Tonight, the NCAA's round of "Sweet Sixteen" in the Men's Division 1 Basketball Tournament gets underway. This years Sweet Sixteen is no different than previous years - there are big schools, small schools, well-known schools, and unknown schools; schools with big repuations, and schools with not so big reputations.
This unpredicatble mix of our colleges and universities provides a good opportunity to survey the variety of technical communication-related programs being offered around the country. These programs can tell us a lot about the current state of doc, and where it is headed in the future. Afterall, a major role of our colleges and universities is to identify changing trends in the market and to serve those trends by preparing the next generation of dreamers/thinkers/doers with the required skills.
The following is a break-down of the Sweet Sixteen matchups based on the "edgy-ness" of the chosen doc-related program (If I've missed a program offering that you feel should have been mentioned, please let me know). Unlike the real tourney, we'll decide the Final Four and the National Champion before this post is finished.Duke vs. LSU
Duke's program on Information Science and Information Studies
offers Bachelors and Undergraduage Certifcate studies whose mission is to "... study and create new information technologies and to analyze their impact on art, culture, science, commerce, society, and the environment." The description for an introductory course asks "How have emergent technologies such as videogames, podcasting, digital animation, Friendster, Google, virtual reality, and Grokster transformed the ways in which we relate to information?"
LSU's Cognitive Science Group
offers courses in Biology, Computer Science, Communication Science and Disorders, Curriculum and Instruction, Engineering, English, Information Systems, Philosophy, Psychology and more. In addition, the Cognitive Science group holds brown bag sessions that focus on special topics, and feature a special speaker. One topic: Cellphone Distractions and Working Memory.
Winner: DukeWest Virginia vs. Texas
West Virginia's programs in Technology Education
offers a Masters of Arts and a Doctoral degree. Masters program courses include Computer Mediated Communication, Web-Based Instructional Design, Instructional Technology Integration, and Contemporary Problems in Communication.
Texas' School of Information
defines its values this way: "At the School of Information, we are committed to making a difference in the lives of citizens by enabling and supporting the curation, organization and experience of information in ways that enhance lives." The name of the school was changed in 2002 from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science to School of Information to "better reflect the diversity of issues and the multidisciplinary nature of the studies in the information field." The school offers Master's, Certification and Advanced Study, and Doctoral programs (as well as several undergraduage courses). The School of Information is ranked among the 10 best LIS schools in the nation by US News and World Report.
Winner: This was the best matchup of the bunch... I'll go with Texas.Memphis vs. Bradley
Memphis' Department of Communication
offers undergraduate studies in three concentrations. The general communications concentration prepares students for the "wide variety of opportunities available to communication professionals and/or for graduate education" by "integrating philosophy, theory, history, criticism, research, ethics, and practice." New curriculum has been added that addresses the growing field of health communication. Masters and Doctoral degrees are also offered.
Bradley's Multimedia Program
focuses on "creativity and conceptual problem-solving." Course include Multimedia Authoring, New Media Theory, and Designing for the World Wide Web. Anti-Alias is a student-run organization made up of Bradley's multimedia students. Last year, Bradley's multimedia students worked on a project to rebrand the program. The new slogan: "Constantly evolving, Always innovating, Purely original."
Winner: BradleyGonzaga vs. UCLA
Gonzaga's Communication Arts
department offers a Public Relations major whose objective is "to provide students with a critical understanding of the symbolic, rhetorical behavior which creates and influences relationships between organizations and their publics. Courses encourage the examination of practical and theoretical perspectives, historical developments, research methodology, legal applications and the expanding role of Public Relations in modern society." Courses focus on journalistic writing and public affairs.
UCLA's Design Media Arts
department describes Media Arts as "a new field that represents the exciting convergence of technology with the established design discipline." The department's factulty focuses on "...educating responsible designers and artists for the information age by teaching the fundamentals of Design, Media, and the Arts, and encouraging experimentation and innovation." Students are exposed to such new media concepts as interaction and interface design, ubiquitous computing, virtual environments, and information spaces to name a few. Undergraduate and Graduate degrees are offered. One undergraduate class, Design for Environmental Communication, focuses on "...aesthetic issues concerning creation of design elements incorporating concepts of spatial dimension, human/environmental scale, motion, and time."
