• NJCU William J. Maxwell College of Arts and Sciences

General Education

  • The General Education Revision 

    The new General Education program was approved by the University Senate and SACC in May 2014. Click here to view the new General Education proposal.

    For more information, view Q&A: the New Gen Ed Program. 

    The Guidelines for Requesting New Course Approval and Course Changes now align with the new General Education program. 

    The Request for Permanent Course Approval or Course Change, the companion document to the Guidelines, was also approved by the Senate and SACC (this is a "fillable" PDF that can also be saved). 

    Update: Summer Funding to Develop General Education Courses

    We have witnessed a groundswell of enthusiasm over the development of the General Education curriculum in the past several weeks. You may have noticed: the interest has been palpable. The Gen Ed committees are pleased to announce that we received an unprecedented 185 applications for summer funding to develop courses. This number is a remarkable achievement in itself. NJCU faculty deserve credit and congratulations for the accomplishment--especially at such a busy time of the semester.

    A summer funding proposal evaluation committee made up of 12 Gen Ed committee members, who represented the four modes of inquiry and the three colleges, completed its evaluation of the proposals on the evening of Monday, May 19, 2014. The committee was impressed by the variety and excellence of the proposals, and by the creativity, innovation, and passion demonstrated by so many NJCU faculty. 

    On Monday, June 23, the Provost sent emails notifying recipients that they have been awarded summer funding to develop General Education courses. Those who did not receive funding should receive emails in the coming days. Please note that regardless of summer funding decisions, all NJCU faculty may propose new and revised courses for inclusion in Gen Ed. In fact, there is a great need for courses to be developed in time to begin the approval process this fall. Therefore, we urge you to consider attending the newly rescheduled course proposal-writing workshops (see below) and to submit your course(s) for approval in September.

    Please mark your calendar for a series of Gen Ed course proposal-writing workshops open to all faculty interested in proposing courses for inclusion in Gen Ed:  

    • Friday, July 18 from 9 am - 1 pm
    • Friday, July 25 from 9 am - 1 pm
    • Friday, August 1 from 9 am - 1 pm

    Department chairs may want to attend in order to understand, and inform their faculty of, the specific requirements for Gen Ed courses.

    Please stay tuned for further information on the workshops and the course proposal process.

    Many thanks to all who submitted applications. We know from reading them how thoughtfully they were prepared and how useful the vast majority of courses you have envisioned would be to the new program. 

    We look forward to helping bring your ideas to fruition in the coming weeks and months.



    The Gen Ed Committees

    Mark Your Calendar!

    Please mark your calendar for a series of Gen Ed course proposal-writing workshops open to all faculty interested in proposing courses for inclusion in Gen Ed:  

    • Friday, July 18 from 9 am - 1 pm
    • Friday, July 25 from 9 am - 1 pm
    • Friday, August 1 from 9 am - 1 pm 

    Questions and Answers: Summer Funding to Develop Gen Ed Courses

    Click here for Q&A: the New Gen Ed Program (as opposed to summer funding) 

    When will the new General Education program be implemented?

    Courses in the new Gen Ed program will be offered starting in Fall 2015.  

    Who can apply for summer 2014 funding to develop a Gen Ed course? 

    NJCU faculty members are eligible to apply for summer funding.

    Are faculty members from all three colleges eligible to apply?

    Yes. Faculty in Arts and Sciences, the College of Education, and Professional Studies are eligible to apply.

    Can adjuncts get summer funding to develop Gen Ed courses?

    Adjunct instructors are welcome to apply for funding to develop courses but need to make certain in advance that the courses they are contemplating have a place in the department curriculum and will have department support. For this reason, they should seek the approval of the chair.

    What is the role of the department/chair with regard to applications for summer funding?

    The chair should be informed of the general topic or theme of a course to avoid submission of duplicate funding applications. Individual faculty members who want to revise existing courses according to the Gen Ed guidelines may do so. However, there may be more than one faculty member interested in revising a given course, resulting in redundant course funding applications. Departments should work to resolve issues of duplication before proposals are submitted.

    How do I get summer funding to develop General Education courses?

    Complete the Summer 2014 Funding Application and submit it to GECC@njcu.edu before the deadline of 11:59 pm on May 15, 2014.  

