Re-envisioning General Education at Ohio State
Ohio State’s current General Education (GE) curriculum was established in 1988 and reviewed in 1996, 2002 and 2007 without substantial revision. A new review commenced in 2017 with broader ambitions. In March 2018, the 16-member review coordinating committee released a draft proposal to restructure the GE, incorporating significant input from the university community.
Once endorsed by each of the colleges and campuses with undergraduate students, the final, revised proposal was unanimously approved by the Council on Academic Affairs on April 17, 2019, and endorsed by University Senate the next day.
The General Education Implementation Committee was formed to address a set of eight broad concerns identified by the colleges during the approval process. This group, made up of representatives from across the university, led an effort to collaboratively develop recommendations for implementing the new structure in a fair and transparent manner. The committee’s final report was released on Wednesday, February 19, 2020.
Approval Timeline Update
We remain committed to transitioning to the approved General Education program at the start of Autumn 2022, but we are adjusting the path to that goal in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on the university. Formal college responses to the GE Implementation Plan, initially expected by April 30, now need to be delayed until early autumn 2020.
Colleges are asked to continue discussions, as appropriate, through summer 2020 in preparation for such action. The offices of Academic Affairs, Undergraduate Education, University Registrar and Chief Information Officer will be working on various structural issues that need attention so that implementation can begin as planned. Contact Meg Daly or Randy Smith with questions.
Several years ago, the university collectively recognized a need to revisit the General Education, a foundational element of undergraduate education at Ohio State. A lengthy and thorough university-wide review of the General Education curriculum generated a student-centered, modern and flexible new vision of “education for citizenship.” The scale and nature of change required to actualize this new structure necessitated the formation of the General Education Implementation Committee, charged with addressing eight core areas of concern. Committee and subcommittee members drawn from the 12 undergraduate-serving colleges, the regional campuses, support units and beyond worked tirelessly to address these challenges with a university-wide perspective.
We are pleased to share the final report of the General Education Implementation Committee. From the start, the individuals behind this report embraced the guiding principles of fairness, representation, transparency and shared oversight as they forged a superstructure for the university to collectively administer, monitor and advance the new General Education. At the core of this effort, of course, was the ultimate goal of better serving our students, particularly by guarding and enhancing the flexibility of the new model for students as they move through their undergraduate careers, and ensuring that the transition to the new GE does not delay the progress of any student.
The report is organized into a summary and appendices, and the eight full subcommittee reports addressing the major implementation issues in more depth: advising, the bookend courses, embedded/cross-sectional components, expected learning outcomes, high-impact practices, open themes, policies and procedures and regional campuses.
Reshaping our General Education curriculum is both a substantial responsibility and an exciting privilege for all involved. I am proud that the university met this bold challenge head on, creating a shared vision of what should be at the heart of an Ohio State education. Implementation will require earnest effort and adaptation, and we are up to the task. Our job is to create the future, and our continued collaboration guarantees a robust future for General Education.
The implementation process will now move to the undergraduate-serving colleges for discussion and deliberation. The support team will visit as necessary to inform and respond to these conversations. We encourage you to reach out to your college’s curricular leadership with your feedback. You may also continue to use the online “Questions and Comments” form on the General Education implementation webpage. Watch for more information from college and unit offices about opportunities to offer feedback locally and participate in the discussions.
By the end of this spring semester, we expect that all 12 undergraduate-serving colleges will have concluded their deliberations regarding the plan outlined in the implementation report. Pending approval of the plan, the university-wide implementation process will begin in earnest in summer 2020.
Questions may be directed to Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Meg Daly, firstname.lastname@example.org, in the Office of Student Academic Success.
We sincerely thank everyone involved in the General Education implementation planning process. First and foremost, we recognize the extraordinary efforts of Implementation Committee co-chairs Laura Podalsky, professor and chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and Blaine Lilly, associate chair of undergraduate programs and professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. We also particularly thank the support team that has now been engaged in this process for several years.
We extend our gratitude to the members of the General Education Implementation Committee and subcommittees for their contributions of time, energy, expertise and perspective. Additionally, we recognize everyone who reviewed draft proposals, submitted feedback, discussed with colleagues, and attentively followed the process. This report represents an enormous amount of work by many highly informed and committed people from all areas of the university community. Thank you.
Eric Bielefeld, co-chair, Council on Academic Affairs
Associate professor, Department of Speech & Hearing
Jennifer Higginbotham, co-chair, Council on Academic Affairs
Associate professor, Department of English
W. Randy Smith, vice provost for academic programs
Office of Academic Affairs
The Advising Subcommittee requests university-wide feedback through Monday, January 27, 2020, on its draft report on academic advising in the new General Education. In particular, the subcommittee seeks feedback regarding the following questions:
- Are there additional critical things that will need to be addressed in terms of advising to ensure the successful launch of the new GE?
