Mapping a curriculum by computer

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Abstract

Enrollment data for 1977–1982, gathered unobtrusively from records of 200 students, are used to produce an innovative map of the top 42 elective courses in Drexel University's School of Library and Information Science. The technique involves widely available packaged computer programs, including multidimensional scaling, and is usable for mapping electives in any curriculum in any field. Data gathering and computing procedures are given in sufficient detail for replication. The Drexel map shows a de facto core of popular courses that cut across several subject areas and are generalizable to any type of library or information agency. Surrounding the core are coherent specializations in such areas as applied information science, technical services librarianship, and educational media. The axes of the map are inter-pretable as dimensions on which students perceive courses, and by implication careers: one is type of clientele served, from highly specialized to nonspecialized; the other is graduate's image, from traditional to nontraditional. The map is historical evidence that the curriculum works in a certain way, which may be typical of schools like Drexel with largely elective courses. The evidence is relevant to accreditation standards of the American Liorary Association.

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