JESSICA GIANNONE, GENERAL ASSIGNMENT REPORTER:
Polly Beals, the director of LEP, said there is the idea that students will be more successful in their college career if they take certain courses early on. She said it opens up the possibility for more departments to participate in general education, and students will have more of a choice in what fields of courses they will want to take.
Students will not be required to take certain subjects; just categories where certain courses fulfill the categories’ requirements. History, for example, may fulfill a “Global Awareness” credit.
“We worked really hard to make sure students get the courses they need,” said Beals.
She said students should start with the skills, and then they will be better able to move on to the knowledge areas.
Lisa Lancor, the LEP Committee chairperson, said if some students don’t come into the university at a college level, the new program almost creates a development similar to AUR, but reveals that development. She said because the school has already seen there’s a better retention rate with the Inquiry courses, she thinks if students are better prepared for upper-level courses, it will help them.
Lancor said students often take courses based on scheduling compatibility,
lacking coherence and structure.
“I would say as students plan [their schedule] out,” said Lancor, “the sooner they complete their Tier 1 foundations, the better. I think they should explore areas that are of interest.”
Beals explained that the tiers represent the way students learn. She said college students should be able to read and identify sophisticated arguments and be able to say “is this correct?” which is what the new goal groups would emphasize.
Lancor said what the new program has that the current one lacks is a means of assessment of meeting goals to enhance the program. There is a director for the new program.
She said some faculty are supportive of the two new Tier 1 areas, which are Critical Thinking and Technological Fluency, and are working to develop courses which meet learning objectives.
“We have to approve the courses,” said Lancor, “and some sound awesome. I can’t tell you the last time a course came into the AUR. When you explain to a professor, [the students] are going to have better skills, how could you not want that?”
Lancor said it was determined that the general education program needed an update, and had to be more in line with current trends.
Beals said one of the new kinds of courses, Technological Fluency, can teach students how to be comfortable in different digital environments, and will allow students to acquire skills in digital communication and extend knowledge with software and information retrieval. She said it “goes beyond” being able to program a cell phone.
Beals mentioned that another one of the new courses, Critical Thinking, is part of a nation-wide initiative in higher education to help students develop abilities in recognizing and evaluating evidence and arguments, and to put together their own ideas.
Beals noted how it is talked about that successful people are those who are creative, and the new Creative Drive classes will allow students to tap into their creativity by reaching out of their comfort zone.
Ben McNamee, president of the Student Government Association, said he thinks the new program will be more meaningful for students because the process of earning degrees will make more sense and give students an edge when they graduate. He said the program makes sense from a developmental stand point.
He noted there is an understanding that higher education has progressed, and a lot of programs on campuses have moved forward, but the AUR has stayed the same.
“It’s really new, and that’s where the issue is,” said McNamee. “I think because all the pieces are in place right now, this is the time to do it.”
Lancor said that students are already enrolled under the new program.
She said administration has not indicated any huge financial concerns.
Jon Bloch, the chair for the Sociology
Department, expressed that there were positives and negatives to LEP, but the university just has to be realistic. He pointed out that the new program is ambitious and offers a creative alternative to a general education program that is “long overdue for change.” He said he thinks the various areas of knowledge are relevant for today’s student.
Bloch said by the program being more skill-specific instead of discipline-specific, some students might feel they are learning more, and that what they are learning is useful.