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Research proposal sample in information technology

May 7, 2018

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Research and Information Technology

Core Course Proposal

February 2000

Table of Contents

I. Recommendations

The ad-hoc Research and Information Technology (RIT) core committee recommends to the core committee approval of:

  1. The Research and Information Technology course, as proposed in this document.
  2. IDIS designation for the RIT course.
  3. An RIT coordinator, a faculty member with a 2-course reduction and summer stipend.
  4. An RIT implementation team appointed by the provost to develop and pilot the detailed course materials, starting work summer, 2000 and completing work summer, 2001.

II. Catalog Description

IDIS 110 Research and Information Technology (1) F, S. Core.

A first-year introduction to the computer and to college-level research skills, making full but discriminating use of current electronic information technology and the resources of the Hekman Library, with a discussion of the cultural impact of computer technology and the ethical responsibilities of its users.

III. Expanded Course Description

A. Objectives

To engage the students’ imaginations regarding information technology; to introduce students to the basic concepts of computer hardware and software; to familiarize students with the potentials of the computer as a "universal appliance," capable of storing, locating, transferring, manipulating, analyzing, and presenting information; to acquaint students with the resources of the Hekman Library and various discipline-specific research strategies; to familiarize students with criteria for the critical evaluation of information sources; to cultivate wisdom in students so that they establish a viewpoint from which one can make ethically responsible judgments regarding the appropriate use of information technology.
Exemption via test; no transfer credit.

B. Syllabus

Introduction [1 week]

How has the computer changed the way an individual interacts with the world?

The Computer

Definition of a computer (The anatomy of a computer) [2 weeks]

Networks (Communication between computers) [2 weeks]

Impact of the Computer

Changing nature of information (The Digital Library) [2 weeks]

Modeling reality with computers (Multimedia literacy) [2 weeks]

Moral and Ethical Impact of the Computer

Moral and ethical considerations [2 weeks]

Critical evaluation of technology [2 weeks]

C. Class Structure

There are several components to the course: plenaries, breakout sessions, a web-based textbook, and tutorials. Table 1 shows the coordinated structure of the components.

Table 1: Course Structure

Plenary Session

Breakout section
(Critical Evaluation)

Tutorials (skills)




Basic Operating Systems

Definition of Computer

Algorithmic thinking
Universal appliance

Word processing


Information systems

Email, listservs, web navigation

Changing Nature of Information

Locating resources,
Information organization,
Search strategies

Web search
Library databases

Modeling reality with Computers

Multimedia literacy

Scanning, digitizing, graphics, sound, video

Moral and ethical considerations

Case studies,
Discipline-specific implications

Digital Library
Library resources

Critical evaluation of technology

Psychological implications

Web publication
Presentation software

Six mass plenary sessions will be scheduled during the semester, led by our best faculty who are experts on the plenary topics. The plenaries will engage the student’s imagination and introduce them to the fundamental concepts they need to understand information technology.

During the weeks between plenaries, faculty will lead breakout sessions for classes of around 25 students in a computer laboratory. Breakout sessions will begin to introduce students to critical evaluation of technology. Students will be given hands-on experience with the technology as well as more personal contact while discussing perspectival issues. Breakout instructors will be drawn from across the disciplines. Each instructor will be encouraged to use discipline-specific examples to make the concepts more real for the students. A professor from the history department might show how she uses an Internet database to look up historical documents; a music professor might demonstrate the input/output system of the computer by composing a short musical score in class. Critical evaluation will be stressed in the breakout sessions – the instructor will lead students toward discerning use of appropriate technology.

The textbook for the course will be web-based, multimedia, and interactive. A number of tutorials will be offered by CIT and library staff on various information technology skills. The tutorials will be available on-line or taught live by CIT/library staff. Students may test out of tutorials by taking the on-line test for that topic. The skills taught in RIT will make the course topics relevant to the student’s lives, both in and out of the classroom. Through the combination of all these components, the course will begin to cultivate wisdom toward technology and its appropriate use.

D. Evaluation Methods

Student evaluation tools will include both paper and on-line quizzes. In order to pass the course, students must complete all the on-line tutorials. Grades will be based on quiz results, participation in breakout sessions and on-line discussions, and a term paper.

