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Information Technology Literacy For Non Engineers

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Service Courses for Non-Engineers

Tagged Division

Technological Literacy Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.745.1 - 13.745.8



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Paper Authors


William Suchan United States Military Academy

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Will Suchan has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Arizona State University. He is the Information Technology Core Program Director in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the United States Military Academy. He can be reached at

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Susan Schwartz United States Military Academy

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Susan Schwartz has an M.S. in Computer Science from Old Dominion University. She is currently an Assistant Professor and Deputy Director of the Information Technology Core Program in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the United States Military Academy. She can be reached at

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Edward Sobiesk United States Military Academy

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Edward Sobiesk has a Ph.D. in Computer and Information Sciences from the University of Minnesota. He is an Assistant Professor and Course Director for the course IT305-Theory and Practice of Military IT Systems in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the United States Military Academy. He can be reached at

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Information Technology Literacy for Non-Engineers


This paper describes the concepts and methodologies used in an undergraduate general education information technology (IT) course designed specifically for non-engineers. The semester-long course is required for all of our students who are not engineering majors, and is taken by about 750 juniors and seniors each year. The course builds upon a freshmen-level introductory course that covers microcomputer competencies, as well as basic programming techniques in both Java and Extensible HyperText Markup Language (XHTML). An immersive computing environment, in which all our students have a laptop and ubiquitous network access, also contributes to our students’ technical foundation.

The primary objective of our course is to significantly contribute to the accomplishment of our institution’s IT literacy goal, which states that “Graduates understand and apply information technology concepts to acquire, manage, communicate and defend information, solve problems, and adapt to technological change.”1 The course accomplishes this by emphasizing both the theory and the practice of information technology. From a theoretical perspective, it is critical that our students understand the general concepts involved with acquiring, communicating, managing, and defending information. From a more pragmatic viewpoint, though, we strive to also produce students who have the skills necessary to apply various IT tools in finding practical solutions to diverse problems in often unpredictable problem domains. Ideally, we want students who embrace and believe in IT, and who are confident from their current experiences that they will have the ability to successfully employ future, not-yet-developed IT tools throughout their professional career. We accomplish this goal by emphasizing hands-on learning, with students completing numerous in-class exercises and labs as well as several team projects, all of which are designed to help them learn how to learn IT.

Even though this course is for non-engineers, we receive an abundance of anecdotal evidence from our former students that the technological literacy gained in this course has made a significant difference in their chosen fields.

A Foundation Based on Cyberspace

The concepts of the World Wide Web (WWW) and electronic media permeate the entire course. In an introductory module, students are exposed to advanced XHTML and Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) techniques that significantly extend those they received in their freshman-level IT course. The homework for our course consists of four team projects,2 and the first of these is to build a web portal that will be used as the submission vehicle for the remaining course projects. All projects in the course are submitted electronically by publishing them to a course web server.

Besides XHTML and CSS concepts, we also empower our students to properly exploit the immense resources of the WWW. One way we accomplish this is by introducing them to the concept of code reuse. We encourage students to use web designs from such sites as Open Source Web Design ( as a starting point for their work. By customizing an open

The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Military Academy or the United States Army.

Suchan, W., & Schwartz, S., & Sobiesk, E. (2008, June), Information Technology Literacy For Non Engineers Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4298

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