    How much will people get paid for developing courses?

    Please see the Local Agreement "Compensation for Revising/Developing Courses for the General Education Program" sent out to the AFT listserv on June 19, 2014.  

    Is there a limit on the number of courses a person or department can propose?

    There is no limit on the number of courses a department can propose or have approved; and no limit has been announced on the number of courses a single faculty member may propose to develop for summer funding. However, there will be limits on the number of Gen Ed courses a department or faculty member can offer in a given semester. These limits will be determined by considerations of teaching load in the case of faculty members, and considerations of balance to ensure that the learning goals, modes of inquiry, and tiers are adequately represented to meet student need in a given semester.

    How will Gen Ed courses be approved? 

    The approval process is defined in the General Education program proposal passed by the SACC as follows:

    The steps of the process for all courses in the General Education program will be (at least until January 2016): 

    1. Department Curriculum and Instruction Committee for the faculty member(s) proposing the course 
    2. Department Chair of the faculty member(s) proposing the course 
    3. College Curriculum Committee of the faculty member(s) proposing the course 
    4. Dean(s) of the college(s) from which the course originates 
    5. General Education Curriculum Committee (GECC) 
    6. Senate Curriculum & Instruction Committee (C&I)
    7. Provost/Chief Academic Officer 


    Are there specific guidelines for proposing Gen Ed courses?

    Comprehensive guidelines for General Education course proposals will be made available as soon as possible but no later than May 22, 2014, the date on which summer award recipients will be notified. The overview of the key elements of the General Education program provided at the top of the application for summer funding materials, the brief summaries included in several questions on the application form itself, and the newly approved Guidelines for Requesting New Course Approval and Course Changes should provide sufficient guidance for completion of the summer 2014 funding application. The new General Education proposal may also be helpful. In addition, members of the General Education Committees are available to answer questions about General Education and the summer funding application process. Please contact Dr. Ansley LaMar, Interim Director of General Education (alamar@njcu.edu) with any questions.

    What will the General Education course proposal guidelines look like? How will they compare to the existing course proposal guidelines? 

    That's easy. Here they are: Guidelines for Requesting New Course Approval and Course Changes. The Gen Ed Committees are also working on supplemental materials to support course proposal work. Stay tuned.

    If I receive summer funding, when will the course proposal be due?

    Completed course proposals will be due no later than the first day of Fall 2014. However, faculty who do not receive summer funding may continue to submit course proposals on an ongoing basis. The deadline only applies to proposals approved for summer funding.  

    How should one apply for funding for a team-taught course that will be part of a pair or cluster?

    Just enter the names of faculty collaborating on a team-taught course together in a single column. This will leave room in the remaining columns for the other course(s). Further explanation: the summer funding application includes three columns for most questions. These columns provide space for information about two-course pairs and three-course clusters (one course per column). For team-taught stand-alone courses, the form requests that the names of the two collaborating faculty be entered in the first and second columns, respectively. However, this will not work for team-taught courses proposed as part of two-course pairs or three-course clusters. In these cases, please keep each course to a single column. If you enter the names of faculty collaborating on a team-taught course together in a single column, there will still be room in the remaining columns for the other course(s).   

    Why is there no funding to develop Tier 3 (capstone) courses this summer?

    There is an immediate need for faculty to develop Tier 1 Seminars because all entering students will be taking Tier 1 Seminars in Fall 2015. Development of these courses must be prioritized. We also welcome applications to develop Tier 2 Seminars because some students will be begin taking Tier 2 Seminars in Fall 2015. More students will begin taking Tier 2 Seminars in Spring 2016. However, applications to develop Tier 3 Capstone courses are not being accepted now; they will be requested at a later date because no students will need to take Tier 3 Capstone courses in the first year of the new Gen Ed program.

    How can I find people to collaborate with on a course pair or cluster?

    Many faculty members have already been in touch with colleagues in other departments about the opportunities for collaboration in the new program. If you are interested in developing a course pair or cluster around a shared theme with faculty members from other departments, just get in touch with them and see if they are interested. If you don’t know people in other departments, it might be a good idea to start by contacting the chairs of the departments you have in mind to see if they can help. Another option is to get in touch with members of the Gen Ed committees and let them know you’re interested. We are also looking into ways for faculty to find each other online. Please stay tuned.