Winner: UCLAConnecticut vs. Washington
Connecticut's Communication Design
program offers a Bachelors of Fine Arts. The program's Web Site describes the key competencies of Communication Design as the "...ability to identify, research, evaluate and solve problems, to create prototypes, to apply relevant tools and technologies, to understand basic business organizational practices, and to apply an understanding of design history." Students in Communication Design are encouraged to seek out courses in communication theory, writing, psychology, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, and the humanities.
Washington's Technical Communication
department is part of the College of Engineering and includes a number of programs including Undergraduate, Day and Evening Master's, PhD, and Certificates in User Interface Design, Technical Writing, and Multimedia. The program "strives to equip its students to be leaders in designing the future of communication." In addition to the traditional tasks of technical communication, the program's literature declares that "increasingly, technical communicators also help create technical solutions to communication problems—organizational content management systems, personalization systems, ‘information supply chain’ analyses, automated tools for usage data collection, dynamic documentation, and other cutting-edge solutions to communication challenges." A global awareness is also apparent - the department offers programs in Technical Japanese.
Winner: Another close call, but I'll take Washington.George Mason vs. Wichita StateGeorge Mason's Instructional Technology Programs are offered by the College of Education and Human Development. PhDs and Master's degrees, along with Graduate Certificates and undergraduate courses are offered. The Instructional Design track for the Master's degree accommodates students who "...would like to gain the knowledge and skills to design and develop technology-supported instructional and training solutions for the public or private sector." Courses offered within the programs include Web Accessibility and Design, Instructional Technology Foundations and Theories of Learning, Human Computer Interface Design, and Tools for Visual Design.
Wichita State's Graduate Program in Human Factors Psychology is a PhD program that trains human factors psychologists, whose job it is to "apply [their] knowledge to the design, operation, and maintenance of machines, systems and environments so that optimum performance can be achieved....Among the goals of human factors psychology is making it easier and safer for people to use machines such as cars, airplanes, and computers, as well as improving home, work, and leisure environments." The program sponsors several Human Factors Laboratories including the Human-Computer Interaction Lab, the Instructional Technology Research Lab, and the Software Usability Research Lab.
Winner: George MasonVillanova vs. Boston CollegeVillanova's Department of Cognitive Science "offers a course of study related to intelligent systems with particular emphasis on the perspectives of cognitive psychology, computer science, philosophy and biology." Cognitive Science has evolved to ask such questions as: How a computer can beat a world champion in chess? Why do diseases such as Alzheimer's and schizophrenia disrupt thought? And, why is it so hard to program a VCR? Courses include Human Computer Interaction, Information Visualization, Cognitive Psychology, and Introduction to Artificial Intelligence.
Boston College's Communication department offers undergraduate courses in World Wide Web and Digital Media, Visual Design, Human Communication Theory, and Health Communication. In addition, the more traditional offerings in the department offer students general exposure to "study, criticism, research, teaching, and application of the artistic, humanistic, and scientific principles of communication."
Winner: VillanovaFlorida vs. Georgetown
Florida's Digital Arts and Sciences
program "crosses college boundaries between engineering and fine arts." Students take Art and Computer classes at the same time. Artistic technique, graphic design, and 3D modeling are the focuses, but courses are offered in Programming, Computer Organization, Professional Writing, and the Humanities. Class projects incorporate team work and multimedia productions.
Georgetown's Communication, Culture, and Technology Program
focus on cultivating an understanding of "...the role that technology plays in our lives -- from how we shop to how we form our identities." The program offers a Master of Arts degree "for people who want to combine their academic interests with studies of the history and future of technology." Areas of study include Technology and Information Policy, Media, Art, and Representation, Technology, Business, and the Economy, and Issues in Globalization.
Not a bad selection of programs considering that these schools are here for their ability to put together basketball teams, not necessarily for their quality or quantity of doc-related offerings. Imagine if we hand-selected the top 16 schools in this area! (Maybe I'll do that some day.) Clearly there is an increased focus and need for a better understanding of information and how it is presented.
Oh, and the final results are in...
Final Four: Texas, Duke, Washington, George Mason.