Dental Information Systems

Course #: 2201 Year: postgrad. Semester: fall/spring
Director: Dr. Titus Schleyer Phone: 8-8886 Credits: 3
Office: Rm. 331 Salk, SDM E-mail:
Faculty: Dr. Titus Schleyer, Dr. Heiko Spallek, Kawa Shwaish, John Ledonio
Time/Location: Fridays, 9-12 am, Dental Hygiene Conference Room (B64)
Offered by: Center for Dental Informatics


Graduates of dental informatics programs often are asked to develop, establish or direct organizational units to support information technology and/or informatics. Most dental schools do not have informatics departments and/or faculty. Thus, dental informaticians are faced with numerous challenges in establishing an organizational presence. Often, they are asked to set up and/or direct support for the computing infrastructure, teach dental informatics courses, and engage in research. As IT implementations grow in scale (e.g. the number of users they support) and scope (e.g. the number of different applications used), managing the infrastructure presents a significant challenge. This course is designed to equip students with the basic skills necessary to meet those challenges. The course also covers several other topics necessary for survival in a new academic discipline.


The course will develop students' competencies in the following areas:

  • conceptualizing and implementing an organizational entity for information technology and/or informatics
  • managing IT personnel, projects and technologies
  • understanding the hardware and software design and architecture of an IT infrastructure
  • ensuring secure and continuous operation of an IT infrastructure
  • developing and publishing dental informatics research projects
  • understanding instructional design and quality criteria for educational software
  • planning, deploying, and evaluating computing projects
  • developing computing-related policies 

Signing up for and dropping the course

Signing up for and dropping the course follows the rules published by the Office of the Registrar. Please note that additional paperwork will be required to add or drop this course after the official deadlines.


General requirements

  1. This course consists of lectures, related assignments and a final exam.
  2. The course is graded A-F based on the course assignments and final exam.  The assignments contribute 70% of the grade and the final exam 30%.
  3. Students who have not completed all assignments by the end of the course will receive a grade of "incomplete."  The final grade will be awarded once the assignments are completed.


If classwork merits a grade of 'F,' students will be assigned appropriate makeup work.  This makeup work will consist of an essay or research assignment.


Readings consist of articles and/or book chapters distributed in class or available through the Web page (see schedule below). You will be expected to have read all assignments before each corresponding class (with the exception of the first session).


Academic Integrity

Students in this course will be expected to comply with University of Pittsburgh's Policy on Academic Integrity. Any student suspected of violating this obligation for any reason during the semester will be required to participate in the procedural process, initiated at the instructor level, as outlined in the University Guidelines on Academic Integrity. This may include, but is not limited to, the confiscation of the examination of any individual suspected of violating University Policy. Furthermore, no student may bring any unauthorized materials to an exam, including dictionaries and programmable calculators.


If you have a disability that requires special testing accommodations or other classroom modifications, you need to notify both the instructor and the Disability Resources and Services no later than the 2nd week of the term. You may be asked to provide documentation of your disability to determine the appropriateness of accommodations. To notify Disability Resources and Services, call 648-7890 (Voice or TTD) to schedule an appointment. The Office is located in 216 William Pitt Union.

Schedule and topics

Class time and location is Fridays, 9-12 am, Dental Hygiene Conference Room (B64), unless indicated otherwise. Please note that this class includes a full-day retreat (the "Dental Informatics ThinkTank") that is still to be scheduled. Scheduled presentations are as follows (Please note: Assignments received after the deadline will automatically receive a one letter grade lower score.) (All readings are available from Andrea.):

1/9/2004 Instructor: T. Schleyer
Dental Informatics in Academia
Topic: Dental informatics is a new discipline, and therefore, its integration in dental schools has not yet matured. Very few dental schools have departments of or centers for dental informatics. These organizational entities often differ vastly in their mission and functions. Graduates of dental informatics programs might be faced with the challenge of establishing an organizational presence for dental informatics. This presentation provides an overview of the types and functions of dental informatics organizations within academia. It covers their contributions in the areas of patient care, education and research. The presentation also discusses integration within the school hierarchy, relationships to other departments and organizations in the university, and planning for, organizing and managing these new organizational entities (handout).

For this class:

For 1/16/2004:

1/16/2004 Instructor: T. Schleyer
Planning for academic computing
Topic: Strategic planning is an important ingredient for the success of academic computing initiatives. Many universities apply an institution-wide planning process for academic computing. For instance, at Temple University such a process has been in place since 1990. Such planning can result in a more structured approach to how student fees for computing are spent. The presentation will discuss this approach and the actual results at TUSoD, as well as its drawbacks and advantages.