E. Methods for Integration of Faith and Learning

The RIT course will integrate a Christian faith perspective throughout the course. A significant portion of the syllabus focuses on critical evaluation of technology using the framework of a Reformed perspective. Information technology will be placed along with all of creation under Christ’s rule. Students will be taught to first seek out and discern the good in information technology that is inherent from the original creation, second, to recognize that sin taints technology as a consequence of the Fall, and third, that we are called to be redemptive agents in our society. Information technology forms a part of our culture and thus is an appropriate subject for a transformational approach. Biblical principles such as stewardship, justice, and the cultural mandate will be applied to issues in information technology.

Perspectival issues will be tightly interwoven with specific details, so that even in discussions of technical points, the students are aware of the underlying faith foundations that must inform their use of information technology tools. The use of breakout sessions provides students with a more personal touch that can help move head knowledge to the heart as well. This will be especially important when discussing personal ethics issues. Because the course is limited to one semester hour, students cannot be expected to achieve a fully developed perspective on information technology. Rather, this course will lay the foundation for further work in other courses (particularly in the major).

IV. Place in Curriculum

This course will be a required course in the core curriculum. It is intended for first-year students and entering transfer students.

Consultation with Library and Registrar

The registrar has been consulted. Plenary sessions must be scheduled with care since only the FAC can handle the large number of students. The head librarian is a member of the ad-hoc committee, and he sees no significant deficiencies in the library holdings for supporting the RIT course.

V. Rationale

A. Justification of core designation

Information technology is a central part of modern culture. It pervades almost every part of our society, touching family life, worship, politics, work, scientific research, engineering design, communities, art, music, and journalism, to name just a few. Information technology has changed our language, our means of communication, our social interactions, our corporations, and our governments. Because information technology is such a pervasive cultural influence, every graduate of Calvin College – not just the students in technical disciplines – must be equipped to evaluate this aspect of our world in the light of a Reformed perspective.

Information technology skills are essential for gainful employment. A majority of employers hiring college graduates in today’s world expect some basic skills using a computer. Graduate study often requires knowledgeable use of a computer as a research tool. Information technology, when properly used, allows students to explore the world, and their own discipline, in ways that would otherwise be difficult or impossible. Music students can compose orchestral scores on a computer and hear them played back instantly. Chemistry students can simulate the interaction of molecules and visualize the results in a virtual reality. Engineering students can explore large design spaces and optimize under a variety of constraints. History students can quickly search thousands of documents using a computer database query. Economics students can analyze and test complex models of large economic systems through computer simulations.

Critical evaluation of information technology can be illustrative of a perspective on technology and science as a whole. Information technology continues to influence students in their personal lives. The freshness of this impact can be used as a teachable moment to enable the students to see the broader impact of science and technology on their world. Commonplace technological products such as the automobile or the telephone will become targets of discriminating appraisal only after they are recognized as cultural artifacts produced by some of the same forces that now bring us information technology products.

B. Justification of Course content

The proposed course content contains the appropriate topics. The content is a tailored subset of the recommended components for an information technology course from the Committee on Information Technology Literacy (Being Fluent with Information Technology, Committee on Information Technology Literacy, National Academy Press, Washington D.C.: 1999). Because the RIT course is only allowed one semester hour, the ad-hoc RIT committee decided to emphasize sufficient breadth at the expense of depth. Departmental majors must supply in-depth education regarding information technology as it applies to their discipline (building on the foundation provided by the RIT course. The RIT course content integrates faith and learning by providing technical content interwoven with perspectival material. The course also provides an introduction to research skills as well as information technology skills.

The proposed course content is appropriately sized. The ad-hoc RIT committee carefully pared down the desired list of topics to a manageable list for a one semester-hour course. The material is balanced among the various structural parts of the course (plenary, breakout session, web-based textbook, and tutorial) so that students gain sufficient background in each topic, but are not overworked. At the same time, we hope that the course sparks a curiosity in the students that persuades them to explore further how information technology can be used appropriately in their chosen disciplines. An example of one segment in the RIT course is provided in appendix C.

C. Justification of Course structure

The ad-hoc RIT committee explored a number of possible course structures and selected a structure of plenary sessions, breakout sessions, and tutorials. Appendix B provides a detailed description of the other options the committee considered as well as an explanation of the decision criteria.

D. Justification of IDIS designation

The ad-hoc RIT committee views the RIT course as one piece of a hub-and-spoke model, illustrated in Figure 1. In this model, the RIT course plays the role of a central "hub" that provides students with the minimal research and information technology skills and concepts expected of all college graduates in today’s world. To this "hub" each discipline can add its own "spokes" consisting of courses that introduce research and information technology concepts and skills that are specific to that discipline. Other core courses can also count on the basic skills provided in the RIT course whenever they make use of information technology or discuss it in class. The advantages of this model are:

We have designated the RIT course as IDIS because this course lays the foundation for the use of information technology across all disciplines.