- Is the timeline included in this proposal reasonable? If not, what adjustments are needed?
Feedback may be shared online via the Questions and Comments form, selecting "Advising" as the topic of your submission.
The Regional Campuses Subcommittee requests university-wide feedback through Monday, January 27, 2020, on its draft report. In particular, the subcommittee seeks feedback regarding the following questions:
- How can Ohio State eliminate barriers that would impede collaboration in course development 1) between Columbus and regional faculty within a single TIU and 2) between regional faculty from multiple TIUs?
- How can regional campus faculty be brought more fully into the curriculum discussion within their TIU as decisions are made about which current courses should be submitted for approval as Foundation or Theme courses?
Feedback may be shared online via the Questions and Comments form, selecting "Regional Campuses" as the topic of your submission.
Past Feedback Needs
The subcommittee on the bookend courses created an initial draft of the plan for the first bookend course. This draft was shared with the university in hopes of getting feedback that helps the subcommittee develop a stronger and more detailed plan. Feedback was received for two weeks concluding Friday, October 18, using the Questions and Comments form.
The Bookend Courses Subcommittee requested university-wide feedback for a three-week period ended Friday, January 24, 2020, on its draft report on the bookend courses. In particular, the subcommittee sought feedback regarding the following items of interest:
- Are the goals for the Reflection Seminar clear?
- Are the ELOs for the Launch Seminar and the Reflection Seminar clear? Will those ELOs help students and faculty better understand the purpose, need, and opportunity within the bookends?
Feedback was shared online via the Questions and Comments form.
The Embedded/Cross-Sectional Components Subcommittee requested university-wide feedback for a three-week period ended Friday, January 24, 2020, on its draft report on embedded literacies in the new General Education. In particular, the subcommittee sought feedback regarding the following questions:
- Are the proposed ELOs for the three embedded literacies clear?
- What courses currently offered by your department might be used or adapted to meet these ELOs?
- What (if any) obstacles do you foresee in incorporating the embedded literacies into your courses and/or program?
- Are the instructional resources outlined in the report sufficiently robust? Is there something else that might help to encourage and support faculty/units who wish to embed the literacies in their courses/programs?
Feedback was shared online via the Questions and Comments form.
The Expected Learning Outcomes subcommittee welcomed feedback on its draft of the goals and expected learning outcomes (ELOs) for the overarching General Education program and each of the foundations, and the broad ELOs for the themes as a whole, for two weeks concluding Monday, October 21. Of top concern were the clarity and specificity of the language and how the goals and outcomes will inform course proposals and revisions. Feedback was solicited via the online Questions and Comments form or via email to co-chairs Adam Andrews or Alan Kalish.
The Expected Learning Outcomes Subcommittee requested university-wide feedback by Friday, January 24, 2020, on its draft report on expected learning outcomes for the existing themes of Citizenship in a Diverse and Just World, Health and Wellbeing, Lived Environments and Sustainability. The faculty teams who drafted the theme goals and ELOs were striving to balance being complete enough to do justice to the complexity of the theme and open enough not to exclude courses from across as many disciplines as possible, while still keeping the language as clear as possible. In particular, the subcommittee sought feedback regarding the following items of interest:
- Please help us to see where the language is confusing, or if we have excluded crucial areas of inquiry.
- Please let us know if the wording of these ELOs excludes a class you were planning to put forward for this them, and how we might open that up.
- Also, please share with us any specific, existing classes that fit these learning outcomes.
Feedback was shared online via the Questions and Comments form.
The High-Impact Practices Subcommittee received university-wide feedback for a three-week period that concluded on Monday, January 6, 2020, on its draft report on high-impact practices in the new General Education and draft Integrative Thematic Service-Learning Course Requirements. In particular, the subcommittee sought feedback regarding the following questions:
- Are there other things the subcommittee should consider about how to encourage faculty to create 4-credit hour integrative courses for potential inclusion in the Themes?
- Are the revised goals and ELOs for the overall Themes (included at the end of the draft) clear and functional?
- Is the form (requesting designation as an integrated service-learning course) clear?
Feedback was shared online via the Questions and Comments form and via email to Ola Ahlqvist, chair of the High-Impact Practices Subcommittee.
The Open Themes Subcommittee received university-wide feedback for two weeks concluding Nov. 27, 2019, on the proposed process for accepting and reviewing New Theme proposals. Feedback was shared online via the Questions and Comments form and via email to Wendy Smooth, chair of the Open Themes Subcommittee.
