Kansai University's Faculty of Informatics

by DR. WILLIAM R. PAYNE, Adjunct Instructor Ph'enix College Ph'enix, Ariz. and KIYOMI YOSHIZAWA, Associate Professor Kansai University Osaka, Japan In April, 1994, 600 students and 56 faculty members opened a new campus for Kansai University. This, one of seven schools that make up the Osaka-based university, is located in Takatsuki, on a mountainside between Kyoto and Osaka, Japan. Each school within a university structure is dedicated to a specific curriculum and, since the faculty is charged with teaching the curriculum, each school is termed, for example, the Faculty of Law, or, in this case, the Faculty of Informatics (FI). The FI, unlike most Japanese universities, employs a two-semester system, in part to attract more international students and also to provide more study time for students. After satisfactory completion of 138 credit hours, the student will receive a Bachelor's of Informatics degree from Kansai University. Background The Faculty of Informatics was ten years in the planning stage and evolved from a rather typical Japanese faculty to a most unique college by Japanese standards. A decade ago the university decided to add a "policy science" faculty to the six then constituting the university. Since the Osaka campus was saturated, an alternate campus location was necessary. During the long hunt for this property, computers became an ever-growing part of other faculties. Indeed, the department chair of this faculty, Dr. Noritsune Takagi, opened a computer-based Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communications for the University of Tokyo about the same time this faculty was conceived. Two years ago he retired from that university to put the Faculty of Informatics plan into action. The plan evolved from a typical Japanese faculty to a unique school for several reasons. First, the importance of computers to university studies had established itself. Next, the declining pool of qualified young people required the university to search for additional incentives to attract students. Finally, the standard procedures for educating university-level students over the years would not produce the new leadership desired by this faculty. Kansai University expanded the basic concept of a "policy science" school, which taught students the task of managing policy development, to a concept of developing and managing all forms of information. The curriculum expanded from "policy science" into three distinct curricula (discussed in detail below). Further, the university integrated technology with the information science curriculum. Technology included personal computers, mainframes (eventually a supercomputer), media and satellite communications. FI students can communicate from home with teachers via computers. Equally significant, the manner in which curricula was delivered to students was drastically altered, taking a decidedly American flavor. Dr. Takagi, dean of the faculty, outlined a few of the differences. The traditional Japanese university's school year starts in April and ends in January; the FI has a two-semester program. Traditional schools test students once a year and it is the only evaluation for the class; FI tests at the end of the semester and includes other evaluation measures with the exam. Traditional schools provide several forms of final exams and give marginal students extra opportunities to pass classes; FI offers one form of the final to be taken at a specific time and no make-up tests. While student failure is virtually unknown in traditional Japanese universities, FI expects some students will fail and repeat classes. Traditional schools teach through the lecture; FI plans to provide a wide range of teaching styles and emphasize the use of technology. Traditional students have no method of feedback to the school regarding instruction; FI faculty use computers-based evaluation forms to encourage students to comment on the instruction they receive. Traditional schools require two years of foreign language classes, mostly literature translation; the FI requires three years and concentrates on listening, writing, reading and speaking skills. Students interviewed by one of the authors were apprehensive about many of these changes. They were shocked at the idea of having to do homework and possibly failing a course. The Goal of the School The Faculty of Informatics is Kansai University's response to the growing information society. Faculty will help students study the concepts of communication and information from three perspectives: Communication theories Information science Computer science These three perspectives are translated into three academic "tracks" from which a student develops his own interdisciplinary course of study. The media-oriented course (Information Media Model) emphasizes computer graphics, mass media production and advertising. The organizational information course (Management Information Model) concentrates on policy formulation, organizational behavior, management information and innovation theories. A computer-oriented course (Knowledge Science Model) allows the student to focus on the study of artificial intelligence, software and hardware architecture and supercomputing. (Curricula for each model are listed later in this article.) The school will be equipped with the latest computers and with media studios. Students will learn by hands-on experience how to produce software, graphics and videos. The Students The first year's class was planned to be about 400, however, 14,000 potential students paid $100 each just to take the entrance exam. The school extended 600 letters of acceptance, again expecting only 400. Everyone accepted. Eventually, as classes expand annually, the school will educate 1,600 students. Most students entered as a result of their test scores, high school grades and recommendations; a small group, honors students, were excused from the entrance exam. Nine foreign students took a special form of the entrance exam. Kansai University is considered one of the top four private universities in Western Japan. Therefore, competition for positions in its student body is very high. Students are very outgoing and their command of English, both written and spoken, is very good. Nine foreign students attend Kansai University FI: two Canadians, two Indonesians, two Chinese, one Singaporean, one Korean and one Taiwanese. All speak and read some Japanese. For their foreign language requirement, these students will take six classes of Japanese (reading, writing and listening) and one class in Japanese culture. These students are also enrolled in the regular classes attended by all students. These particular students are majoring in the Information Management program; most spoke English and were very vocal. Kansai University, all seven "faculties," enrolled 178 foreign undergraduates this year. Scholarships are available from the national and local government and from private sources. A monthly allowance of 50,000 yen (about $500) is provided to a limited number of students in the first year. There are no dorm facilities at the FI's Takatsuki Campus. Graduation Requirements Language: Japanese students must complete a language requirement for graduation. Students must choose a major language and a minor from English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Chinese or Korean. The major is six classes; a minor is two classes. FI is negotiating with a major American television news broadcaster for rights to use their newscasts as the basis for listening instruction in English. Physical Education: Students will take one physical education class in each of their first two years. Tennis, golf, soccer, track and baseball are available. BA Thesis: The final requirement for graduation from Kansai University Faculty of Informatics is a senior thesis. The Curricula: The Bachelors of Informatics degree in each of the three areas requires completion of the language and physical education requirements, BA Thesis, Basic and Core classes listed below, and required and elective courses from the related models (i.e. majors). Of the total 138 units required for graduation, 120 units are specified and 18 are elective. Most of the elective courses, 10 units, are taken during the third (junior) year. Basic Core and Elective Classes Basic Classes (first semester, first year): Computers & the Information Society Computer Ethics Principles of Languages & Programming Principles of Computer Electronics Electives (first semester, first year): Philosophy Ecology Linguistics Jurisprudence Psychology Core Classes (second semester, first year): Computer Science 1, plus lab Computer Science 2, plus lab Information Systems Management 1, plus lab Information Systems Management 2, plus lab Each model also has required classes (listed below) as first-year classes. Information Media Curricula The Information Media course is designed for those students interested in developing skills for the mass media market. They may be looking at careers in audio/video production, graphics production, networking or mass media communications. In addition to the Core and Basic classes listed above, students complete required and elective classes from the following curricula: Information Media Curricula First Year Classes Second Year Classes Psychology Programming Languages 2 (Lab) Sociology Telecommunications Information & Human Rights Culture in Information Society Economics Information Networking Statistics Semiotics/Semantics Cognitive Science 1 Information Media Industries Cognitive Science 2 Computer Systems Architecture Communication Theory 1 Elements of Programming Communication Theory 2 Legal Protection of Software Third Year Classes Fourth Year Seminar Classes AV Media Production General Systems Theory Print Media Production Video Prod. & Editing Practicum International Networks Community Networks BA Thesis Information Networking Audio Production (Lab) Visual Production (Lab) Design Theory Desktop Publishing (Lab) Multimedia Editing (Lab)


