Results - Findings and Recommendations
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
Continuity & Community
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
- 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.
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]
7. Reorganize Curriculum to Support Continuity
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
“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
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
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.