The Policies and Procedures Subcommittee received university-wide feedback for a three-week period ending Friday, January 17, 2020, on its draft report on policies and procedures in the new General Education. In particular, the subcommittee sought feedback regarding the following questions:
- Does the timeline and cadence for evaluating courses and other aspects of the program seem appropriate? If not, what seems more effective (and why)?
- From your perspective, does the proposed procedure and timeline constrain your unit in its curricular development in any way?
- Are there changes you recommend in the proposed procedure for managing the transition between the current GE and the new GE with respect to the initial status of existing GE courses within the new GE? Do you have suggestions for supports within or refinements to the course submission and approval process?
Feedback was accepted online via the Questions and Comments form.
The co-chairs and other representatives of the General Education Implementation Committee have visited a number of meetings, groups and leaders across campus during the implementation process. These include:
- September 10, 2019 - Associate deans for curriculum of the College of Dentistry, John Glenn College of Public Affairs, the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and the College of Social Work.
- September 20, 2019 - Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences
- September 23, 2019 - Undergraduate Student Government cabinet
- September 24, 2019 - College of Arts and Sciences Senate
- October 3, 2019 - Faculty Council, University Senate
- October 8, 2019 - College of Arts and Sciences Chairs and Directors Meeting
- October 15, 2019 - Think Beyond Summit: Reimagining Teaching and Learning
- October 21, 2019 - Diversity Committee, University Senate
- October 22, 2019 - Division of Arts and Humanities Chairs and Directors Meeting
- October 23, 2019 - College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Committee on Academic Affairs Meeting
- October 24, 2019 - Council of Graduate Students
- November 5, 2019 - College of Nursing Undergraduate Studies Committee
- November 5, 2019 - College of Pharmacy faculty
- November 13, 2019 - Council of Graduate Students
- November 19, 2019 - Combined meeting College of Public Health Undergraduate Committee and Undergraduate Studies Committee
- November 26, 2019 - College of Engineering Core Curriculum Committee
Frequently Asked Questions
Each of the 12 undergraduate-serving colleges will be asked to review the implementation report and determine whether to support it through the college's appropriate review processes.
There are no actions necessary at this time for students.
You are encouraged to reach out to your college's curricular leadership with specific feedback, but you may still submit feedback through the online Questions and Comments form.
Yes. As long as a course meets the ELOs for the relevant Foundation categories (or Themes), it is eligible to be used to satisfy one or the other category. For example, it is expected that some of the courses within the “Race, Gender, and Ethnicity” foundation category might also satisfy “Historical and Cultural Studies” (among other possible pairings), and could be approved for offering in both categories. Likewise, a course in the “Sustainability” Theme might also satisfy the ELOs for “Citizenship for a Diverse and Just World” (among other possible pairings). Note that for a single student, a single course cannot be applied to satisfy multiple foundations (or Themes) — students will need to choose distinct courses to satisfy each category. Courses seeking approval within multiple categories are expected to meet all of the ELOs of all of the categories for which it seeks approval.
No. Because the ELOs for Themes courses specify that these courses provide more advanced or in-depth attention to the content, Themes courses are necessarily more advanced than Foundation courses, at least in their treatment of the material covered by the GE ELOs. A course can satisfy either a Foundation or a Theme category, but not both.
Although there is no hard and fast rule, it is expected that most Foundation courses will be offered at the 1,000- and 2,000-level and most Themes courses will be at the 2,000-level and above. 1,000-level courses that are more advanced (i.e., having prerequisites or other enrollment criteria) may be appropriate as Themes courses, and introductory but specialized courses offered at the 2,000-level or above may be appropriate as Foundation courses. The most important criterion for approval within a category will be the appropriateness of the course to the ELOs of the category for which it seeks approval, not its number.
Expected Learning Outcomes
As part of the process to update Ohio State’s General Education program, goals and expected learning outcomes have been drafted by a broad group of participants for both the program as a whole and for each element of that program.
The initial GE review committee held public forums across the university and studied the incumbent GE program, the Ohio transfer guidelines and the current state of research and practice for this kind of program. The review committee looked at many other institutions’ models, several in great detail. A structure was proposed, revised and adopted by all 12 of Ohio State’s undergraduate-serving colleges and the University Senate.
A statement of “Goals and Learning Outcomes for the Educated Global Citizen” was included in the review committee’s report. This statement, an update of the foundational document of the current GE, formed the basis for the new program-level goals and ELOs. Goals and ELOs have also been drafted for each of the foundational areas existing themes.
In July, the GE Implementation Committee charged its Expected Learning Outcomes
Subcommittee with simplifying, clarifying and condensing the draft goals and ELOs. The membership of the subcommittee is as broad as possible, and the group has met at least weekly since its creation.
