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New ETSU program’s goal is to increase information fluency

Rex Barber • Nov 2, 2012 at 10:05 PM

Administrators at East Tennessee State University want to make sure one of the hallmarks of an education at the school is the ability to ask good questions and the knowledge of where to look for the answers.

Brian Noland, ETSU president, announced Friday morning the creation of an initiative called INtopFORM, which is ETSU’s name for a program designed to increase information fluency, which refers to how students discern the validity of websites, detect bias and synthesize multiple ideas and use that information to communicate effectively.

“It means we want our students to be able to ask insightful questions and generate informed answers,” said Amy Johnson, assistant dean for the school of continuing studies and academic outreach and the chairperson for the INtopFORM committee. “We want students to know the go-to sources for the best, most accurate and most reliable information.”

The initiative will begin fall 2013 and involve restructuring classes and grading, Johnson said.

“This is a vital critical thinking skill and starting next year in the classroom and through other activities you’ll see a greater emphasis on preparing students to perform effectively in an information-rich and technology-intensive environment,” Noland said.

Students in every academic major should know the top five peer reviewed journals in their disciplines, how to think critically and effectively and access reliable information from a wide range of sources after having experienced the INtopFORM program.

Noland said a plethora of information is available in an instant today by going online, whereas 20 years ago students would have had to spend a week in a library to get that much information.

“That’s why, now more than ever, we must teach our students how to evaluate information in order to form insightful conclusions to solve problems and to pose new questions,” Noland said.

This new initiative is also essential to the school’s upcoming accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

INtopFORM is a five-year initiative. The first year 12 programs of study at ETSU will be integrated into INtopFORM, and then 12 more each year after that. This means that eventually 60 of the 93 undergraduate programs of study at ETSU will be integrated into INtopFORM.

An introductory computer science course is being integrated with this new concept and nearly every freshman student takes that course, so soon nearly every student who graduates from ETSU should experience the program.

There is a cost associated with the program, but the total for that is not final; however, the main cost would be in faculty development and training. Also some cost may be associated with instructional technologies.

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