 For 1/23/2004:

1/23/2004 Instructor: H. Spallek
Information design (PPT presentation) 

Information design underlies many design and development activities in informatics. Information design is a science that establishes tenets and constraints independently of what is actually designed, be it a Website, a user interface or a brochure. Unfortunately, most designers lack a thorough foundation in information design, resulting in less than optimal outcomes in secondary design tasks. This presentation is designed to introduce students to information design, with special emphasis on communicating quantitative information.

Reading/assignment:  For 2/6/2004:
  • L. Keegan. Assessing your publication potential. Semin Perioper Nurs 8 (1):3-6, 1999.
  • J. Benner. 10 tips for successful and fun publishing. Nurse Author Ed 8 (3):8, 1998.
  • C. A. Servodidio. Writing tips for authors. Insight 23 (1):24-7, 1998.
  • P. Burnard. Where do I begin? Writing for publication. Accid Emerg Nurs 5 (4):226-9, 1997.
  • M. K. Heffern, R. P. Keeling, C. B. Reifler, P. L. Swinford, A. J. Schwartz, J. Dorman, and M. H. Wedeman. So you want to publish in JACH? How to avoid some potholes and pitfallls and make it into print. J Am Coll Health 44 (5):219-26, 1996.
  • M. A. Hitchcock. Writing and publishing research articles. Fam Pract Res J 8 (1):3-16, 1988.
  • B. J. Linney. The three R's of writing: reading, "riting," and risking. Physician Exec 23 (6):59-61, 1997.
  • N. Kapur. How to write your first book. Med Teach 11 (3-4):271-7, 1989.  
1/30/2004 Instructor: T. Schleyer
"Computing in Dentistry" - A new paradigm for publishing a book
Topic: Publishing a book is an important achievement in an academic career. The traditional way of publishing a book is to come up with an interesting idea, labor on the manuscript for a few years, hand it over to a publisher, and then hope to sell as many copies as possible. However, electronic publishing technologies, the Internet and educational software are rendering publishers an increasingly impotent partner in this endeavor. If a book is to be published in the traditional manner, the publisher must meet a higher level of competence than simply being able to convert a Word file into a book. This presentation will discuss our experiences in publishing our first book, "The Global Village of Dentistry," and cover the project for our second book, "Computing in Dentistry," in detail.

For 2/13/2004:

Spallek H, Schleyer T. Educational implications for copyright in a digital world. Journal of Dental Education Vol 63 (9), 1999: 673-681.

Boynton RS: The tyranny of copyright. The New York Times Magazine, January 26th 2004: 40-45.

Assignment: Usability study (will be assigned later)

2/6/2004 Instructor: T. Schleyer
Publishing in dental informatics
Topic: Getting published is a standard expectation in academia. Tenure and promotion decisions, reputation, and professional status hinge to a large degree on the quality and quantity of your publications.  This seminar provides an overview of conceptualizing and writing research articles, appropriate target journals for dental informatics topics, and the editorial process.
Reading/assignment: Assignment: Article review (due 2/13/2004): Review the assigned article for the indicated journal in two pages or less.  Use review form provided to record your comments.

2/13/2004 Instructor: H. Spallek
Educational implications for copyright in a digital world (PPT presentation) 

Statutory law and court cases currently leave fair use of copyrighted material poorly defined and fail to provide effective guidance for the use of others' work. Copyright legislation is undergoing significant change, accelerated by computing and communication technologies. This seminar reviews copyright issues, fair use guidelines, and applicable laws and statutes to help students understand and comply with copyright regulations. The seminar discusses principles of copyright and ownership, the rights of copyright holders, and the conditions under which copyrighted material can be used by others.


For 2/20/2004:


  • Article review due
  • Court Case (due:2/27/2004)

2/20/2004 Instructor: H. Spallek
Evaluating educational software (PPT presentation) 

The ANSI-accredited Standards Committee on Dental Informatics has been developing a standard for the design of educational software since 1995. Termed "Guidelines for the Design of Educational Software," the product of this effort has become a comprehensive reference for the development of computer-assisted instructional programs. The standard has evolved through several iterations, and currently includes more than 130 quality criteria. Recently, it was balloted and approved as an ANSI-standard. Since 1999, the standard also has been used as the basis for the Annual Educational Software Competition of the American Dental Education Association. This presentation will describe the standards development process, discuss empirical studies conducted to validate it, and future development plans.(rating tool for competition)



  • Educational software evaluation assignment (due 3/19/2004)

2/27/2004 Instructor: K. Shwaish, J. Ledonio
The IT infrastructure of the School of Dental Medicine

Recently, the Center for Dental Informatics revised the IT infrastructure at the School of Dental Medicine significantly. Among the components implemented are a data center with four servers, centralized backup and disaster recovery facilities, a standard desktop client and a help desk. This presentation will provide an overview of the network, server and client infrastructure at the School of Dental Medicine. It will also discusses managing the support needs of the school's large and diverse user base.


