Monday, November 1, 2010

A model approach to general education

This week the Bloomsburg University Curriculum Committee (BUCC) will begin an extensive review of a new general education plan we believe will become a model for higher education.

Some college students, it seems, view general education courses as unnecessary and unrelated while they apply stronger focus on the academic requirements of their major and minor. Nothing could be further from the truth. A general education curriculum is a very important piece of students’ higher education experience forming the core competencies of their education and helping them foster a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the world, its possibilities and their part in it.

BU is working to transform its general education curriculum to meet the needs of the ever-changing, multicultural world of the 21st Century. A significant change — one I feel is extremely innovative — is to base general education on learning outcomes and move beyond the general education content in the standard 120 credit hours most students need to graduate to a system based on General Education Units (GEUs) aligned with the general education goals. A strong foundation of credit hours would continue to exist, but students would also receive some general education units for approved co-curricular activities, such as an international study abroad experience or having a leadership role in the Community Government Association.

This new plan opens doors for students studying in programs with rigid requirements, such as nursing and teacher education, who currently cannot fit elective courses into their tight academic schedules. The proposed GEU system will ensure all students get both breadth and depth in their BU educational experience.

I truly appreciate our General Education Task Force’s work during the past year and a half to create a thorough and innovative proposal. As with any proposal, the current draft is not set in stone and changes have been suggested to make it the best plan for our university. In fact, the proposal sparked a spirited e-mail debate among faculty in recent weeks. The next phase in the approval process goes to BUCC, which will welcome comments and input at public meetings on Wednesdays, Nov. 3 and 17, at 3 p.m. in the Schweiker Room of Andruss Library.

I encourage all who have an interest in this proposal, including students as well as faculty, to participate in these BUCC meetings and help make our new general education program the best possible educational experience for our students and a model plan for other universities to follow.


  1. This may be a real opportunity to potentially bridge the proverbial gap between academic and student affairs. Students could have the opportunity to create their own general education requirements especially if there would be an interdisciplinary partnership between varied academic departments and the student life division.

    Additionally, an authentic nurturance of learning outcomes could be realized. Colleges and universities such as Alverno College and Evergreen State College have already blazed a trail in this regard and PASSHE schools should follow suit.

    Unfortunately, many of our students are leaving with high levels of debt, no real job prospects (particularly in their field of study), and a lack of hard and soft skills needed to thrive in the job market.

    Having been a graduate of the PASSHE system and working in and among it for over 10 years now as a full-time professional, I would hope that the other 13 presidents and the APSCUF leadership would champion such an innovative and important academic program.

  2. This post makes it sound like this is a done deal. There is a lot of discussion going on about this plan right now. I sure hope the administration isn't going to cram this down the throats of the faculty against their wishes. I sure hope the administration will actually listen to the concerns of the faculty.