What is the QEP?
A Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is a five-year university wide plan to implement and assess an initiative designed to improve student learning and success. The QEP is required as a part of the decennial reaffirmation of accreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
For more information about the QEP requirement or further details about the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), visit the SACSCOC website.
QEP Topic Identification
Tulane identified the topic of Data Literacy over the course of two years of planning, soliciting proposals, and broad-based discussion across the campus community, beginning in Spring 2019. Provost Robin Forman invited all faculty, staff, and students to submit ideas for Tulane’s QEP and submissions were received from individual faculty and staff as well as by departments and programs across the University. Several themes emerged and were presented to the University community for feedback.
The Provost solicited input from the University community as to the best topic for the QEP. Six themes emerged from the submissions:
Writing and Communication
- Expand the undergraduate writing center to address broader communication skills (e.g., presentation and collaboration), and/or
Provide more writing and communication support for graduate and professional students.
- Expand opportunities for undergraduates to participate in independent research and make it easier for students to explore these options.
Active and Engaged Learning
- Create more opportunities for students to engage with academic material in more active ways. For example, prioritizing the introduction of group projects into classes. This would require both renovating classrooms to allow for students to gather in small groups more easily for project work and discussion, and supporting faculty who would like to offer these opportunities, and/or
- Provide support for the creation of virtual reality and augmented reality projects and computer-based simulations to allow students to explore classroom materials using digital tools.
- Ensure that all students graduate with the ability to find, assess and analyze data, communicate their findings effectively, and critically examine the data-based work of others.
Design and Visual Communication
- Designing anything—a building, an image, a business, an event, a process—typically requires the consideration of a large set of perspectives, constraints, values, and priorities, and requires that specific choices be made and that those choices be effectively communicated to others. Every student should have the transformative opportunity to design something, and to present their design to the appropriate audience.
Enhancing the Sophomore Year Experience
- Articulate a compelling set of educational and developmental goals for the sophomore year, and dedicate the appropriate resources to help students achieve those goals.
The result was overwhelming support for the theme of Data Literacy, with supporters often referencing COVD-19 and the need to be able to think critically about the data presented to engage effectively in the most pressing conversations facing our local and global communities, and to make the best decisions about one’s own health and safety and that of the broader population. In January 2021, the Provost formally announced Data Literacy as Tulane’s QEP topic.
Provost Forman convened a committee to explore ideas around data literacy and develop a proposal. The committee was comprised of a wide variety of stakeholders, including tenured and tenure track faculty from each of Tulane’s nine Schools, Deans, Institute Directors, and students. Dr. Kimberly Foster, the Dean of the School of Science and Engineering, served as the Committee’s chair. The Committee submitted a final report to the Provost, which provided the strong foundation for Tulane’s QEP proposal submitted to SACSCOC — the formation of The Data Hub.
Why Data Literacy?
Increasingly compelling evidence for a commitment to data literacy and to enhance curricular and research support for data science surfaced through multiple strategic planning exercises between the Provost and the Deans and has since manifested in units across campus:
- Undergraduate students at Tulane interested in data science have repeatedly reported that they would like more programming in this area. If Tulane is to fulfill its mission to recruit and educate the top students in the country, it must create new academic programming that allows such students to fulfill their ambitions at Tulane.
- Data science is at the core of the research of a growing number of our faculty in the natural and social sciences.
- Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business carried out a strategic planning exercise that identified data analytics as a crucial area for growth, and recently created a new Business Analytics program.
- The Murphy Institute has identified data science—as a foundation for policy forecasting and assessment—as a priority and collaborates with multiple Schools across the University.
- The School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine has prioritized the growth of data science expertise in Biostatistics.
- The School of Medicine has prioritized the development of a biostatistics group to support translational and clinical research, which led to the University’s recent creation of the Tulane University Translational Science Institute (TUTSI).
- Faculty in the School of Liberal Arts whose research engages questions about data visualization have created a faculty working group with colleagues from other Schools at Tulane to share resources related to the interpretation, creation, curation, and ethics of data visualization.
Who Will Benefit?
Everyone can benefit.
We all use data every day to help us make decisions about personal things, such as which route to take to work, to things of national importance, such as policies and plans to improve road infrastructure, and everything in between.
Data is also increasingly used to make decisions on our behalf. From new friend suggestions and targeted advertising on Facebook, to Google completing your search phrase, to Netflix automatically previewing television shows it predicts you will like, data is used in almost every situation.
Despite what can be an overwhelming amount of data available at our fingertips, you do not have to be a data scientist to think critically about data, interpret data appropriately, and use it to make informed decisions. You just need data literacy skills.