DePaul LSP changes could bring program around


Proposed change breakdown. Graphic made with Infogram.

It’s generally understood that LSP121 isn’t anyone’s first choice.

Many students harp on the required course’s perceived lack of utility and the fact that the course tries to fit too much into a small time frame. Zoaib Mirza, an adjunct professor who teaches Quantitative Reasoning and Technological Literacy II, LSP 121, calls his students “brave spartans” for taking the course.

“It’s nebulous,” junior Liam Cahill-Kurtz said.

A task force is working to change the Quantitative Reasoning and Internet Literacy (QRTL) domain, as well as Scientific Inquiry (SI), in efforts to improve the math, science and computing skills of DePaul non-STEM students.

“The QRTL requirement has been subject to review several times since its creation,” said John Shanahan, the associate dean and director of liberal studies, “largely because LSP121 isn’t a very popular class.”

The prerequisite, LSP120, is the quantitative reasoning part of QRTL, 10 weeks of baseline gen-ed math, spreadsheets and calculations, and is generally accepted by faculty, Shanahan said. Both classes are requirements for those in the College of Liberal Arts and Science and the College of Communication.

LSP 121 is technological literacy portion of the requirement. It was designed as a mashup of various skills, including algorithms, databases and statistics.

“I call it a buffet of computer science,” Mirza said. “Which means that you’re going to have a taste of three different segments.”

But while Excel, basic statistics and concepts applied in databases like SPSS and Microsoft Access are useful and still relevant, some think the technological literacy isn’t adept for modern day.

“What technological literacy meant in 1998 is different than in 2019,” Shanahan said.

Mirza notes the intention was for students to become familiar with the material rather than experts, but for many students, the structure of the class, which entails fitting three large-scale concepts into nine weeks, isn’t useful long-term.

“Anything I did learn in that class that would be applicable in a professional setting, I wouldn’t even be able to use because I have no recollection of it whatsoever,” said Olivia Prichard, a senior majoring in women and gender studies.

Rand Kelly, a senior studying anthropology, said the spread-out nature of the class made it easy not to pay attention. He would just go over PowerPoints before the exam and received an A.

“I do remember it was a continuation of LSP 120,” Cahill-Kurtz said. “We had to use some sort of software? I don’t even remember the name of it.”

The course has been subject to review several times since its creation.

“It’s not doing as much as we want it to do, is a nice way to put it,” Shanahan said.

Shanahan said this recurring dissatisfaction amongst students and faculty led to a task force in the 2018-2019 school year that proposed to split the requirement into two — one course on computational reasoning and another on statistical reasoning. These courses might also have different topics, like a statistics class with a sociological approach.

“To revise [the course I think is in the interest of the students, because this way you can dive more into the content,” Mirza said.” For students who are not comfortable with the content or the modality, you know, it’s a lot to take in.”

This change will also helps transfer students get credit. It’s often difficult to get LSP 121 covered because it covers so many different topics, and the placement test is comprehensive. The proposed change will help abate this.

The task force ended with a proposal in March 2019, recommending  that students should be able to choose between taking the new classes after LSP 120.

After that report, however, the scientific inquiry domain brought up concerns about how the new computing course overlapping with 100-level SI courses.

This is where the communication between scientific inquiry and quantitative reasoning began, and the task force is now working in tandem with the two groups.

The new proposal is that both statistics and computational reasoning courses would be required and the scientific inquiry domain will be condensed from three to two.

The bargain is specifying the science portion. Two-thirds of those taking the SI elective are taking business calculus class, a product of the domain being formulated when the CDM school was just being created. New required SI courses would be science-exclusive.

While it looks like there’s less science, it’s more that the classes that were considered science are being reorganized.

“It’s a truth in advertising approach,” Shanahan said.

While many students dislike the requirement because they don’t feel like math applies to their liberal arts or communication majors, both Shanahan and Mirza emphasize the importance and applicability of STEM groundwork.

“I understand that people have this idea that ‘I go into humanities because I don’t want to do math,’” Shanahan said, “but the fields have changed so much that if you go into a Ph.D. in the humanities, you’re probably going to see statistics.”

The proposed changes would create comprehensive and specified courses that aim to improve student’s STEM skills, giving students access to a more in-depth look and promoting ease of transfer credits.

“Right now, we’re just slowing students down,” Shanahan said.

The recommendations will be released in a report at the end of winter quarter, which will go to liberal studies council and then faculty council for approval with a projected acceptance by 2020.

CORRECTION Nov. 17, 2019: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that the software used in LSP classes dated back to when the course was first introduced in 1998. While the programs date back to 1998, the software has been routinely updated.