Figure 1 RIT Hub-and-Spokes Curricular Model

E. Justification of RIT Coordinator

A coordinator for the RIT course is necessary for two reasons. First, the course content is expected to change frequently, requiring more curricular attention than a standard course. The coordinator will be responsible for updating the course herself or by recruiting current or past RIT instructors to write new materials or modules. Second, the coordinator will recruit plenary speakers and new RIT instructors from a variety of disciplines, organizing summer faculty development seminars to train the new instructors and providing support during the course.

VI. Resource Allocation and Staffing

A. Staffing

The following table shows the "Day 10" fall enrollment statistics reported by the registrar for the last nine years. The current five year plan targets enrollment at 3900 to 4100 students. The average proportion of entering students (first year and transfers) compared to the total enrollment is 27%. If all entering students enroll in the RIT course, the typical course size will be 4000 * 27% = 1050 students. Based on past variations in enrollment, we might expect a range of 900 to 1200 students.

Table 2: Fall Day 10 Enrollment Statistics


Entering Students

Total Number
of Students

First Year
Fraction of Total





































The proposed class structure calls for six plenary mass sessions and seven breakout sessions with approximately 25 students per class. This results in 35 to 45 sections (split over two semesters). The RIT committee recommends a breakout class size of 25, not only due to current computer laboratory size restrictions, but also for pedagogical reasons: breakout sessions must be small enough so the instructor can interact personally with the students. The committee strongly discourages class sizes over 30, but if budgetary constraints require it and laboratory facilities are expanded, then 30 students per section would reduce the total number of sections to a range of 30 to 40.

Thus, in a typical year, 40 breakout sections of RIT will be required. Since each section carries 1 semester hour, the RIT course will require the equivalent of nearly 2 full time faculty positions. Although this teaching load could be borne by two faculty members, in practice the load will probably be distributed among a doz a number of departments. The use of the plenary/breakout structure allows for faculty members from any department on campus to participate in the RIT course by leading a breakout session, perhaps with some emphasis on the use of research and information technology in their own discipline. The fall semester will probably include 25-30 sections of RIT, with the balance in the spring semester and possibly the summer session.

Tutorial sessions will be held each week (13 total). The class size will again be limited to around 25 students due to the size of existing facilities as well as pedagogical constraints. It is expected that three tutorials will be led by library staff and ten tutorials will be led by CIT staff.

A detailed budget is provided in Appendix D. The plenary speakers will be given an honorarium for their services. Faculty (from a variety of disciplines) will staff breakout sessions, with compensation provided in one of two ways. The Computer Science department will staff a number of RIT breakout sessions, where one faculty member will lead several sections, which clustered together would make up part of his normal load. Faculty members from other departments that teach one breakout session will receive overload compensation for the one additional semester hour. CIT tutorials will be led by CIT student employees and coordinated by a CIT staff member. Library staff will lead library tutorials.

RIT Coordinator

The RIT coordinator will be a faculty member responsible for organizing the RIT course. The coordinator would perform a number of crucial tasks:

Compensation would be in the form of a two-course reduction and a summer stipend (although more might be necessary the first year).

B. Facilities

Most of the existing CIT computer laboratories are designed to support 25 students or less. Thus, the class size will be limited to this number. The RIT course will increase computer usage directly and indirectly. Computer laboratories must be reserved for RIT breakout sessions. During the fall semester, up to 30 sections will each meet for one hour every other week. Two hours of computer work and tutorials, including reading from the web-based textbook will be assigned weekly. For 500-750 students, this will require 1000-1500 hours of computer time each week. If all of this time was spent in computer laboratories, this would require up to 60 scheduled hours weekly in addition to the 30 scheduled hours every other week for breakout sessions. However, this number may be reduced if many of the students do homework and tutorials from their rooms on their own computers rather than in the computer laboratories.

VII. Assessment Plan

Two objectives will be evaluated: (1) produce students who are fluent in information technology and research, and (2) produce this fluency across all disciplines, not just technical majors. The Calvin Social Research Center will be used as an independent consultant to administrate a coordinated set of surveys. Skill tutorials will include questions crafted to provide immediate feedback to instructors (formative evaluation) as well as direct content selection for the next course offering. Secondly, an existing survey of graduating seniors that includes an information technology section will be used to form baseline data as a comparison group. As students graduate under the new core curriculum, the graduate survey will provide summative evaluation. Third, as an independent measure, a survey of employers and graduate school advisors will be done. The RIT coordinator will be responsible for using the evaluation results to adjust the course year by year.

