The School of Information Studies (SOIS) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) is currently reviewing the results of focus groups held late in 2009 as it continues gathering information for the American Library Association’s (ALA) cyclical accreditation review. The focus groups – consisting of students, alumni, and employers – all discussed the mission and implementation of the Master’s of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program. That information gathered now goes to one of the seven committees established by SOIS in order to pull together evidence on the effectiveness of the degree program.
According to the ALA’s Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library & Information Studies:
“Accreditation assures the educational community, the general public and other agencies or organizations that an institution or program (a) has clearly defined and educationally appropriate objectives expressed as student learning outcomes, (b) maintains conditions under which achievement of objectives can reasonably be expected, (c) is in fact accomplishing objectives substantially, and (d) can be expected to continue to do so.”
ALA’s accreditation is on seven-year cycle, which happens to coincide with the cyclical review of the MLIS by UWM’s Graduate School. Dean Hope Olson believes that this is to the school’s advantage. “It’s better than having to do it twice,” she mentioned, during a student organization event in October, “and we’re actually ahead of most schools at this point.” The school was also utilizing questionnaires from students and alumni to add to the documentation.
SOIS will be addressing key issues identified in the focus groups and questionnaires at the faculty retreat on January 29th, 2010. One of the most important issues will be implementing diversity across the entire curriculum. Dean Olson states that the school has invited Bharat Mehra, Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee to discuss ways in which to integrate more diversity into the course offerings. Olson also named assessment and learning outcomes, information technology and pedagogy and curriculum convergence as three other areas to look at closely.
All of this is in preparation for a full draft which will be submitted to ALA’s external review panel (ERP) on May 23rd, 2010. The school will then have a feedback meeting with the panel sometime in June, before submitting a revised copy on or before August 9th. The school will also play host during the panel’s site visit on September 20th and 21st. The results of the process are unlikely to officially be determined until January 2011 at the ALA Midwinter conference in San Diego, CA.
Olson says that she is familiar with the chair of the review committee and that she expects the review to be thorough. Among some of the more refreshing ideas Olson has seen in the approach to accreditation, was UWM’s School of Nursing, which posted a Fact of the Day on its website in the days leading up to their own accreditation review. Olson says that students can expect to see more engagement in the near future relating to the accreditation.