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MIT Plans Review Of CI-Ms In 2005

MIT Plans Review Of CI-Ms In 2005

By Marissa Vogt


The Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement plans to launch an effort in 2005 to assess the implementation of the Communication Requirement, said Dean for Undergraduate Education Robert P. Redwine.

This year’s senior class will be the first to graduate under the Communication Requirement, which was approved by the faculty in March of 2000. It requires that students entering the Institute after the summer of 2001 complete four subjects designated Communication Intensive: two in a student’s major program and two in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.

The implementation of the requirement involved assessing many existing subjects and designating them as CI-H or CI-M, and in some cases, developing new subjects. Subjects were offered with the CI-M designation as they were approved, though no formal assessment procedure was established.

The members of SOCR have been “very focused on implementation” of the program, said Anna Frazer, assistant dean for the communication requirement. As a result, they “haven’t quite figured out the best way” of assessment, she said.

SOCR is comprised of 14 members, including Redwine, Frazer, two undergraduate representatives, Charles Stewart III, associate dean of the School of Humanities and Social Science, and several faculty members.

Assessment left up to departments

“We haven’t started the review process yet,” said SOCR Co-Chair Professor Paul L. Penfield Jr.

Though this is the third academic year that CI-M subjects have been offered, “we don’t have a means of assuring [their effectiveness] now,” said Penfield.

“SOCR has asked itself whether we should have a regular process of reviewing” the CI subjects, Penfield said, and though there is no such process currently in place, some of the committee members think it would be a good idea, he said.

As it stands now, any assessment of the CI-M subjects by the individual departments is the only review of the subject and its effectiveness as a Communication Intensive subject, though many of the CI-M subjects have been offered under that designation since the 2002-2003 academic year.

“Individual subject assessments should and have been going on all along,” Redwine said. “It’s not easy, of course, because every student will have a different experience.”

Program review planned for 2005

“From the beginning, we have felt it was important to assess the effectiveness,” said Redwine, in part because of the plethora of resources the Institute has put into the program’s implementation. However, assessment of the actual implementation of the program can only happen now, since it is just being implemented, he said.

Redwine said that SOCR hopes to assess the Communication Requirement in the Spring of 2005 by bringing in a team of individuals outside of MIT to review the individual classes, the organization of the program, and the professional support provided to the teaching staff. This assessment “is not meant to be the beginning and the end,” Redwine said, adding that he plans to include questions about the CI-H and CI-M subjects in the senior survey given to the graduating class.

“I think every department has a different situation,” said Redwine. “That’s not to say there aren’t glitches.”

The overall authority over CI-M subjects, Redwine said, rests with the Committee on the Undergraduate Program.

CI-M implementation completed

Penfield said that SOCR began approving CI-M subjects as early as the fall of 2001, though the CI-H subjects were in place before then.

“Of all the CI-Ms, almost all of them were in existence before,” though not under the CI-M designation, and were modified to emphasize the communication part of the course, Penfield said. “What they had to do was beef up the communication part.”

However, it wasn’t until the 2002-2003 academic year, when the current seniors were sophomores, that subjects were actually offered with the CI-M designation, Frazer said.

The departments faced a summer 2002 deadline in designating subjects as CI-M, Penfield said, in order to ensure placement in the 2002-2003 Bulletin. While most departments complied, “some threw things together rather rapidly, especially at the senior level,” since they knew students wouldn’t immediately be taking those classes, said Penfield.

This academic year marks the first year that all of the CI-M subjects in every department are being offered, just in time for the Class of 2005 to graduate, said Frazer. “The challenge has been the sheer volume” of CI-M subjects, she said.

Penfield said the timing was crucial because, depending on the department, students have little or no flexibility in choosing CI-Ms but have several CI-H subjects to choose from.

“Every department that has a degree program was mandated by the faculty to have two” CI-M subjects, said Penfield. “When you come to the department program, you don’t have to choose a CI-M, usually all you have to do is satisfy the degree requirements for the department.”

Seniors must complete CI-Ms

Frazer said that a special tool was developed to track student’s completion of CI subjects to ensure they are taken at the expected rate of one per year.

Upperclassmen in some majors have encountered difficulties with scheduling CI-M subjects and planning around subjects that have only been finalized in the past year or so.

In Course VI, for example, many seniors encountered scheduling conflicts with the required CI-M subject 6.UAT (Preparation for Undergraduate Advanced Project ), which is a prerequisite for 6.UAP (Undergraduate Advanced Project).

Course Administrator Anne M. Hunter said that because of the scheduling problems, students will be allowed to petition to take both subjects at the same time.