VIII. Criteria for Approval of Program-Specific RIT Substitutes

Programs or departments might wish to propose courses as substitutes for the standard RIT course proposed in this document. This section lays out the guidelines by which substitute courses would be approved.

A. Core Revision Document Goals

The course must fulfill the goals and objectives mandated by the core revision document.

"An Engagement with God’s World," the core revision document adopted by the Calvin faculty on April 15, 1999, mandates the following components of this course:

It will

Mandated course objectives:

Other criteria:

B. RIT Components

The RIT course development committee has identified the following essential components of the course. Any substitute course must address each of the components in the standard RIT course. Because information technology changes rapidly, this list is subject to annual change.

Topics covered in plenary sessions and web text

Skills introduced in CIT tutorials
(limited substitution of discipline-specific skills may be allowed)

Skills introduced in Library tutorials

C. Options for tailoring RIT to specific disciplines

The following list suggests some possible approaches to a discipline-specific RIT course. Other approaches may also be appropriate.

IX. Ad-hoc RIT Committee

The ad-hoc RIT Committee was appointed by Provost Joel Carpenter. The committee worked from the summer of 1999 until February, 2000. Committee members were:

Appendix A: Comparison to Other Institutions

Virtually every state university requires an "information technology" course for graduation. Table 3 lists some non-state institutions with RIT requirements, with the proposed RIT course at the top for comparison.

Table 3: Some Colleges/Universities That Have An RIT-Related Course Requirement


Course Title






Research & Information Technology (RIT)


AT, CL, EI,GI, H, IL, LC, MM, N, CS, S, SI



Berry C.

Computer and Info. Literacy





Bradley U.

(choose 1)

Intro to CIS w/ BASIC
Comp. & Prog. w/ FORTRAN
Comp. & Society











Covenant C.

Microcomputer Applications





Eckerd C.

West. Heritage in Global Context





Hastings C.

Computer Tools





Goshen C.

Freshman Colloquium





LaGrange C.

Intro. To Microcomputers





St. Leo

PC Applications





William & Mary

DS (Computing Proficiency)


CL + DS (advanced)

DS (CP or SA or IM or …)


Taylor U.

(choose 1)

Computing and Info. Concepts
Computing and Info, Concepts Adv.






SS (advanced)


AT – Algorithmic Thinking
CL – Computer Literacy
DS – Discipline Specific
EI – Ethical Issues
GI – Graphical User Interfaces
H – Hardware
HC – History of Computing
IL – Information Literacy
LC – Limitations of Computing
MM – Multimedia
N – Networking/Telecomm.
OS – Operating Systems
PL – Programming Language
S – Software
SI – Social Impact of Computing

CP – Computer Programming
DB – Database Creation
DS – Discipline Specific
EM – Electronic Mail
FH – File Handling/OS
IM – Image Manipulation
IR – Internet Research
LR – Library Research
N – Network/Telecomm
PS – Presentation Softw.
RW – Research Writing
SA – Statistical Analysis
SS – Spreadsheets .
WA – WWW Authoring
WB – WWW Browsing
WP – Word Processing

CS – Comp. Science
E – English
ID – Interdisciplinary
IT – Info. Services
MD – Multidisciplinary
O – Various Options

Table 4: Some Colleges/Universities That Have An RIT-Related Graduation Outcome But No Required Course:






Kalamazoo C.

Information and Comp. Literacy




Erskine C.

Comp. Competency




Berea C.

Quantiative Reasoning




Georgetown C.

Computer Literacy




Grove City C.

Info. Tech. Initiative




Hanover C.

Technology Skills




U. St. Thomas

Info. Literacy & Comp. Competency




Some Colleges/Universities That "Integrate Computer/Information Literacy Throughout the Curriculum":

Albion C., Carleton C., Grove City C., Hope C., Houghton C., St. Johns U./C.o. St.Benedict, U.o.t. South (Sewanee), Wake Forest U., Wartburg C., Wesleyan C., Westminster C.