    How can I find out if someone else has already proposed my course idea?

    As courses are approved, the General Education Curriculum Committee will publish a list of offerings. A list of summer funding awards for course development may be circulated before that. Until then, however, consulting with department chairs and other colleagues about their plans is probably your best bet. 

    How will originality be safeguarded  when it comes to Gen Ed course ideas?

    If there are no originality concerns with the current course approval process then the new Gen Ed program should not introduce new concerns.

    Will I “own” the course I developed or will other people get to teach it?

    Nobody “owns” current courses. Department chairs schedule courses to be taught by faculty who either have or have not proposed those courses. It’s quite possible that some courses will be taught exclusively by faculty members who proposed them while other courses will be offered in multiple sections. Don’t hesitate to propose a course that you don’t think other faculty would want to teach. In fact, we hope to receive lots of really inventive and interesting proposals for excellent courses that students will want to take. On the other hand, courses that could be taught by several faculty are also welcome. Scheduling of the new Gen Ed courses will continue to be done by department chairs; however, the complexity of the program will require coordination among the chairs and the Director of General Education. The current First Year Experience Program requires similar coordination.


    Q&A: The New General Education Program 

    Click here for Q&A: Summer Funding to Develop Gen Ed Courses (as opposed to the New Gen Ed Program)


    What's the difference between the old General Studies program and the new General Education program?

    The General Studies program had a two-part structure of foundational courses and area courses; it required students to take 66 credits including a distribution of courses in the six “areas” (A-F). The new General Education program has a three-tier structure; it requires students to take 44-45 credits including a distribution of courses in four “modes of inquiry.” The vast majority of courses in the old program were offered at the 100-level and many were traditional introductions-to-the-major. The new program includes 100-level, 200-level, and 300-level (capstone) courses and students will progress through the program by progressing through the tiers. General Education courses will be grounded in a disciplinary or interdisciplinary approach; but unlike traditional introduction-to-the-major classes, they will focus on themes or topics of general interest, offering students the opportunity to learn about subjects with broad implications and applications in the context of an introduction to ways (“modes”) of investigating the world and thinking about knowledge. In the old program, each department was limited to offering five General Studies area courses and each of these was typically offered in a single area; in the new program, there is no limit on the number of courses a department may offer, and the courses may be offered the modes of inquiry for which they meet the criteria. The new program also includes thematically-based course pairs and clusters to help students appreciate the interconnectedness of the various academic approaches; and it puts a premium on instruction in, and assessment of, skills associated with the six University-wide student learning goals. 

    How many new Gen Ed courses do we need?

    Great question. Please stay tuned.

    What are the six “University-wide student learning goals”?

    Whatever the mode of inquiry—and no matter the topic, theme, or disciplinary approach—General Education courses will include instruction in, and assessment of, the skills associated with at least two of the University-wide student learning goals:

    • Effective writing skills
    • Effective oral communication skills
    • The ability to think critically to evaluate and solve problems
    • Effective quantitative literacy skills
    • Effective information and technology literacy skills
    • Responsible citizenship in a culturally complex world

    The University-wide student learning goals are the most important constant of Gen Ed at NJCU. These learning goals are in effect from the first Tier 1 Seminar to the Capstone, and in every class in between: they are the goals that students will strive to reach; and they are the skills that Gen Ed courses are designed to teach.

    What are the four “Disciplinary Modes of Inquiry”?

    By taking a range of courses in a variety of topics that genuinely interest them, students will receive a rich introduction to a diverse range of disciplinary approaches to knowledge. One way of organizing these approaches is to group them into collections of related disciplines—the disciplinary “modes of inquiry.” In order to ensure that they receive broad exposure to a variety of disciplinary approaches to knowledge, all NJCU students are required to take at least two courses in each of the four modes of inquiry, whether in Tier 1 or Tier 2, by the time they complete Tier 2. 

