May 31, 2020

Revitalized general education gets new name, offers more online classes

Recent changes to the university’s general education program are giving students more options to complete their required classes.

The program has been renamed and along with other miscellaneous changes, will now offer online versions of select courses that meet the program’s requirements.

“It’s now called the ‘Signature Learning’ program, and one of these changes is a re-leveling of courses,” Kevin Griffith, professor of English and member of the committee that approved the changes, said.

For example, the university ethics class has been moved from a 400-level course to a 100-level course. This is part of an emphasis of the new program, focusing students’ first years on foundational courses rather than spreading them throughout a student’s undergraduate experience. Hypothetically, this will give students more opportunity to concentrate on their chosen discipline later in their undergraduate careers.

Griffith participated on the Curriculum Committee that approved the transition from the current general education program to the Signature Learning curriculum.

As a part of the new program, the university will be offering new online versions of global awareness, cultural pluralism, and creative writing to complement the existing online sections of the humanities and ethics courses. These courses will be available for student registration during the summer of 2019 and will continue to be offered through the academic year.

“We want [students] to have the option of still completing their general education requirements in the summer, doing online work without physically being on campus, or during the school year if they’re heavily involved in sports or an internship,” Griffith said.

Because they do not meet in person, the online versions of these courses operate differently than their traditional counterparts. Instead of going to class and listening to a lecture, students will be given access to video lectures from their professor to review at their own convenience.

Online students will also participate in discussions with their professors and classmates through online discussion boards, either again at their own convenience, or at specifically scheduled times.

Exams may be proctored through online software, or will be administered in-person on campus through services like Academic Success.

According to Griffith, the new online Signature Learning courses are designed with both traditional students and adult learners in mind, but courses held during the academic year are particularly focused toward the needs of traditional students.

“We want to make things as effective as possible for students and help them in their success,” Griffith said.

For those concerned with the cost of taking summer courses, Griffith said the tuition required to enroll for summer courses is 40 percent less than it is during the academic year, although the drawback is that students’ financial aid will likely not cover summer courses and individuals interested in enrollment will have to pay out of pocket.

With the new Signature Learning program, students will hopefully find it easier to fulfill their general education requirements.

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