2015 at the Information Institute

The research team at the Information Institute has had a productive 2015 calendar year.  This summary will briefly highlight some of our accomplishments, publications, and presentations that have resulted from our grant-funded research projects and activities over the past year.  

NSF Advanced Technological Education Grant-Project

In 2015, the research team wrapped up year two and began working on year three of a four-year NSF Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grant-funded project, Assessing Information Technology Educational Pathways That Promote Deployment and Use of Rural Broadband (Grant No. 1304382) led by Dr. Charles McClure as Principal Investigator (PI); Dr. Marcia A. Mardis (Co-PI); Kathryn Stewart, Dean of Technology and Professional Programs at TCC (Co-PI); Dr. James Froh, Dean of Business and Technology Programs at Chipola College (Co-PI); Ebrahim Randeree, Associate Dean, College of Communication and Information at FSU (Co-PI); and Laura Spears, Research Coordinator at the Information Institute.   In collaboration with Tallahassee Community College and Chipola College, the Information Institute research team has been investigating the alignment of IT staffing with the needs of both employers and employees in the IT industry in rural Northwest Florida.

In January 2015, Jisue Lee presented preliminary results from the project at the Annual Conference of the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE).  Lee reported findings relating to contrasting gaps in needed skills and job opportunities between rural and non-rural job markets. Lee also shared findings relating to a misalignment between the skills specified in the curricula and those requested in the job ads.  Overall, curricula in the areas of customer service, database management, project management, website design and development, help desk, documentation, hardware, professional development, troubleshooting, organizational computing, and user-training activities when compared to the skills requested and required in job postings required further study.

At the 2015 iConference, Laura Spears and Jisue Lee presented a paper which focused on the alignment between the IT learning outcomes in curricular materials at a particular Florida Panhandle area community college, the skills listed in regional job postings, and the perceptions of IT students and faculty members.  Spears and Lee reported that this college faced challenges when trying to meet the needs of IT employers, particularly in clarifying the value of certifications and providing meaningful experiential learning opportunities, such as internships, externships, and service learning experiences.

In October 2015, Co-PI Dr. Marcia Mardis and project evaluator Dr. Flora McMartin presented a showcase session featuring the research results to date at the 2015 NSF ATE Principal Investigators’ Conference. Mardis and McMartin also convened a Bird of a Feather discussion centered on rural education. Over 20 people attended the session and contributed thoughtful and exciting ideas about helping students in rural communities grow and thrive.

This is ongoing and the results will continue to emerge.  Our interviews with IT employers and early career IT professionals in Northwest Florida are nearly complete and will offer critical insights for mapping IT career pathways.

Florida Information Technology Career (FITC) Pathways Alliance Project Assessment

This year the Information Institute completed an assessment led by Dr. Marcia Mardis (PI) and Dr. Charles McClure (Co-PI) of a five-year project funded by the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) and the Targeted Educational Attainment Grant Program (TEAm), the Florida IT Career (FITC) Pathways Alliance.  This project examined the information technology (IT) and computing programs at Florida State University (FSU), Florida A&M University (FAMU), Tallahassee Community College (TCC), Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) and select north Florida high schools’ and assessed their curricula’s ability to meet student, employer, faculty, and administrator needs as well as the expectations to support recruiting, retaining and placing qualified graduates in IT and computing professions.  The Information Institute produced a final evaluation report of project activities.

Dr. Jenny Ma presented the research design for the Information Institute’s assessment project at ALISE in January 2015.  In short, online job postings in North Florida and the syllabi from the aforementioned schools and colleges were collected and compared against the Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers’ (IEEE) Curriculum Standards, the Florida Department of Education’s (FLOE) Curriculum for Computing and well as academic and industry oriented technology certifications (Spears et al., 2015). 

In April 2015, Dr. Mardis and the team also had the pleasure of presenting to the Florida Board of Governors at the TEAm grants annual event in Tampa. In her presentation, Dr. Mardis shared the educational and career pathways the team had discerned through their analysis. Many of the findings complemented and reflected findings emerging from the NSF ATE project. This presentation formed the basis for subsequent presentations to FITC stakeholders at events throughout the summer and early fall.

Related Papers and Presentations

In November, Dr. Marcia Mardis moderated a panel for the 11th Annual Social Informatics Research Symposium at the 2015 Annual Meeting for the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T).  This panel brought together experts from IT, informatics, and information studies programs to identify tensions between fleet, practical or technical IT, and traditional education in creating new IT scholars as well as discuss their respective approaches to IT curriculum development in light of the social informatics perspective.  Laura Spears, who organized the panel, and Jonathan Hollister served as discussants for the panel by offering brief reflections on the overarching themes of the panel and solicited questions about how to best address the issues raised. 

Citations for our publications and presentations can be found below.  Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or comments!  A special thanks to Liz Liebman, Jisue Lee, Dr. Jinxuan Ma, Chandrahasa R. Ambavarapu, Ebe Randeree, Dr. Jim Froh, Kate Stewart, and Dr. Nicole Alemanne for their contributions to our work over the past year.  Congratulations to Laura Spears on her new position as the Assessment Librarian at the University of Florida beginning in January!  Also a special note of thanks to Susan Thomas for her work at the Information Institute over the past 14 years! 

Planned Forthcoming Activities

In 2016, Information Institute staff will continue to build on the work and findings from the NSF and FITC projects by focusing on model preparation-to-career pathways that lead students to a range of information technology jobs.  We will also be strengthening relationships with collaborators to expand our career pathways work into examining curriculum for promoting STEM-related innovation and entrepreneurship.  Finally, the Information Institute will continue its work in identifying factors and interventions affecting rural broadband deployment and use for economic development.



Lee, J., Spears, L. I.  & Ambavarapu, C. R., Mardis, M.A., & McClure, C.R. (2015). Between the IT curricula and job posting ads: Comparative analysis of IT job competencies for IT professionals in Northwest Florida. Poster presented at the 2015 Association for Library Information Science Education (ALISE) Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, January 27-30, 2015.

Spears, L. I., Lee, J., Ambavarapu, C., Mardis, M. A., Alemanne, N. D., & McClure, C. R. (2015, March). Meeting the needs of IT stakeholders in a northwest Florida state college. Paper presented at the 2015 iConference, Newport Beach, California.  Available at: https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/73446/187_ready.pdf?sequence=2

Spears, L. I., Ma, J., & Ambavarapu, C. R., Mardis, M.A. & McClure, C.R. (2015). Assessing North Florida information technology education to career pathways. Poster presented at the 2015 Association for Library Information Science Education (ALISE) Annual Conference, Chicago, IL, January 27-30, 2015.

Spears, L.I., Mardis, M. A., Alemanne, N., & McClure, C.R. (2015, November 7). IT education and iSchools: How to develop the scholarly layer? In H. Rosenbaum and P. Fichman. 11th Social Informatics Research Symposium: The Impacts of Social Informatics Research presented at the 78th Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) Annual Meeting, vol. 51, St. Louis, MO, November 7-10, 2015.