Tag Archive for: human skills

General education requirements at SOU will be pared down and refocused

SOU streamlines and refocuses general education requirements

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University will join a groundbreaking trend among universities across the country when fall term begins in September – the core, “general education” courses that students of all majors must take to earn their undergraduate degrees will be pared down and focused on six skills or “capacities” that students need and employers seek.

The total general education requirements each student must complete will range from 39 to 44 credit hours, down from the 64 that have typically been needed in the past. A total of 180 credit hours – including elective courses and the specific requirements of various majors – will still be required to earn a bachelor’s degree, but students will have more flexibility to choose electives that interest them, support their majors or enable them to pursue minors or add-on academic certificates.

“The truth is that our students have long told us they don’t know why general education courses are required,” said professor Andrew Gay, chair of SOU’s faculty-run General Education Committee. “In many cases, students have chosen their general education courses based on which were easiest, rather than which would interest them or be of the greatest benefit.

“Our goal in rethinking general education at SOU has been to focus on classes that will benefit all students by developing the human skills – or capacities – that help them think, innovate and engage.”

Students will meet their overall general education requirements by choosing classes that the General Education Committee has determined will prepare students to practice and apply one or more of the six “capacities” – Purposeful Learning, Communication and Expression, Creativity and Innovation, Inquiry and Analysis, Numerical Literacy, and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Eligible classes will be identified in the SOU Course Catalog as being “approved for general education.”

General education curriculum at SOU – as at most universities – has been largely based on academic disciplines in the past, with specific requirements for mathematics, sciences, humanities and social sciences. The old model, for example, required students to take three science classes for a total of nine to 12 credit hours, and two of the classes had to have laboratory components.

Under the new general education requirements, students will choose classes that offer them opportunities to practice skills such as critical inquiry and analysis, creativity and innovation or numerical literacy, rather than choosing, for instance, three science classes, one math course and two humanities courses. The classes would have to be on the approved list for those capacities, and provide students the opportunity to practice and apply a specific set of skills.

“The focus moves from learning for its own sake to learning in support of the student’s self-defined goals,” Gay said. “A skills-based general education program says to the student, ‘You have your own life and career goals, and these essential skills will help you achieve those goals, so we’re offering a lot of course options from various disciplines that will help you develop those skills.’”

The new general education model requires 12 credit hours to satisfy lower-division requirements for the Purposeful Learning capacity, and three or four credits each for the Communication and Expression, Creativity and Innovation, Inquiry and Analysis, Numerical Literacy and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion capacities. It also requires a total of 12 credit hours of upper-division coursework to satisfy requirements in various capacities.

The Purposeful Learning capacity will serve a foundational role in SOU’s new general education model, preparing students to be lifelong learners and developing the perspective and self-knowledge to connect the dots between learning and life goals. It is structured as a seminar – a sequence of three first-year writing and communication courses that emphasize writing, speaking, thinking, reading, researching and interacting in small learning environments.

All of the new general education capacities, or skill groups, focus on human skills – such as creativity, critical thinking and cultural understanding – that enable students to thrive throughout their academic and work careers.

Students who finish their general education requirements will automatically be awarded a new Certificate in Applied Learning & Essential Skills that serves as an academic endorsement even before the completion of their degree programs.