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.
We remain committed to transitioning to the approved General Education program at the start of Autumn 2022. Despite a vastly different spring and summer than expected, implementation continues to proceed thanks to the diligent work of faculty and staff throughout the university. We are proud to report that eight colleges have thus far affirmed the General Education Implementation Report:
- College of Arts and Sciences
- College of Dentistry
- College of Education and Human Ecology
- College of Nursing
- College of Pharmacy
- College of Public Health
- College of Social Work
- John Glenn College of Public Affairs
Upon affirmation of the implementation plan, the University-Level Advisory Committee for General Education (ULAC-GE), a subcommittee of the Council on Academic Affairs, will manage implementation. In addition to reviewing and refining the ongoing infrastructure efforts, ULAC-GE will have several priorities:
Initiate identification of additional themes
Following the process prescribed in the implementation plan, faculty will have the opportunity to create new themes to join the initial four.
Develop existing themes
Convene faculty experts in the four existing themes to support the development and approval of courses.
Define embedded literacies and integrative courses
Set out the processes for designating courses with embedded literacies—those with enriched content in writing, technology and data analysis—and four-credit integrative courses within the themes.
Simultaneously, college curricular deans will be working to identify existing GE courses to transition to the new structure as foundation courses.
In colleges still reviewing the implementation report, contribute your perspective within your college or department and contact your curricular leadership with feedback. You may also continue to use the online “Questions and Comments” form.
Instructors should review the new GE's expected learning outcomes and goals as presented in the implementation report and begin considering how existing GE courses align with the structure.
Questions may be directed to Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Meg Daly, email@example.com, in the Office of Student Academic Success.
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).
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.