POLICY ON TECHNOLOGY FLUENCY
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, COLLEGE PARK
MAY 1, 2002
It is the policy of the University of Maryland, College
Park, that all graduates shall, at a minimum, be proficient in
basic information technology skills. The current minimum list
of basic competencies is found in Section II below. In addition,
conditions shall be established that will insure that the great
majority of students achieve proficiency in many additional
skills. A representative list of such additional skills appears
as "Intermediate Competencies" in the same Section. Furthermore,
every graduate shall have achieved proficiency in those up-to-
date technology skills (including information technology) that
are needed for success in his or her major discipline as it is
currently evolving. A preliminary inventory of what some of
these skills are is also provided in Section II.
This policy and its rationale are fully incorporated in the
University's May 2000 Strategic Plan "Building on Excellence: the
Next Steps." Initiative One of the Plan is "Continue to elevate
the quality of undergraduate education in order to provide all
students an enriched and challenging educational experience."
One of the three major steps intended to help accomplish this
initiative is "Systematically integrate the use of information
technology into our instructional programs, so that all faculty
and students can fully exploit new technology as an essential
tool in teaching and learning." A significant component of this
step is "Bring all students to a level of information technology
proficiency appropriate to their disciplinary needs."
Strategies for implementing this policy include the
1. Provide the infrastructure and training required to give
students easy access to the information technology tools and
resources they need.
2. Make information technology an integral part of all aspects
of University life, both inside and outside the classroom,
so that students want to use it and must use it in order to
3. Ensure that program curricula provide up-to-date training in
the technology skills required for each major discipline.
Elements of Strategy 1 include the maintenance of a state-of-
the-art network infrastructure, the extension of this network to
student residence facilities, the provision of remote access
capacity to students off campus, the technical support for
students to connect to the network, formal and informal training
in basic information technology skills, and the maintenance of
computer laboratories and similar facilities for student use. A
more detailed look at what has been achieved in these respects is
found in Section III.1, below.
Elements of Strategy 2 include the pervasive use of
information technology in instruction, in student services, and
in student social activities. This strategy is well represented
in the Strategic Plan. One of the six major steps designed to
help implement its Initiative Five is "Accelerate and support the
migration of student and business services to an online
environment." Components of other steps in the Plan include
support and training for faculty to migrate courses to an online
environment and the upgrade of classrooms to support these
information technology enriched courses. A more detailed look at
progress related to Strategy 2 is found in Section III.2, below.
Strategy 3 includes an annual review and update of the
technology skills that are appropriate in each academic
discipline, along with an analysis of major courses or other
means that are in place to train students in these skills and to
ensure their competence.
Strategies for assessing implementation of the Policy
include the following:
1. To the extent that information technology becomes pervasive
in the environment, each student's proficiency in the basic
skills will be demonstrated by his or her success in registering
for and passing academic courses. Registration and other student
services are almost entirely online. Academic courses
increasingly require the use of the basic skills. Section IV.1
provides more detail.
2. Students' own views of their achievement of intermediate
skills, both skills on the list and additional skills, will be
measured in annual surveys conducted by the Campus Assessment
Working Group (CAWG). Actual achievement will be measured by
student success in those courses, both academic and non-academic,
that teach or require the use of these skills. Section IV.2
provides additional details.
3. Annually each college will be asked to update a list of
skills required to be achieved in each of its academic
disciplines. It will also be asked to match these skills against
those that are taught in major courses or elsewhere, and
specifically against those major courses where success requires
effective exercise of these skills. Additional details are in
II. SKILLS LISTS AND DISCUSSION
These lists of basic and intermediate competencies are based
on the National Research Council white paper "Being Fluent with
1. Basic Competencies
a. Familiarity with using a computer.
b. Using email and other electronic tools to communicate
c. Using a word processor to create a formatted text
d. Using a Web browser to locate information.
e. Locating Web pages and evaluating their content.
f. Retrieving and evaluating scholarly electronic
resources (e.g. e-journals, databases).
