Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Admissions to iSchools

One issue that we often discuss in information programs is the level of and kind technology skills students need, before they are admitted and after they graduate. [We don't often discuss what level of and kind of, say, philosophical training they need to be admitted and have after they graduate -- but that's a debate for another day.] At my school we say something vague about the level of "computer literacy" (sic!) for admission -- but I suppose, what we ought to say, is simply, something like "applicants need to be comfortable with the sort of digital tools that we are using in today's society"; I mean, it is tremendously difficulty, if not impossible, to actually describe the level of and type of computer/information literacy needed to be successful in this field and more importantly, things are moving so fast that what is important today is different tomorrow. Think about the young kids... my son, who is seven, will say things like "just google that and we will find it" and "no, don't just one word to google, let's try and use two words" - I mean, what will they teach him in information searching classes 15 years from now; certainly not what they are teaching in those classes today (or yesterday). And it is not just my kid -- it is everyone entering iSchools tomorrow... the teachers get it. Do we?


  1. If ISchools or any other school for that matter (particularly U of T) where truly interested in producing well informed (no pun intended), well trained, quality graduates they would focus more on content than process. Meaning they should take more interest in who is coming into their programs. All applicants should be screened and the interesting ones should be tested in computer literacy prior to admission. Testing of course should keep pace with what's happening in the "real world". Of course this would mean that ISchools would/should continue to evolve , be on top of, and teach using the same methods they are testing their applicants knowledge on. Yes this opens up a whole other discussion. However, right now (again more so with U of T) students are coming into programs that are already outdated as their teaching methods are still in the dark ages. As well, most schools are more interested in how many students they can push through the system (process) and not the quality of education they have the potential to give (content).

    So the question do you get older schools to let go of their fears of change to and encourage educational evolution?

  2. To add to that...students applying to art's programs such as drama, dance, music, fine art, landscaping, urban planning...etc all have to audition, perform, or submit portfolio's for entrance into graduate programs. If ISchools want the best of the best why shouldn't they test their applicants in computer literacy?

    Why shouldn't the faculty be tested every once and a while?

    A great teacher will not only be able to teach his students, but be able to learn from them as well.

  3. I'm pleased to see that admissions matters are being considered thoughtfully. I have a few observations to share on this subject. First, I wonder if this requirement is necessary. Second, I hope that this speculation might signal greater transparency about admissions.

    It seems like there are a few reasons for this requirement. It could be a function of the fact that "iSchools" attract a larger contingent of mature students compared to other professional/graduate degree programs (that is entirely based on ancedotal impressions). It could also be that "information professionals" are assumed to be work more intensively with computers, compared to other professionals such as teachers, lawyers, architects and so on. This second reason seems a bit doubtful.

    Second, I hope that this speculation about admissions might lead to greater transparency about admissions. I think that the process could be significantly and helpfully clarified by providing some descriptive statistics on the Faculty website. For example, how many students are at FIS (provide data back to 2000)? How many are currently full-time vs. part-time? What was the average and median GPAs of admitted students? How many students enter the program with more than one degree? How many students have applied vs. how many are admitted? What is the weighting assigned to each admission criteria? I think "iSchools" could learn a lot about disclosure of such information from law schools.

  4. you may be interested in this talk on TED
    There are a few KO talks you may be interested in