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New SIS Exit Requirements Focus on Program Effectiveness

In 2018, The Graduate School at the University of Tennessee eliminated its requirement that master’s students complete a capstone project or examination in order to graduate, allowing individual graduate programs to decide what – if any – exit requirements they’d ask master’s students to complete. 

As a result, SIS faculty voted to eliminate the MSIS exit requirement of comprehensive examination, thesis, or ePortfolio, and began exploring a new way to measure the success of the program.

“Not having those requirements frees up time in students’ schedules, and we knew we could find a better way to establish how well we’re preparing our students to meet our program outcomes,” said SIS Director of Graduate Studies Rachel Fleming-May.

After considering several options, the SIS faculty Assessment and Awards Committee designed a new system, called the Student Learning Collection (SLC). Students will now be asked to connect individual assignments and projects completed during the MSIS program to the MSIS Program Outcomes. To complete the SLC, students will select at least three products they created for classes throughout the program, and identify which five of the nine program outcomes those products demonstrate, Fleming-May said.

To help students identify assignments to include in their SLC, SIS faculty and lecturers will identify at least one assignment in each class that is connected to at least one MSIS Program Outcomes. The purpose of the SLC “isn’t to test students, it’s for us to collect data to see how well we’re helping them to achieve our program outcomes,” she explained. There is no grade associated with the Student Learning Collection, as its purpose is data collection.

The first group of MSIS graduates to use this new exit requirement through SIS will be students graduating in fall 2019. SIS faculty have created an online tool students will use to upload information about their assignments, along with a brief explanation of how the assignment ties into a program outcome or outcomes.

To round out data collection for program assessment, students will also be asked to complete an anonymous exit survey with several questions related to student achievement.

“We’re excited about it and we think it’s going to be a great change and will really allow students to showcase what they have learned,” Fleming-May said.

While the comprehensive examination will not be offered after summer 2019, students who wish to write a thesis or create an ePortfolio will still be able to do so, though they will still need to create an SLC as well. The revamped E-Portfolio class will be taught in fall 2019 by Professor Peiling Wang.

“The course will still be offered with a redesign to help students demonstrate their competencies in the profession, it’s a way that they can substantiate their achievement in the program,” Wang said, stating that students should be on the lookout for more details about the class’s redesign in upcoming announcements.

Students who are interested in writing a thesis should contact their academic adviser.