    The four modes of inquiry are:

    • Creative Process and Production
    • Language, Literary, and Cultural Studies
    • Scientific and Quantitative Inquiries
    • Social and Historical Perspectives

    While the modes may appear to correspond loosely to the “Areas” of the old General Studies program, the modes are not tied to the departments of faculty teaching the courses. Instead, courses will be taught in, and count toward the distribution requirements for, the modes of inquiry most appropriate to their subject matter and academic approach. Genuinely interdisciplinary courses may be designated as “intermodal” if their subject matter and academic approach legitimately meet the criteria for two modes of inquiry.

    What is an “intermodal” course?

    An intermodal course meets the criteria for two modes of inquiry. Seminars that meet strict criteria for intermodal course designation will satisfy the distribution requirements for two modes of inquiry. All students must have taken at least two courses in each of the four modes of inquiry, whether in Tier 1 or Tier 2, by the time they complete Tier 2.

    Will I have to teach an interdisciplinary course?

    No. There is no requirement to teach an interdisciplinary course. However, there are opportunities to do so for those faculty so inclined.

    Do faculty in certain departments have to offer courses in the corresponding Modes of Inquiry?

    No. Inclusion of a course in one of the modes of inquiry is not tied to the department or program (or faculty member) offering the course; rather, it is based on whether the course meets the criteria for inclusion in the mode of inquiry.

    If a course is developed by a faculty member or department to be taught in a particular mode of inquiry, does that mean everyone who teaches a section of that course will need to address that mode, every semester that it is offered?

    Yes. Changing the mode(s) of inquiry of a course that has been proposed and approved involves more than a few minor adjustments. Courses approved for inclusion in Gen Ed will need to be taught in the mode or modes for which they were approved.

    What are the three “Tiers”?

    The Gen Ed program at NJCU has a tiered structure. That’s another way of saying that it is divided into three levels. Students begin their General Education studies in Tier 1, which includes the Tier 1 Seminars (either one or four, depending on a student’s initial composition course placement), as well as one English course and one Math course. After Tier 1, students move into Tier 2, which includes a second English course and either three or six Tier 2 courses (also depending on initial composition course placement). After Tier 2, students move into Tier 3, which consists of a single Capstone course—the culmination of General Education at NJCU.

    But what is the difference between the work done in Tier 1 and Tier 2, or Tier 2 and Tier 3?

    Students develop their skills as they progress through the Tiers, from the introductory (100-level) Math and English courses and Tier 1 Seminars, in which college-level skills associated with at least two of the University-wide student learning goals are introduced to students, to the intermediate (200-level) English and Tier 2 Seminars, in which those skills are reinforced, and to the more advanced (300-level) Tier 3 Capstone course, in which students demonstrate that they have mastered those skills.

    In other words, student will progress through the Tiers by meeting the University-wide student learning goals skills levels defined for each Tier. For example, students in Tier 1 will be expected to meet the learning goal benchmarks defined for Tier 1. Similarly, students in Tier 2 will be expected to meet the milestone-level outcomes defined for Tier 2. Finally, students in Tier 3 will be expected to meet the capstone-level outcomes defined for Tier 3.

    Students progress through the Tier structure in General Education: as students make their way through each of the Tiers, they simultaneously strengthen their skills and deepen their knowledge through experiences in a series of courses that address a range of topics through a variety of approaches. 

    What are “two-course pairs” and “three-course clusters”?

    Two-course pairs and three-course clusters are offered during the same semester and taken concurrently by a learning community of students. The thematic or topical focus of Gen Ed courses makes them a natural fit for inclusion in pairs or clusters of interrelated courses that approach their shared subject matter—a relatively general topic or theme for each pair or cluster—from a variety of disciplinary points of view, or even through a variety of modes of inquiry. (Remember that a “mode” is a collection of related “disciplinary approaches,” so a cluster of courses that includes “a variety of modes” is a group of courses that take a variety of disciplinary approaches, each of which belongs to a different mode.) The inclusion of course pairs and clusters that focus on a common topic highlights and reinforces, in the juxtaposition of different approaches to a single shared topic or theme, the interrelatedness of the various approaches to knowledge—the modes of inquiry—as well as the important differences among them. The new Gen Ed program encourages students to understand their various courses as related parts of a connected and coherent educational experience.

    Will courses developed in pairs and clusters always be offered together?