Assignment: Court Case due

3/5/2004 Instructor: T. Schleyer
Evaluating new technologies (PPT presentation)
Topic: Evaluating new technologies is a constant task when implementing IT infrastructures. Whether the task is as seemingly simple as choosing a new HTML editor, or as complex as deciding on an operating system, technology choices are often risky. This seminar will focus on some simple rules to follow when selecting a new technology. These rules will help assure that today's hot technology does not turn into tomorrow's headache.

Assignment: Usability study due.

Reading for 3/19/2004:

3/12/2004 Spring recess

3/19/2004 Instructor: H. Spallek
Managing roll-outs (PPT presentation) 
Topic: It is often very economical to tackle big deployment and/or roll-out projects using the 'big-bang' philosophy.  Whether it is deploying a single program update, or implementing a complex application, a well crafted roll-out plan is crucial in assuring the success of the project.  The seminar will present techniques for planning and managing roll-outs to maximize efficiency and success.

Assignment: Educational software evaluation assignment due

Reading for 3/26/2004:

  • Mann,Charles C. Homeland Insecurity. The Atlantic Monthly. 290 (2): 81-102

3/26/2004 Instructor: K. Shwaish, J. Ledonio
Maintaining security in the Internet age
Topic: Numerous threats to security can make the job of a system administrator a nightmare. The Internet has exposed servers and workstations to a myriad of potential security threats.  This seminar will discuss the most common threats to security in networked environments, and presents several tools and strategies to guard against these threats.
Reading/assignment: For 4/2/2004:
  • J. E. Kennedy. Faculty status in a climate of change. J.Dent.Educ. 54 (5):268-272, 1990.
  • N. P. Clark, G. E. Smith, and J. E. Medina. Prevailing academic environment for faculty in operative dentistry: recommendations for change. Oper.Dent. 15 (1):27-33, 1990.
  • J. E. Kennedy. Alternatives to traditional tenure. J.Dent.Educ. 48 (9):506-508, 1984.
  • T. A. Smith, T. M. Cooper, and M. W. Packer. Faculty evaluation at the University of Kentucky. J.Dent.Educ. 41 (6):335-337, 1977.
  • Rohwedder C, Wessel D. Outclassed: Despite proud past, German universities fail by many measures. The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 26, 2002, A1 ff.
  • Golden D. Course correction: Roiling his faculty, new Harvard president reroutes tenure track. The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 11, 2002, A1, A2

4/2/2004 Instructor: T. Schleyer
Promotion and tenure
Topic: Promotion and tenure are important milestones in an academic career.  Being familiar with the process of promotion and tenure will enable you to ask the right questions during interviews, as well as prepare optimally for such situations.  The seminar will discuss types of faculty appointments, promotion to different ranks, and the process of obtaining tenure.

For 4/9/2004:

  • Dunham, K J: The Jungle/ Focus on Recruitment, Pay and Getting Ahead. The Wall Street Journal 2003. (Get hardcopy: RM_3289)

4/9/2004 Instructor: H. Spallek
Resume evaluation and interviewing techniques (PPT)
Topic: Hiring staff and faculty requires careful evaluation of a person's credentials.  Many times, you will only have a resume or personal reference available to screen initial applicants.  During the interview, the challenge is to assess whether the applicant can fulfill the duties required, and will integrate well with the organization.  Often, you will have to decide on whether to accept or reject applicants based on limited information.  This seminar discusses skills and techniques for successfully selecting employees.
Resources: interview guide, Pitt HR page

4/16/2004 Instructor: T. Schleyer
Successful consulting
Topic: Consulting is a challenging and rewarding activity that allows you to reuse your expertise in other settings.  Becoming a successful consultant requires several skills, ranging from very good writing and interpersonal communication skills through in-depth domain knowledge and the ability to propose effective and efficient solutions.  This seminar focuses on required skills for consultants and a current case study.

4/23/2004 Final exam