Information and Computer Science


Program Assessment Plan

Park University’s Information and Computer Science (ICS) degree program is committed to the ongoing assessment and enhancement of its curriculum to promote student learning. This program assessment plan is used to measure student competence in defined areas as well as provide an assessment of reaching course goals and overall program effectiveness.

Departmental Degrees Background Information:

Park's ICS degree program is offered in all modes of delivery – Parkville daytime, campus centers, Kansas City accelerated, and online. The ICS degree has four specialty areas:
1) computer science 
2) software engineering 
3) networking and security 
4) data management. 

Legend:
ICS = Information and Computer Science
The ICS degree has 4 emphases 
CS = computer science 
SE = software engineering 
NT = networking and security 
DM = data management

Program Mission:

Prepare students for a broad range of computer opportunities in industry as well as in graduate studies.

Academic Goals:


ICS/CS, ICS/SE:
  1. Will have skills necessary for entry-level employment in software engineering and IT analyst positions.
  2. Will have the necessary knowledge to be admitted to computer science graduate school programs.
ICS/NT Students:
  1. Will have skills necessary for entry-level employment in networking and security positions.
  2. Will have the necessary knowledge to be admitted to graduate school programs with a networking and security emphasis.
ICS/DM Students:
  1. Will have skills necessary for entry-level employment in data management positions.
  2. Will have the necessary knowledge to be admitted to graduate school programs with a data management emphasis.
 

Program Competencies:

 
  1. Apply problem-solving and critical-thinking skills and use popular computer technologies in producing technology solutions.
  2. Communicate effectively, ethically, and professionally in a team environment.
  3. ICS/CS and ICS/SE students: Design and implement elegant programs that utilize data structures concepts.
  4. ICS/NT students: Demonstrate proficiency in use of popular computer networking and security technologies.
  5. ICS/DM students: Design and implement elegant data management solutions..
 

Assessment Instruments:

 

The ICS degree program will use an advisory board as the primary instrument for assessing the academic goals portion of the department’s assessment plan. The ICS degree program will use a comprehensive exam as the primary instrument for assessing the program competencies portion of the department’s assessment plan.

 

Departmental Advisory Board

 

A departmental advisory board was formed August 2009. The board meets with ICS full-time faculty at Park’s Parkville campus once a year. Board members are asked to provide input in the following areas: 

What courses are particularly important?
What technologies are particularly important?
What concepts are particularly important?
What areas do they see as growth areas?
What are their opinions about our current curricula?

 

Here are the ICS advisory board members and their affiliations:

 

Boon Lee
UMB Bank, senior application programmer analyst

 

Jill Snow
Cerner Corporation, technical project manager

 

Josh McKinzie
Keyhole Software, senior software developer

Rodrigo Neri
Cerner Corporation, senior web developer

Greg Smith
Crown Center Redevelopment Corporation, information technology specialist

John Nickell
A. Zahner Co., IT administration

Virginia Maikweki
Strenuus, software developer

Angie Klein
Liberty High School, computer programming teacher

Matt Reishus
National Center for Competency Testing, director of IT

Daniel Green
Oracle Corporation, senior systems engineer

Comprehensive Exam

The ICS degree program full-time faculty maintain a comprehensive exam in order to assess the program competencies portion of the department’s assessment plan. The comprehensive exam tests mastery of concepts, principles, and knowledge expected of students at the conclusion of the various specialty areas and majors within the ICS degree program. In addition to factual knowledge, the exam tests students' abilities to analyze and solve problems, understand relationships, and interpret material.

The comprehensive exam groups questions into specific areas so that each of the program competencies is tested separately:

  1. The core area questions measure the first program competency (apply problem-solving and critical-thinking skills and use popular computer technologies in producing technology solutions).
  2. The computer science area questions measure the ICS/CS, ICS/SE program competencies.
  3. The networking area questions measure the ICS/NT program competencies.
  4. The data management area questions measure the ICS/DM program competency.

All of Park's computer students will be graded on the core area questions. Additionally, ICS/CS and ICS/SE students will be graded on the computer science area questions. ICS/NT students will be graded on the networking area questions. ICS/DM students will be graded on the data management questions.

Quite a few ICS comprehensive exam implementation strategies have been used over the years. As a result of those efforts, the following processes are now in place:

  • Newer computer students (those who entered under the 2007-2008 catalog or later) have this verbiage at the top of their degree audits:
    “Students with a computer major are required to take the ICS Department's comprehensive exam, which will be embedded in CS352, IS316, IS362, and CS374.” (In fall 2010, the ICS Department will propose the new course CS374.)

  • Teachers who are teaching one of those courses should see the comprehensive exam embedded in their online course shell. Teachers should unhide the exam toward the end of the course’s term, normally during the last two weeks, so that students can take the exam then.

  • To ensure student motivation, teachers are required to weight the comprehensive exam by at least 3% of the course’s total grade. The ICS faculty recommend 5%.

  • The exam will consist of multiple-choice questions that will be graded automatically by the online course shell. To facilitate relatively granular assessment, the exam is split into 8 sections – 7 sections for the core area questions, and 1 additional section for the questions that are specific to a particular specialty area. The teacher will email the exam results to the ICS program coordinator no later than the normal deadline for course grades, which is the Tuesday following the end of the course’s term. The program coordinator will analyze the assessment data – determine average scores for the different classes, look for trends, etc.

  • To keep things simple for the department and the Registrar, comprehensive exam grades are not recorded on students’ transcripts. If a student receives an overall uncurved score of at least 80%, the teacher should tell the student that he/she has “passed with distinction.” The student should then feel free to list that honor on his/her resume.

  • To reduce the incidence of cheating, we ask the teacher and student to arrange for a proctored exam. If they find that proctoring is not possible, the teacher should email the ICS program coordinator for approval to have no proctor.

Review of Materials:

Annually, the Computer Science, Information Systems, and Mathematics (CIM) department chair will compile the results from the comprehensive exam and analyze the results. These results will be grouped by program competency and also by mode of delivery. For the core questions, which cover material learned in the past, a score in the range 50%-79% will be designated as “meets expectations” and a score 80% or above will be designated as “exceeds expectation.” For the specialty area questions, which cover material learned during the course in which the comprehensive exam is embedded, a score in the range 55%-84% will be designated as “meets expectations” and a score 85% or above will be designated as “exceeds expectation.”

The results should give the department direct measurements of students’ mastery of specific skills and knowledge. If the department finds trends that indicate a deficiency in a particular mode of learning (e.g., online), then the department will consider possible remedies (e.g., try 16-week instead of 8-week formats). If the department finds trends that indicate a deficiency in a particular program competency area (e.g., problem solving), then the department will consider possible remedies (e.g., adding more problem-solving to courses).

Because there is no room in our curricula for a capstone course and because having different ICS specialty areas would make such a capstone course impractical, the ICS faculty have repeatedly voted against having a capstone course. If a capstone course were offered, then the comprehensive exam would presumably be embedded in it, and students would have time and great incentive to study the material covered in the comprehensive exam. On the other hand, with the ICS policy of having the ICS comprehensive exam embedded in standard senior-level courses, there is no time in the class to devote to studying the comprehensive exam material, and the incentive to do well is diminished due to the comprehensive exam counting for only 3%-5% of the course’s total grade. Thus, we expect that scores from our comprehensive exam will be fairly low. Relatively speaking, we expect that scores from the core area questions will tend to be lower than scores from the specialty area questions because core area questions cover content from lower-level courses, and students will tend to forget what they learned quite a while ago.