Management Information Curricula The most popular major, the Management Information Model, is designed for those students who see their future in the business or government world of communications. Students with an interest in the social sciences are attracted to learning strategies and theories of communication in the electronic age. In addition to the Core and Basic classes, students complete required and elective classes from the following curricula: Management Information Curricula First Year Classes Third Year Classes Info. & Human Rights Legal Information Processing Economics Political Information Processing Political Science Information & Human Behavior Management Information & Effects Statistics Business Behavior Decision Making 1 Innovation Management Decision Making 2 Micro Economic Models Business Administration Macro Economic Models Public Administration Micro Political Analysis Macro Political Analysis Second Year Classes Computer Sys. Architecture Fourth Year Seminar Classes Elements of Programming Management Information Models Legal Protection of SW Political Info. Processing Practicum Computers & Crime Economic Info. Processing Practicum Programming Languages 1 Mgt. Info. Processing Practicum Programming Languages 2 Management Information Sys. Additional Classes Accounting Information Legal Info. Processing Practicum Business Management Sys. Government Information Sys. BA Thesis Policy Processes Economic Policy Public Policy Knowledge Science Curricula The Knowledge Science Model is designed to attract the engineering types. It is heavy in mathematics, logic and computer-theory classes. Of the small sample of students interviewed, this was the least popular Model to date. In addition to Core and Basic classes, students complete required and elective classes from the following curricula: (See next page) Knowledge Science Curricula First Year Classes Third Year Classes Mathematical Logic Computer Simulation Methodology Mathematics 1 Knowledge Information Policy Mathematics 2 Programming Languages 3 (lab) Mathematics 3 Operating Systems Concepts Cognitive Science 1 Software Architecture Cognitive Science 2 Super Computing Communication Theory 1 Data Structure & Algorithms Communication Theory 2 Fuzzy Logic & Inference Quantative Analysis Methodology Second Year Classes Elements of Programming Fourth Year Seminar Classes Legal Protection of SW General Systems Theory Computers & Crime Elements of Artificial Intelligence Programming Languages 1 Knowledge Information Practicum 1 Programming Lang. Lab Knowledge Information Practicum 2 Principles of Database Mgt. Mathematical Programming BA Thesis Conclusion Kansai University was founded as Kansai Law School in 1886. In the 108-year history of the university, it has expanded to meet the needs of the ever-changing nation of Japan. The Faculty of Informatics is the latest edition of that expansion and is designed to fulfill the university's aim of harmonious development of theory and practice. Akio Ohnishi, president of the university, states in the Kansai University Guide, "The 21st century is fast approaching. The development of advanced transportation and communications is drawing the world closer and closer together, and the tide of internationalization is steadily rising. Through the exchange of students and scholars, Kansai University hopes to contribute to the advancement of the educational and research level of our country as well as to offer insights and opportunities to those from abroad." Students interested in additional information about the FI may contact: Office of Faculty of Informatics Kansai University 3-3-35 Yamate-cho Suita-shi Osaka, 564 Japan Phone: 06-388-1121 Fax: 06-388-9544

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/1995 issue of THE Journal.