2. Intermediate Competencies
g. Creating and using databases to access or sort
h. Creating and using spreadsheets to organize data
and text, do calculations or analysis, or model simple
i. Using electronic presentation tools.
j. Using graphic/multimedia software.
k. Creating Web pages.
l. Selecting the most appropriate technology for a
3. Additional Competencies
Academic programs expect students to demonstrate skills with
advanced and/or discipline-specific software and hardware.
a. Symbolic manipulation software, such as MatLab and
b. Statistical software, such as SAS and SPSS.
c. Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and other specialized
design software, such as AutoCAD and ProMechanica.
d. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software,
such as ArcView.
e. Programming in one or more of a wide variety of
f. Computer-based data collection tools.
g. Computer controlled materials processing tools.
h. Visualization, image processing, and animation
i. Computer-based controls, such as for theatre
Beyond these specific skills, it is important that graduates
achieve a broader understanding of the social, ethical, and
political context and consequences of the information technology
revolution. This includes issues concerning intellectual
property rights, privacy, new economic paradigms, and changes in
social and workplace relationships. Courses within History,
Sociology, Government and Politics, Public Affairs, Business,
Information Studies, Education, Health and Human Performance, and
Computer Science, among others, are beginning to address these
issues in depth.
1. Infrastructure and Training
The University maintains a robust data networking
infrastructure at all levels, from the individual desktop through
its connectivity to the outside world. On-campus communication
is fast and reliable, resident students have direct network
connections, and access from remote locations is readily
available. The residence halls provide a 10 Mbit shared data
connections to every bed. Resident students currently activate
more than 10,000 connections, while offices and classrooms
activate another 17,000. The university maintains a pool of 874
56-Kbit modems for remote network access, 782 of which are local
to College Park and 92 to Baltimore. We continue to maintain a
large network of open and discipline-specific computer
laboratories for student use. We are now beginning to deploy
wireless nodes as well. Wireless connectivity to the network is
currently available in 32 buildings and in the major campus open
The Libraries offer access to a large and increasing number
of online databases and journals, in addition to a substantial
collection of materials in a variety of formats and media.
University Web pages include such information resources as
catalogs, schedules, calendars, and listings of departmental
events, as well as interactive resources that facilitate academic
course scheduling and the review of a student's progress towards
Students entering the University are offered an introduction
to available computing resources during initial orientation. The
Office of Information Technology (OIT) offers Peer Training for
students, a program in which experienced students receive
specialized training for teaching a wide range of IT courses to
fellow students. The Libraries also offer training in
information search and information evaluation, both within
regular class settings and on a stand-alone basis. Librarians
conduct about 1,000 class sessions each year, reaching over18,000
participants. Most library classes are tied directly to course
requirements and assignments and are focused on computer-based
information resources (electronic full-text of articles, e-
journals and e-books, electronic reference books, and scholarly
Web sites), or the online access tools to locate information
resources (online library catalog and periodical databases).
There are other specialized training opportunities such as TILT
(The Information Literacy Tutorial), a Web-based interactive
tutorial that also teaches basic searching skills to freshmen.
Over 3,000 students use TILT each year. Many courses designed
for freshmen include additional training in making effective use
of these resources, and this training is reinforced through
students' use of online student services and the need to use IT-
based information sources for papers and other assignments. The
most effective source of training, however, may be the informal
training that happens through the student's interaction with his
or her peers, now that the vast majority of students in the
residence halls and elsewhere are experienced and comfortable in
the online environment. We are sufficiently confident in the
infrastructure and training opportunities offered to students
that we now publish in the Undergraduate Catalog the statement
"Any course at the University may require the knowledge of basic
computer skills (e.g., e-mail use, Web browsing, word processing)
without special notice being given in advance."
2. IT Pervasive Environment
There has been enormous growth in the use of IT in classes.
