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Archive for Saturday, March 20, 1999

KU MONITORS ACADEMICS WITH INNOVATIVE SYSTEM

March 20, 1999

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— KU officials making management decisions can turn to an extraordinary computer system that offers a detailed analysis of academic performance on campus.

It has a simple name but generates exhaustive statistical summaries of academic programs at Kansas University.

All at the tip of someone's fingers.

DEMIS, short for Department Executive Management Information System, was developed by KU computer gurus and stands as the most complete system at any U.S. university for tracking academic program performance.

"It's only available at KU. That's a national statement," said Kim Wilcox, interim director of academic affairs for the Kansas Board of Regents.

Deborah Teeter, director of KU's Institute for Research and Planning, said officials at other universities shown the system were aware of nothing like it.

"They're blown away," she said.

Regents decided in 1997 to require reviews of all academic programs at each of the six state universities in Kansas within an eight-year cycle.

In addition, the board sought a computer system that would permit monitoring of programs relative to student demand, student quality, faculty resources and other points of interest.

KU got into this cutting-edge area of computer work several years ago to help university academic leaders make better decisions about allocation of scarce resources.

"It was intended to be a management tool," said KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway.

Currently, information in the system is available only to in-house users at KU or outsiders issued a password.

It slices information so thin that an individual professor's teaching workload can be reviewed by semester. It also cuts a wide swath by comparing KU's statistics -- faculty salaries, for example -- to averages at comparable universities selected by regents, Big 12 schools and a set of 14 American Association of University institutions.

"It's clear from my perspective that this program is way out in front," Wilcox said.

During Wilcox's presentation Thursday to members of the Board of Regents, board member Sylvia Robinson said the flaw with reporting mechanisms lacking the sophistication of KU's system was that certain numbers led to inaccurate conclusions.

"There are stories behind the numbers," she said.

The Board of Regents staff is in preliminary stages of developing its own tracking system for academic programs at regents universities.

Meanwhile, Hemenway said the state would benefit from a program that quantified the academic progress of all students enrolled at Board of Regents universities. He said the information would help regents universities demonstrate to lawmakers the quality of education available to Kansans.

"That's something we should start on."

-- Tim Carpenter's phone message number is 832-7155. His e-mail address is tcarpenter@ljworld.com.

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