    The summer funding application asks faculty to propose pairs and clusters, but actual course proposals will probably not require detailed information about pairs and clusters. The reason for this is that the Senate Curriculum and Instruction Committee can approve only individual courses. As a result, whether or not courses are offered as pairs or clusters will be a matter of planning and scheduling. Well-planned course pairs and clusters will make an important contribution to the Gen Ed curriculum and we anticipate their being consistently offered in the formats in which they were conceived and developed. Of course, there is no guarantee that a course will always be offered in a pair or cluster; likewise, stand-alone courses could conceivably be offered in pairs or clusters not originally planned at the initial stages of course development. The size and complexity of the program will require careful planning and flexibility.

    Do students have to take all the courses offered in a pair or cluster, or can they pick and choose?

    The purpose of course pairs and clusters is to provide students with an integrated learning experience that includes two or three courses linked by a shared theme or topic. As in the current FYEP learning communities program, every effort will be made to protect the integrity of the course pairs and clusters so that students who take one of the linked courses will concurrently take the other linked courses. In some cases, exceptions may be necessary.  

    Can a course pair or cluster span more than one semester?

    The new Gen Ed program does not include asynchronous (multi-semester) course pairs or clusters. All course pairs and clusters will be offered concurrently on the learning community model. There are advantages to offering a sequence of courses related by theme; however, such a sequence would not be considered a pair or cluster. One challenge of running sequences across Tier 1 and Tier 2 involves scheduling and enrollment. The power of the course pair or cluster is in the learning community it makes possible. Given the intricacies of scheduling, there is at present no clear way to ensure that all (or even most) students enrolled in the first course of such a sequence would complete the sequence in a subsequent semester.

    Do General Education courses have prerequisites?

    Some Gen Ed courses will have prerequisites; for example, in order to take English Composition II, student must first pass English Composition I. There may be other cases in which prerequisites are appropriate for courses in the Gen Ed program. However, in most cases the Gen Ed courses will probably not have prerequisites. Instead, students will be required, to the extent possible, to complete the three Tiers in the intended sequence (Tier 1, then Tier 2, then Tier 3).

    Will Gen Ed courses have a special prefix?

    The short answer is no. The Senate-approved General Education program proposal includes the following language:

    The GSCC recommends that General Education courses in the new program, like the FYE courses in the current program, continue to be housed, scheduled and staffed by their departments (rather than exist independently in the dean’s office like the INTD courses in the current program).  Furthermore, the GSCC recommends that the catalogue designations for courses in the program remain department-specific (i.e. History, Biology, Art, Math, etc.). Courses that involve faculty from multiple departments should be cross-listed in the relevant departments and carry multiple catalogue designations. 

    Can Gen Ed courses be cross-listed (listed in more than one department)?

    Yes. Courses that involve faculty from multiple departments will be cross-listed in the relevant departments and carry multiple catalogue designations.  

    Can Gen Ed courses be offered online?

    Yes. Unless there is an existing University policy to the contrary, Gen Ed courses can be offered the same way other courses are offered.

    Can General Education courses be required in the Majors?

    Approved Gen Ed courses could be designated as required major courses if a department decided to make such a designation. This was a feature of the old General Studies program and it continues in the new program. However, a traditional intro-to-the-major course is not an appropriate Gen Ed course. Gen Ed courses will be grounded in a disciplinary or interdisciplinary approach; but unlike traditional introduction-to-the-major classes, they will focus on themes or topics of general interest, offering students the opportunity to learn about subjects with broad implications and applications in the context of an introduction to ways (“modes”) of inquiry--that is, the ways of investigating the world and thinking about knowledge in the disciplines. An important criterion for whether a course is appropriate for the Gen Ed curriculum is therefore whether or not its topic or theme could be approached from more than one discipline or mode of inquiry. If not, then its subject matter is probably too discipline-specific for a Gen Ed course. For example, the 200-level “Introduction to Literary Study,” an introductory course required for all English majors, would not be appropriate for Gen Ed. Its topic is literally defined by a particular disciplinary approach—it is the introduction to a discipline. Since it fits exclusively into a single discipline and, as a result, a single mode of inquiry—Language, Literary, and Cultural Studies—it is not “general” enough for General Education. However, a course that focuses on a topic like war or the environment would better meet the criteria described above. Such a course could be approached from the perspective of any of the four modes of inquiry and would thus be appropriate for inclusion in Gen Ed, whether or it were taught as a stand-alone course or as part of a two-course pair or three-course cluster.  