For example, English 101 is required for most freshmen in their
first year, and students are now expected to have the basic
skills prior to the beginning of class. To complete the course,
students must be able to use a Web browser to find information,
use a word processor to create a formatted document, locate Web
pages and evaluate their content, and retrieve and evaluate
scholarly electronics resources. These skills and also the use
of electronic presentation tools are reinforced in the
Professional Writing courses that almost all students take in the
Junior year. In addition, support for use of the WebCT course
environment was initiated in the summer of 1998. The number of
student seats in courses using it almost doubled from 11,208 in
Fall 2000 to 20,237 in Fall 2001. The Fall 2001 number
represents 10,477 distinct students, indicating that almost half
of our undergraduate students were exposed to the WebCT
environment that semester. Classes using the WebCT environment
feature online syllabuses, access to electronic resources, chat
rooms for students and faculty, online access to instructors, and
other IT-based enhancements to teaching and learning.
To facilitate these changes, the University maintains 54
technology classrooms, seating from 25 to 506 students, each with
internet access and built-in facilities for projection of multi-
media materials including tape, DVD, online, and computer-
generated sources. Another eighteen such classrooms are coming
on line next semester. Additional classrooms achieve the same
capability through use of equipment delivered on rolling carts.
The University has now expanded its inventory of teaching
theaters to four. These facilities include computers at each
student station and software that allows interactive
teaching/learning in a very flexible manner.
The University has made great strides in the past several
years in expanding the suite of online and Web services available
outside the classroom. Students can apply for housing, easily
compose online a class schedule that meets their requirements,
and access a suite of course registration activities, including
registering for classes. Students can also verify financial aid
and bill payment status, register for parking, change their
addresses, check progress towards their degree, assess the impact
of a change of major, apply for graduation, request transcripts
and enrollment verification, and view their academic record and
grades. Furthermore, the general social use of information
technology in the community culture is a strong force helping to
raise all students to a high level of comfort and proficiency.
1. Basic Competencies
Every student will take courses that require the basic
competencies for success. For example, every student must pass
at least one of (and usually both of) Freshman English and
Professional Writing, each of which requires these skills. The
use of IT-based instructional enhancements in a rapidly
increasing number of other courses also reinforces this need.
Most majors will include courses that require these competencies
and go far beyond them. In addition, the need to use IT-based
applications to access ordinary student services makes it
extremely difficult for a student to complete a degree without
having achieved these competencies. We are confident that our
graduates will have achieved them.
2. Intermediate Competencies
Most students will achieve most of the intermediate
competencies, although we do not believe it appropriate to
require all of them for all students. We will monitor the level
of achievement through self reporting and through an analysis of
the skills required for success in the advanced courses in
The Campus Assessment Working Group (CAWG) has been
collecting student data from various surveys for several years.
CAWG surveys provide insight into the student experience with
information technology at two critical junctures. First year
students are surveyed annually in their 8th week of class and
students in junior level English are surveyed every other year.
Specific questions will be included in these surveys to assess
the intermediate competencies and how they evolve over the
student's career on campus.
We will ask the colleges to evaluate the use their programs
make of the intermediate competencies, to determine when success
as a major implies the corresponding mastery.
3. Discipline Specific Skills
The basic and intermediate competencies are about being able
to use commercial computer applications effectively and being
able to judge the quality of academic resources. Commercial
applications are readily mastered by interested students who have
the need to use them; the development of good judgement about
resources is an essential part of any academic program. Indeed,
many students will have achieved most of these competencies by
the time they have enrolled at the University. It is the
University's unique responsibility, however, to make sure that
its graduates have developed the specific technology skills
required for success in their major disciplines. The specific
responsibility rests with the faculty who must design a
curriculum that imparts these skills and makes sure that their
mastery is a requirement for program completion. Assessment will
be at the program level, where each program faculty will
articulate the skills needed in its discipline and then match
these with the courses that offer the necessary training and that
require these skills for success. This assessment will be
updated periodically, to maintain currency in the face of rapid
changes in the technological landscape.