Academic journal article College Student Journal

On-Line Graduate Bulletin Decision-Making Issues

Academic journal article College Student Journal

On-Line Graduate Bulletin Decision-Making Issues

Article excerpt

Graduate Schools are increasingly faced with issues related to disseminating timely information on the Interact regarding their programs. The graduate bulletin is a primary means of sharing information about and marketing graduate programs. This article describes issues encountered by a regional, comprehensive university that has chosen to make its graduate bulletin accessible in both PDF and HTML formats on-line. Particular emphasis is given to the decision-making concerns that institutions of higher learning must address when considering online options for a graduate bulletin. Specific software found to produce high quality on-line documents is described, along with suggestions for maintaining the integrity of the system. Recommendations and potential problems are noted based on experiences of the institution.

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Internet usage by students in graduate schools has increased at a phenomenal rate for several years, presenting new challenges to institutions of higher learning (Hintze & Lehnus, 1998). Recent U.S. statistics indicate that more than five million Americans went online in the first quarter of 2000, or approximately 55,000 per day, 2289 per hour, and 38 per minute (Lebo, 2000). Approximately 3.2 million pages are added to the World Wide Web every 24 hours (Lebo, 2000). Among the most frequent uses of the Internet is information for business (Intelliquest, 2000). While usage is higher among highly educated individuals (Hintze & Lehnus, 1998), two thirds of the American population has some form of Internet access (Lebo, 2000). Additionally, the Internet is increasingly used as a venue for marketing educational information (Butler, 1995; Educational Directories Unlimited, 2001; Verity & Hof, 1994).

Increasing usage of the Internet has placed considerable pressures on graduate schools to make information more accessible (Moxley, 2000). For example, using the search engine Yahoo[R], and simply typing in several key search words--graduate education and Internet--306,000 sites may be produced in the ensuing search results. Similar results are produced using other frequently used browsers (e.g., Hotbot[R], Google[TM], Excite[TM]).

A random perusal of the many listings generated from this search suggests that most colleges and universities having graduate programs use the Internet to provide access to information about programs. Of particular importance to all graduate programs is the Graduate Bulletin, or document that presents information regarding programs, courses, and general information pertaining to graduate education for a particular institution. Though the Graduate Bulletin does not constitute a contract with students (see e.g., East Carolina University, 1999; University at Albany, 2000; University of Rochester, 2000), it is an important mechanism for marketing graduate programs (Educational Directories Unlimited, 2001).

Long documents such as graduate bulletins pose unique challenges to institutions of higher learning with respect to information management. This is especially true when student prospects, decision-makers, clients, or other users are in remote locations, and problems emerge regarding browser (e.g., Internet Explorer, Netscape) usage and formats for documents [e.g., portable document format (PDF) (Adobe, 2000) vs. Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) (World Wide Web Consortium, 2001)]. Frequent changes in program curricula, policies and procedures, and other information typically printed in a graduate bulletin make the document outdated soon after a printing. Thus, the issue arises regarding how best to maintain an updated bulletin to ensure timely dissemination of information.

Such issues were encountered at Southeast Missouri State University, a small regional, comprehensive university (n student enrollment = 8,951) serving a 26-county area in Missouri. At this institution, graduate enrollment (n = 1,192 in Fall, 2000) grew at an unprecedented rate during the past three years (> 50% enrollment change). …

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