    What about the new Com Quant Initiative (Communications/Quantitative Literacy Across the Curriculum)?

    NJCU has recently established two University-wide committees to design and implement a Communications (Speaking, Writing, and Reading) Across the Curriculum initiative and a Quantitative Literacy Across the Curriculum initiative. These will be aligned with the Gen Ed program, in collaboration with the academic departments, to ensure quality speaking, writing, reading, and quantitative literacy instruction and skills acquisition across the curriculum. The Com Quant committees will consult with the departments and the Gen Ed Executive, Curriculum, and Assessment committees to plan faculty development initiatives tailored to specific departmental and programmatic needs. The Gen Ed Curriculum Committee, the Senate Curriculum and Instruction Committee, and the University Senate must approve curricular changes associated with these initiatives. Com Quant will intersect with Gen Ed in that both programs emphasize the University-wide student learning goals. Com Quant specifically focuses on three of these: effective writing skills, effective oral communication skills, and effective quantitative literacy skills. However, the scope of Com Quant is not limited to Gen Ed; rather, it will work to ensure that these learning goals are effectively addressed throughout the curriculum in the major and minor programs of all three colleges.

    How will the Gen Ed program be assessed?

    The General Education Assessment Plan was approved by the University Senate and SACC. It can be found on page 8 of the new General Education proposal.

    What will happen to the First Year Experience Program and existing FYE courses when the new Gen Ed program begins?

    The FYEP will, for all intents and purposes, be integrated and expanded into the new Gen Ed program, which was in part designed to build on its success (and that of its predecessor, Project 100) as a learning communities program. In a basically unrelated matter, existing FYE courses might make good candidates for revision as Tier 1 Seminars in the new program. 

    Will the old General Studies courses in Areas A-F still be offered program once the new Gen Ed program begins?

    Starting in September 2015, entering students will begin taking courses in the new Gen Ed program. However, a cohort of students who began in the old General Studies program will have yet to complete it. The question is whether it will be more feasible to offer the old area courses concurrently with the new Gen Ed courses, or to require the more advanced students to take new Gen Ed courses to meet any remaining area requirements. This is an open question.

    Are there any special advisement issues?

    Yes. Effective advisement will be important in the new program. Some of the requirements may be difficult to regulate online, at least at first. One issue is already familiar to advisors: students who enroll in course pairs or clusters need to be enrolled concurrently in multiple courses. This obviously affects the enrollment procedure and can be simplified by assigning each pair or cluster a special enrollment code that enrolls students in a pair or cluster in a single action. This has been done in the FYEP program.

    Another issue involves the different requirements for students who place into developmental composition and those who place into college-level composition upon arrival at NJCU. The number of courses students must take in Tier 1 and Tier 2 depends on whether they place into RWAD or ECI. Students who place directly into ECI are required to take one Tier 1 Seminar (3 credits) plus ECI and Math; students who place into developmental composition (RWAD) are required to take four Tier 1 Seminars (12 credits) plus ECI and Math. Also, students who place directly into ECI take ECII plus nine courses (27 credits) in Tier 2; and students who place into RWAD take ECII plus six courses (18 credits) in Tier 2. Everyone takes a single Tier 3 Capstone course; and all students take a total of 44-45 credits in the General Education Program (Tiers 1-3).

    A third consideration involved the sequencing of courses in the Tiers. The tiered structure is based on the level of difficulty and sophistication of the courses offered in teach Tier, so it will be vital to ensure that students start in the introductory Tier 1 courses, then move into and progress through the more advanced Tier 2 courses, and finally take the most advanced Tier 3 Capstone course at the end of Gen Ed. 

    Did you notice that students with different composition course placements have different distribution requirements in the modes of inquiry?

    Nope. Not anymore. The University Senate approved a motion that authorized revisions to the Gen Ed program so that all students must take at least two seminars in each mode of inquiry, whether in Tier 1 or Tier 2, before completing Tier 2. Regardless of comp course placement, everyone now has the same distribution requirement; everyone must take the same number of courses in each mode of inquiry.


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