When Indiana University was founded in 1820, only Greek and Latin were taught. The curriculum has obviously changed over time, in response to both intellectual and practical needs. The most recent school to be established at Indiana University, the School of Informatics responds to the world's changing needs, and offers five master's programs: Health Informatics, Bioinformatics, Chemical Informatics, Human-Computer Interaction, and Media Arts and Science.
One might say that programming languages and software tools are the Greek and Latin of our times, and no person can be called truly educated without mastery of these "languages." It is not intended to suggest that the classical languages, or any natural languages, have been supplanted by C++ and Java. Indeed, making available the classical corpus in searchable digital form was one of the first applications of computing to the humanities. The point is to suggest the pervasiveness of information technology in all of civilized life. Much as Greek and Latin opened doors to the scholarship of the nineteenth century, so does information technology open doors to the art and science of the twenty-first century.
The development of networks and distributed systems over the past several decades has changed forever the notion of a computer as something that merely "computes." The computer now is an "information processor." Also gone is the idea of a computer as a stand-alone system. Instead it is a "communication node." Arthur C. Clarke once said that "a sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Unfortunately many people see computers and the Internet as magical. The mission of the School of Informatics is to educate citizens that advanced information technology is indistinguishable, or at least inseparable, from science and the arts.
Moore's Law says that computing power doubles every 18 months. Regardless of whether that law is literally correct, it illustrates the rapid changes in information technology that will continue throughout the foreseeable future. The School of Informatics prepares students to meet the increasing demand for information technology professionals. The proverb says that if you give people fish, you've fed them for a day, but if you teach them how to fish, you've fed them for a lifetime. Like the proverb, informatics teaches students how to adapt to technological changes while preparing them for lifelong learning in their careers and in their lives.
The curriculum is designed in two axes. One axis is the technical dimension, running from the logical and mathematical foundations of information technology to the issues of distributed information and knowledge systems. The other axis represents the human dimension, from the individual working with a computer and the area of human-computer interaction to groups interacting via computers with each other and the areas of social and organizational informatics. Where these two axes cross, we have the intersection of the human and the technical, of art and science. Also at the intersection we have "new media"—the use of computers and the Internet as multimodal communication devices that allow the expression of the human spirit through the visual arts, music, voice, and text. Thus we have the five areas of the informatics curriculum: mathematical foundations, distributed information, human-computer interaction, social/organizational informatics, and new media.
The master's programs build on a student's undergraduate education and provide a core of courses on information management as well as more specialized courses relating to the particular emphases of the various master's degrees. Their common aim is to educate a student in the application of information technology to human problems. A graduate with a Master of Science in Informatics degree will have solid technical skills linked to real-world applications, and will have a knowledge of professional practice, including an ethical perspective and awareness of policy issues. The graduate will have strong analytical abilities and problem solving skills and an ability to communicate and work in teams. The graduate will be prepared for the life-long learning which is an essential ingredient of the information economy.
The School of Informatics has grown out of years of planning and discussion, both at Indiana University Bloomington (IUB) and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). In the fall of 1997, a Taskforce on Informatics chaired by Richard Shiffrin (Director of the Cognitive Science Program, IUB) was formed to study ways in which the university could capitalize on its strengths in information technology and to make a recommendation for further development. The membership of that taskforce came from both the IUB and IUPUI campuses and represented a wide range of disciplines involved in information technology. This taskforce report recommended that IU establish the School of Informatics.
In the summer of 1998, President Myles Brand created an Informatics Planning Committee chaired by Dennis Gannon (Chair of Computer Science, IUB). The committee was charged with developing a detailed implementation plan for this metaschool. The committee document outlined how an undergraduate degree in informatics could fruitfully require a substantial number of courses in an area outside of the core informatics courses. It also called for the creation of a research institute and for a small core faculty. The Informatics Planning Committee gave the following motivation for the new school:
The movement of society into the information age involves developments in information science and technology, distributed information processing, computer and cognitive science, social aspects of dealing with distributed information, knowledge retrieval, distributed teaching and learning, information dissemination, and many related themes. All academic and research programs at IU are (or shortly will be) affected by these developments. This task force recommends that a new school, tentatively titled "School of Informatics," be formed to promote teaching, training, and research in these areas, and thereby play a catalyzing role in this ongoing evolutionary process.On January 1, 1999, President Brand appointed an interim dean, J. Michael Dunn (Computer Science and Philosophy, IUB) and an interim associate dean, Darrell Bailey (Music and New Media, IUPUI). With the guidance of a multidisciplinary faculty advisory committee of more than 50 members, the school began to take shape. The Indiana Commission for Higher Education formally approved the school in November, authorizing IU to admit its first informatics majors in the fall of 2000.
The School of Informatics spans the IUB and IUPUI campuses. By combining the strengths of these two campuses, the School of Informatics is able to create a unique environment that enables students to earn degrees with strong information technology components in arts, humanities, science, and the professions. The expert faculty and excellent technological resources foster a synthesis of academic disciplines and cultures. Faculty from varied departments share developments in the fast-moving information technology areas through the School of Informatics and its degree programs. The school is actively forging cooperative arrangements with employers in the state and region and creating internships, cooperative education programs, and opportunities for learning through service.
The Bloomington Campus
IUB is a residential campus that offers undergraduate, professional, and graduate degrees in more than 70 fields of study. In the fall semester of 1999, the campus had a total enrollment of 36,201, including 27,461 undergraduates and 7,269 students in graduate and professional programs. More than 30 schools and departments at IUB are ranked among the top 10 nationally, with more than 100 ranked in the top 20 in their respective fields.
University Libraries at IUB
University Information Technology Services (UITS) at IUB
In its annual list of America's 100 most wired colleges, Yahoo! Internet Life has ranked IUB the ninth most "wired" campus in the country, and for the third year in a row has ranked it second among public institutions of higher education. This ranking considers the categories of computer availability and type, undergraduate personal computer use, e-mail use and access, Web space use and access, networking, degree and distance learning, and educational and administrative uses.
The IUPUI Campus
IUPUI is an urban campus that combines IU and Purdue programs. In the fall semester of 1999, its schools had a total enrollment of 27,587, including 20,416 undergraduates and 7,171 students in graduate and professional programs. IUPUI currently ranks among the 10 largest campuses in the nation that offer graduate professional degrees.
University Information Technology Services (UITS) at IUPUI
Because Indiana's government, business, industry, finance, health, service, and nonprofit organizations are centered in Indianapolis, the urban environment plays an important role as a learning resource for students enrolled in the informatics programs at IUPUI. Many of the state's communication industries are concentrated in the capital city and the larger organizations based here have made commitments to improve their communication and business processes through the use of information and information technology. IUPUI has established strong working relationships with both industry and government agencies in communications, information technology, and media arts and sciences.
Research and theory in informatics move rapidly to application and development. The faculty teaching in the School of Informatics participate in research activities and new applications of technology. As a result, faculty can transmit state-of-the-art knowledge to their students. Indiana University is capitalizing on this great research strength in informatics at both IUB and IUPUI with the formation of an Informatics Research Institute (IRI). The Informatics Research Institute will conduct research in areas of emphases shared with the School of Informatics, including: fundamental research in human-computer interaction; fundamental research in capturing, managing, analyzing, and explaining information and making it available for its myriad uses; and expanding research into policy and socioeconomic issues arising from information technology.