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Tackling complexity in information systems

The  University of Amsterdam’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics’ (STEAM) approach to Information Science looks at information systems considering the technological, human and societal aspects.

UvA’s Bachelor and a Master programmes on Information Studies target learners interested in solving complex challenges, using ICT and media with an interdisciplinary lens. The programmes combine  Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields with Arts to broaden students’ perspectives around information systems, challenging assumptions that look at technology as the solution without considering human and social needs.

In UvA’s Information Studies programmes, students are encouraged to first understand information problems from the perspective of the stakeholders involved, before considering potential technological solutions. For this, students need to apply knowledge from computer science, but also take into consideration research insights from cognitive science, commerce, communications, management, philosophy, public policy, and the social sciences.

The programme’s pedagogic design builds on active learning as strategy to foster  personal development, creativity, as well as learner’s responsibility for their own learning. The courses use a variety of formats, which include  lectures, discussion, peer-review and debate in combination with different presentation forms such as report, poster, video and pod-casts. Project work is an important part of the programmes since it provides students opportunities for sharing their backgrounds, collaborating and engaging in peer reviews. 

Throughout the Information Studies programmes, students are encouraged to reflect about their work, developing a clear view of what they did and how it might be interpreted. With this purpose, the courses introduce students to different models of analysis like, for instance cognitive, communication, semiotic, engineering and information models. By getting familiar with different models, students learn there isn’t a single solution or perspective, and that through group argumentation and debate it is possible to identify the pros and cons of different approaches.

The learning programmes provide a safe environment in which students can identify opportunities, take risks and fail. During the sessions, lecturers seek to create an stimulating environment where failure is understood as an essential part of the process that leads to improvement through reflection. In this context, students are prompted to recognise the value of applied research, as well as to develop innovation and reflection skills.

The three-years BSc degree and the one-year MSc degree are coordinated by the Computing Department of the University of Amsterdam. Both programmes seek to train the knowledge workers of the future, equipping them with skills and tools to solve complex challenges and problems for organisations. 

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