courses.

5. Accelerate Core to First Semester
By accelerating the core classes, students could complete SIMS’ core teachings during their first semester, freeing them to specialize and/or take more classes of interest. "Because most students have almost their entire first year prescripted with core courses, it prohibits them from taking advantage of SIMS' interdisciplinary nature and taking other classes of interest within or outside of SIMS."

  • 5a. Schedule IS 255 for the Summer prior to Admission
    To ensure students can finish the core in the first semester, we recommend scheduling IS 255 as a summer session. This serves to accelerate the core and allow students the opportunity to take more of the classes they want.
  • 5b. Create IS 200 Project Seminar Course
    We advocate creating a project based studio class where incoming students are assigned to interdisciplinary teams based on their backgrounds. Team members will work together throughout the semester to produce a single final project deliverable that incorporates the different teachings of the various core classes.

6. Add Depth to Curriculum
Our interviews and casual conversation revealed this as a pressing need. We suggest adding advanced courses that build upon the teachings of more introductory courses. Committee members responsible for this area could utilize the feedback loops mentioned previously to identify advanced topics which would positively contribute to the SIMS curriculum. As a starting point, our research identified two types of courses that might be needed.

  • 6a. Add More Specialized Courses
    This recommendation may require hiring of lecturers who have professional practitioner knowledge, but as the School of Information Management & Systems, more advanced classes such as the web services course are needed in this and other core areas to build the SIMS skill set and further the reputation of the school.
  • 6b. Add Courses to Bridge Competencies
    Another suggestion is to add courses that bridge competencies. In other words, develop courses that combine and integrate related disciplines in order to give students a more complete understanding of their field of study.

Continuity and Community

Findings
As briefly mentioned in the Curriculum Synergy section, our research revealed that one of the major issues with the curriculum is minimal continuity between first and second year Master’s students. In other words, students spend nearly their entire first year at South Hall, while second year students virtually abandon the building during the fall, only returning in the spring to complete their final projects. [Figure 1, Figure 2, Figure 3]

Recommendations
7. Reorganize Curriculum to Support Continuity and Community
This recommendation correlates closely with the first two Curriculum Synergy recommendations, namely engaging in course planning and consolidating the core curriculum to the first semester. Because students are beholden to the core for virtually their entire first year, and second year students tend to take the majority of their courses outside of South Hall in the fall of their second year, there is a limited timeframe for interaction between classes of students. By retaining second year students at South Hall in the fall, first year students have more opportunity to utilize the second year students as a resource to help navigate the SIMS experience. Additionally, by consolidating the core curriculum to the first semester, first year students can begin taking advanced courses in the spring, as well as participate in Master’s projects. First years could benefit from the experience of having been on a final project; many students had no idea of the scope, structure, or content of a final project until they were well into their projects. Moreover, by collaborating with the graduating class, first years will become familiar with and help to establish and develop a shared meaning for the SIMS experience, which is essential for establishing the SIMS identity.

8. Participate in Professional Information Management Organizations
Augmenting the SIMS experience with opportunities for exposure to practitioners and cutting edge research will provide students with a broader context for understanding the skills they acquire at SIMS. The committee members assigned to this area would implement programs such as funding students to attend and present at conferences, and the school can host for meetings of local organizations such as BayCHI. Many opportunities such as these exist to facilitate a dialogue between students and the larger Information Management community.


Information Access

Findings
Currently, many user communities--students, faculty, prospective students, potential employers, and the general public--utilize the public and password protected web interfaces to access information on the SIMS web site. While the site contains a wealth of information, much of the power is lost because individuals cannot navigate or customize the content to meet their needs. This type of information delivery architecture results in three key trends:

  • SIMS’ most important content, namely course and project information, is stored on the SIMS network as individual informational artifacts that are not searchable.
  • Instructors use various means and data formats for communicating important information to students. Hence, students create individualized mechanisms to track academic information.
  • Adding or updating information to the official SIMS website requires approval by multiple sources, ultimately belaboring the posting of fresh content.

Recommendation
Improving the findability of information within the SIMS Corpus requires processes and data formats for common tasks such as managing course and project information be standardized. Since staff resources are limited at SIMS, consideration should be given to using student projects as a means to develop the various models, applications, and interfaces necessary to improve access to informational resources.