Examined Colleges/Universities Not Fitting The Above Categories:

Abilene Christian U., Agnes Scott C., Alma C., Augustana C., Azusa Pacific U., Baylor U., Bethune-Cookman C., Bowdoin C., Brown U., Carson-Newman C., Case Western U., Central C.,, Centre C., Coe C., Colby C., Colgate U., Cornell U., Davidson C., Dickinson C., Dordt C., Duke U., Elmhurst C., Flagler C., Franklin C., Furman U., Geneva C., Guilford C., Harvard U., Huntingdon C., Illinois C., Knox C., Macalester C., Millsaps C., Morehouse C., Oberlin C., Olivet Nazarene U., Presbyterian C., Princeton U., Rice U., Ripon C., Seattle Pacific U., St. Olaf, Stanford U., Swarthmore C., Transylvania U., U.o. Chicago, Valparaiso U., Westmont C., Wheaton C., Whitworth C., William Jewell C., Williams C., Yale U.

Appendix B: Comparison of Staffing Alternatives

The ad-hoc RIT committee discussed a number of possible formats for staffing the RIT course. The decision process consisted of three steps. First, the desired characteristics of any solution were identified. Second, potential staffing solutions were enumerated. Third, a matrix was used to score each solution based on how well it met each desired characteristic and the highest score was selected.

Decision Criteria

The committee decided on six desirable characteristics for the RIT course. These are listed in Table 5 along with the committee’s average weight (10=most important, 1=least important).

Table 5: Desired Characteristics




Effective Teaching


Students learn and comprehend material, catch passion for continued learning

Persuasive Perspectives


Students are persuaded to adhere to a responsible, Reformed approach to technology



Course can be staffed by variety of faculty, i.e., not dependent on a few irreplaceable persons



Course is not burdensome to administer, is not a problem for registrar, etc.



Teaching the course is not burdensome to instructors

Low Cost


Minimizes the total cost of instructors, student assistants, equipment

"Effective Teaching" was rated as the single most important factor in selecting a staffing plan and format for the course, over twice as important as the lowest weight, "Low Cost."

Alternative Staffing Solutions

Six different solutions were considered for staffing the RIT course, as listed in Table 6. The table uses 500 students each semester, but realistically, more students will likely take the course in the fall.

Table 6: Alternative Staffing Solutions





Web Lecture/
Live Breakout

Totally Web

Small Groups


Tech/Disc Teams

Passport Course

Interim Course

Decision Matrix

A matrix was completed that scored each alternative solution based on how well it met each desired characteristic. For example, the committee gave a high score to "Totally Web" on the "Low Cost" characteristic, but a low score for "Effective Teaching." Because the latter was weighted more heavily than the former, the "Totally Web" option did not score well overall. The committee selected the solution with the highest weighted score: the plenary option. The scores for each option (relative to the lowest score) are shown in Table 7.

The Passport and Interim options are not listed because they were considered unworkable from a facilities point of view. The RIT course requires around 30 hours of computer time per student. In order to serve around 1000 students in an intensive Passport course, the Passport session would become untenably long. Similarly, if RIT were held during the interim, every single computer available on campus for student access would be necessary in order to serve 1000 students, to the exclusion of all other interim course needs. Thus, the committee did not give these options further consideration.

Table 7: Decision Summary





Small Groups


Web Lecture/Live Breakout




Tech/Disc Teams


Totally Web



(base) 0%

As shown in the table, the Plenary format was selected. The rationale for this decision comes directly from the criteria used in the decision matrix. The committee felt that the standard staffing model would not work for a one-hour section because instructors could not be credited sufficiently for the work involved for each section. By providing some of the classes in the form of a plenary, the instructors would be primarily responsible for only the breakout sessions and such an arrangement would facilitate recruitment of instructors. Because Calvin highly values personal interaction between faculty and students, the committee felt that the "web lecture/live breakout" and "totally web" models were both undesirable and perhaps even inappropriate at Calvin. At the other extreme, the "small groups" model was attractive because of its close interaction between students and faculty. However, this option is financially and logistically impractical due to the large number of sections required. Finally, the "Tech/Disc Teams" and "Modules" options were problematic in terms of continuity and administration.

Appendix C: Two Weeks in the Life of an RIT Student

The example provided in this appendix is for illustrative purposes only. Students spend one hour in class each week (either plenary or breakout) and are expected to do two hours of additional work (either web text or tutorial).

Odd weeks:

Plenary lecture, 1 hour

Web text, 1-2 hours

Even weeks:

Breakout session, 1 hour

Tutorial, 1-2 hours

Unit: Networks

Plenary (50 min):

Web text – reinforces and expands plenary material, sets up breakout session (1-2 hours)

Breakout (50 min)

Tutorial – Basic Internet Use (1 –2 hours)

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