The draft ELOs were written with significant input from stakeholder faculty and departments at several stages in the process and were adapted from relevant source materials. For example, a group that included the English 1110 course manager, director of the Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing and several instructional librarians developed the ELOs for Writing and Information Literacy. Those for Mathematics and Quantitative Reasoning were based on a curriculum guide from the Mathematical Association of America provided to the subcommittee by a mathematics faculty member.
The subcommittee and its panels have worked to reduce the number of ELOs, with the aim of retaining as few as will support the assessment of the program-level goals and outcomes.
The subcommittee’s first completed draft of program-level goals and ELOs was published for review and feedback from the entire university community and, in particular, undergraduate chairs in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The current document for review is the cleaned-up version of the most recent revisions, in which the subcommittee has addressed the feedback received to date. Additional feedback was requested about the Race, Gender, and Ethnicity foundation from faculty leaders in the Departments of African and African American Studies, Sociology, and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. The area panels of the Arts & Sciences Curriculum Committee are also reviewing the draft.
The subcommittee is re-engaging on curricular mapping to assure that the components of the program actually address ALL of the program-level goals and ELOs and not any extraneous ones.
There are in fact fewer than in all previous versions. The number of ELOs has continued to drop throughout the revision process, aiming to have as few as will support the assessment of the program level goals and outcomes.
Yes. The point of having goals and ELOs for the elements of the GE is to assure that all students can achieve the goals and learning outcomes of the overall General Education program. These describe the minimum range of learning expected.
With only one class required in each foundation, every class must assure that students have the opportunity to learn the full range of skills and knowledge that the element is expected to provide.
The relative focus on different ELOs and the course content used to support that learning is up to the faculty member. Additional learning outcomes may be added at the instructor’s discretion.
The foundational area is Race, Gender, AND Ethnicity. All courses must address all three of these areas, and are free to explore other components of diversity as well, at the instructor’s discretion.
The ELO Subcommittee carefully reviewed all of the feedback received. It made major revisions based on many of the comments that were submitted. Many of these improved word choice for clarity and specificity and reduced wordiness.
The intention of the ELOs is to be open and inviting about the range of units that can offer courses that meet the ELOs. Several suggested changes help make the language less restrictive, but without making them so vague as to be meaningless.
However, many comments urged the subcommittee to unpack ELOs to make each focus on only one action or item. Some commenters provided their own lists of ELOs to accomplish this. Single-item ELOs are best practice in designing for assessment, but the subcommittee was charged to reduce the number of outcomes and had to combine where possible.
Some comments would have required changes to the structure or intention of the foundational category, which was set by the University Senate vote last May. The subcommittee was not empowered to make such changes.
The bookend courses will be graded as S/U.
During the curriculum development stage, the Bookend Courses Subcommittee will collaborate with Survey instructors to reduce any possible duplication of content and activities and to create opportunities for curricular alignment between the courses on specific topics.
The Bookend Courses Subcommittee recommends that new, first-year students enroll in the bookend in the second semester of their first year. This may not be possible in all academic programs because of course sequencing and credit limits. In those programs, advisors will make a recommendation to students that alleviates those issues, either encouraging students to take the first bookend in the first semester of their second year or first term of their first year. Recommendations for transfer students should be sensitive to the needs of major coursework and other program issues. All students who begin their college career at Ohio State are expected to have taken the first bookend by the start of their fourth regular academic term (before spring of sophomore year, for most students).
Students will be advised to enroll in the first bookend course during orientation, in Survey, and in their advising meetings. Since most students will be encouraged to take the course during their second term, Survey is a particularly important link in this process. After their second semester, students will get push reminders, and will be prohibited from scheduling their fourth term (sophomore spring term) if they have not enrolled.
The process of selecting additional themes will commence sometime after the implementation report is approved by the 12 undergraduate-serving colleges and will be communicated widely. In the meantime, continue to brainstorm and discuss your ideas with colleagues for possible new themes.
Yes, each regional campus as well as the Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) will offer courses in some or all of the themes as well as foundations courses and both bookends. Our open-enrollment regional campuses will continue to offer Ohio State students the ability to complete all the GE requirements in small, intimate settings geared toward student success. Some students even remain on regional campuses to complete all upper-level courses required for a four-year degree. Majors offered vary by campus but include English, history, psychology, social work, sociology, education, general business, biology and engineering technology.
There is no set number of additional themes to be created. The process, as proposed, specifies only that new themes be sufficiently different from the existing themes (Citizenship for a Diverse and Just World, Sustainability, Lived Environments and Health and Well-being).