Gen ed changes coming Fall 2014

Mackenzie Mathews

General education requirements will soon experience a five-hour reduction for students enrolling in Fall 2014 and after.

The change was brought on by the “WKU Colonnade Program,” a new core curriculum that requires 39 hours of courses rather than the current 44. It will not be mandatory for upperclassmen to convert to the program, but they will have the choice to change if it benefits their track to graduation, especially if they change their major.

The classes are to be taken throughout students’ college careers and will be divided into three categories: Foundations, Explorations and Connections. Each emphasizes different aspects of education that build upon one another as students work to graduation.

Larry Snyder, chair of the Colonnade Program Task Force, said not much will change. Most classes will remain in general education, though some were thrown out and others will be taught differently. The largest revisions, however, are the categories.

“The new twist on this is the last category. The Connections category is an attempt to help students see how things that they learn in core curriculum apply to majors and other issues they’re discovering in upper level classes,” Snyder said.

Courses now have to prove to be beneficial in order to remain in general education. Snyder said the Task Force developed a set of Student Learning Outcomes that requires each course to assess and verify students are learning the material.

Molly Dunkum, chair of the Colonnade Program Implementation Committee, said the hope is that the core classes will compliment students’ majors and help associate the mandatory courses with those in chosen fields.

“Instead of gen. eds. being something you get out of the way the first couple years of school, you now have a sort of culminating experience your junior and senior year,” she said.

The transition to a new general education program began in 2008. Snyder said there were several contributing factors.

The last time WKU was reviewed by the accrediting body Southern Association of Colleges (SACs), they said the core curriculum needed improvement. There were too many courses that did not work together to build fundamental knowledge. 

Snyder said the committee used a curriculum model from the American Association of Colleges and Universities, making WKU one out of 10 states taking an initiative on the program.

“In many ways, we are on the cutting edge of what’s happening with general education nationally,” Snyder said.

The final step is execute the plan. With the first ATP almost a month away, Dunkum and the Implementation Committee have been working to get courses and policies finalized, while converting faculty, advisors and iCAP to the program. Dunkum said there is a lot that goes into a conversion such as this.

“It’s a big deal to get all this changed, even though if you look at the plans side-by-side, it’s the same course material… a big chunk of the courses are the same,” she said. “It’s still much involved, lots and lots of details involved, to get this thing changed over.”