9. Develop Common Vocabulary for Describing the SIMS Corpus
Once areas of competence have been defined, they must be institutionalized by being incorporated into the SIMS taxonomy and system infrastructure. A common vocabulary must be used for describing the content of SIMS courses and academic resources in order to create a shared meaning for the work that is done at SIMS. Furthermore, a SIMS ontology ensures people have the same conceptual idea in mind when discussing a specific topic, which serves to ensure the school and students have a common language for describing and retrieving the information needed.

10. Continue Development of Component Data Models
Once a formal taxonomy is developed, it needs to be systematically applied to the business processes within SIMS. The common tasks and processes at SIMS, such as producing course materials and project documentation, must be modeled so that systems can be deployed to simplify the management of the information lifecycle. Systematic use of the ontology and models will also enable better monitoring of resources and help to identify gaps in course and program offerings. For instance, if the ontology is used across information type, a single search could identify what courses teach which topics. It could also identify trends in student research and interests which could in turn inform curriculum decisions.

11. Establish Policies and Procedures for Publishing Content
The final step in realizing an improved information architecture is developing policies and procedures for how SIMS related content will be published. Many tools, such as Wiki’s and RSS feeds, already exist to support the easy creation of web-delivered content. But, before these can be used to assist in the creation of SIMS content, guidelines as to the type and nature of content that can be published must be created. The guidelines should be informed by faculty, students, and staff to ensure that the resulting content and procedures serve SIMS’ core stakeholders.


Online Presence

Findings
Nearly fifty percent of SIMS students found the school through the Internet, highlighting the increasingly important role the website plays as a face to the world. However, the website seems to be giving students unrealistic expectations.

“Having outdated degree tracks on the website that don’t really reflect what is going on in the school is shameful—along the lines of false advertising. They definitely gave me a different vision about what the school would be about than what it actually is.”

Furthermore, as the School of Information Management & Systems, it is vital the website incorporate and reflect some of the school’s core teachings. Rather, our primary presence on the Internet is a relatively simple website with no discernible structure and glaringly deficient in terms of good UI Design practices, two of the school’s recognized areas of strength. Information vital to defining and marketing the identity of SIMS, namely student projects, instead of being linked prominently from the site, is often buried and difficult locate.

Recommendations
Currently, some prospective students and employers may question SIMS’ authority as the School of Information Management & Systems after viewing its website. Implementing flexible robust web technologies that incorporate good UI design principles, in addition to prominently featuring SIMS work, will give these populations a more realistic idea of what the school is about. Furthermore, as the school’s primary face to the world, the website serves to brand SIMS in the minds of its audience, whether consciously or not, and thus must be fundamentally redesigned to reflect the teachings of the school.

12. Make the Work People Do at SIMS More Prominent on the Site
Although the SIMS website serves as the world’s primary source of information about the school, it is not accurately reflecting the work done at SIMS. Subsequently this creates false expectations about exactly what type of education the school offers as demonstrated by the quote above. We can naturally assume that other prospective students, as well as some employers and interested parties, will form inaccurate pictures of the school. This problem can be alleviated if the work done at SIMS, especially class and final projects, are more prominently featured on the website.

13. Utilize SIMS Class Projects to Enhance Aspects of SIMS Infrastructure
Recognizing SIMS does not have the capacity of a school like Haas to create and implement new systems, the school must take advantage of its project based curriculum to facilitate student projects that continue to develop the SIMS infrastructure. SIMS faculty and staff can serve as customers for discreet projects that could be accomplished within the context of an existing course. Courses such as Document Engineering Laboratory, Multimedia Information, and User Interface Design each have comprehensive projects that could focus on different aspects of the SIMS Corpus. Students would also benefit from the experience by working within real-world project parameters and by seeing their ideas put into action.

14. Implement uPortal as SIMS’ New Web Technology
uPortal will serve to enhance our web presence and make information access much easier by aggregating and presenting resources in a coherent manner. Interviews revealed a pressing need for a portal allowing students to efficiently and effectively organize the many information resources they interact with on a daily basis. Currently, students develop their own ad hoc systems to organize and keep track of things such as deadlines, meeting times, events, etc. uPortal is a technology ideally suited for creating a web presence that incorporates many of SIMS’ teachings. The user interface uses good design principles and is fully customizable so it can be configured to have a variety of “looks and feels.” Furthermore, content is totally separate from presentation, and the page the user sees is generated dynamically.

15. Incorporate Student Projects into uPortal
An added advantage of uPortal is its ability to integrate custom developed content seamlessly. As new features are identified to be incorporated into uPortal, student projects can be used as described in recommendation #1 above to create custom content that can be incorporated into uPortal.