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<P>News Briefs

CI Subject Survey to Launch Monday

A survey for the Class of 2006 will launch Monday as part of Phase I of the program evaluation for the Communication Requirement. Phase I began in Fall 2005 and is the first step in the 18 month-long process of assessing the Communication Requirement, which became mandatory for students starting with the Class of 2005.

The Communication Requirement was approved by the faculty in March of 2000 and requires students to complete four subjects designated Communication Intensive: two in a student’s major program (CI-M) and two in the humanities, arts, and social sciences (CI-H).

Anna Frazer, assistant dean for the Communication Requirement, said that the planned evaluation is a “formative assessment,” and the feedback will be used to implement changes in the requirement and assess the program’s effectiveness. A second survey, also part of Phase I, will be given to faculty members at the beginning of May.

There was no formal evaluation of the Communication Requirement last year, the first year that the requirement was fully implemented. The Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement “hadn’t really decided how to structure the assessment” at that time, Frazer said.

The program evaluation, which consists of three phases, will continue into Spring 2007, concluding with a look at the overall impact of the Communication Requirement. Additionally, the SOCR is on a three-year repeating schedule of visiting four to five departments each year and evaluating their CI-M’s. Department visits will look at a variety of factors, including how the CI portions of classes are taught by different professors and whether the goals of the communication requirement are being met, Frazer said.

Frazer said that members of the Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement also plan to examine recent Institute-conducted senior surveys over the summer for any data it could use.

—Marissa Vogt

Stellar Keeps Statistics Private

Stellar, MIT’s online course management system, does not make most of its useage statistics available to course staff.

In particular, when individual students download materials, readings, or assignments, “log information is not available to instructors, TA’s, or administrators, either on an individual or aggregate basis,” according to Richard L. Garcia of Academic Computing.

According to Garcia, Stellar’s homework submission tool and discussion tool do let course staff see when homework assignments are submitted or posts are made to discussion boards.

Mark W. Brown, the project manager for Stellar, said that the architects of Stellar have been very conscious of student privacy issues, and have made a concerted effort to not compromise student privacy.

When asked about publishing Stellar’s policy for disclosure of logs, Garcia said that Stellar “certainly should make the policies we follow more visible, and we’ll incorporate that information into our upcoming site work.”

—John A. Hawkinson