Teaching and Learning Resource Center

Planning Your Course for the General Education Curriculum

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Alan Kalish, Assistant Vice Provost, Undergraduate Education
Alan Kalish, Assistant Vice Provost, Undergraduate Education

“The old GE was a straight distribution model. That is, students made choices from a very long menu of categories. It was like they were picking classes like puzzle pieces and then trying to piece them together on their own, and we weren’t really showing them what the picture was supposed to look like. […] Each of the pieces was great, but whether or not it was a curriculum was an open question.

“Beginning in December of 2016, we realized we needed to do something new… That old system had been adopted in 1988, so it’s older than almost all of our students and many of our faculty. So we’re trying to move into the 21st century. Many faculty members, staff members, and students worked together these past many years to create a new GE that supports and encourages connections across students’ learning journey. So that it’s not just a random selection of puzzle pieces, but it actually makes a nice picture. For the first time in living memory, all Ohio State students will have some common academic experiences.”

In autumn 2022, The Ohio State University will launch a new General Education (GE) program that reduces the number of required GE course credit hours, provides more flexibility in scheduling, streamlines time to degree, and better prepares students for the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century. This is the first major overhaul to Ohio State's GE curriculum in over 30 years and will apply to all bachelor's degrees offered by the university, regardless of campus, college, or major. 

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Student walk on the Ohio State main campus in fall.

General Education and the Undergraduate Experience

What is the role of General Education (GE) in the undergraduate experience? A GE curriculum provides students with exposure to key basic skills and opportunities to explore the breadth of academic disciplines. GE courses are an important way for students to discover their academic interests and lay the groundwork to succeed in the discipline of their majors and in their post-graduate lives and careers. For departments and colleges, GE courses are an avenue to share their discipline with interested and engaged non-experts.  

Ohio State’s GE is an essential component of a three-part undergraduate academic experience, which includes the General Education program, one or more major programs, and electives. The GE is organized around core components that occur across all majors, providing a unified experience that crosses over multiple disciplines, inspires critical thinking and innovation, and supports the development of foundational life and career skills.  

Changes to Ohio State’s GE curriculum in 2022 will: 

  • Define clear, consistent expected learning outcomes (ELOs)  for all undergraduate students
  • Reduce GE-specific credit hour requirements, giving students more flexibility to pursue electives, minors, or second majors
  • Require all undergraduate colleges to adhere to the same GE model, allowing students to change majors or add a second major without the confusion of navigating two different sets of GE requirements
  • Incorporate data analysis, technology, and advanced writing, which are embedded literacies essential to a contemporary undergraduate education
  • Provide assessment mechanisms that monitor program effectiveness and student success to inform regular curricular reviews and updates

Learn more about General Education at Ohio State.

New GE Structure 

The new GE is a multi-year program with courses that build upon each other. It is organized into three areas—Bookends, Foundations, and Themes—which students must complete to fulfill the ELOs of the curriculum.

Bookends 

Bookends courses are managed by the Office of Academic Affairs and designed to serve as an entry and exit point for the GE. The Bookends are comprised of two seminar courses designed to help students contextualize and capitalize on the learning they do within their GE experience. The opening launch seminar introduces the broad goals of the GE and key skills students will need to grow and advance through the program. The closing reflection seminar requires students to document and reflect upon their academic and personal growth through the development of an ePortfolio comprised of learning artifacts and responses to embedded questions.

Foundations

College students working in class.

Foundations courses introduce students to different academic disciplines and their modes of inquiry, which are organized into seven universal categories. All students must complete at least one course in each category. Students in the College of Arts and Sciences are required to complete coursework for one additional category.

The Foundations categories are: 

  • Race, Ethnicity, and Gender Diversity
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences 
  • Historical or Cultural Studies 
  • Writing and Information Literacy 
  • Literary, Visual, and Performing Arts 
  • Natural Sciences 
  • Mathematical and Quantitative Reasoning 
  • World Languages (required for College of Arts and Sciences students only) 

Themes

Themes courses provide students with the opportunity to examine a complex topic through multiple perspectives and disciplinary lenses and are organized into eight topics, or Themes. The Themes are interdisciplinary and address questions and concerns that reflect the 21st century and are informed by historical, current, and future-minded approaches. All students will complete coursework within the Citizenship for a Diverse and Just World Theme and one additional Theme of their choosing.

The GE Themes are:

  • Citizenship for a Diverse and Just World 
  • Lived Environments 
  • Sustainability 
  • Health and Well-being 
  • Migration, Mobility, and Immobility
  • Number, Nature, Mind
  • Origins and Evolution
  • Traditions, Cultures, and Transformations

“This new General Education [curriculum] provides us with the opportunity to give every Ohio State student a shared intellectual experience—in the launch seminar, in the citizenship theme, in the reflection seminar—in a way that they’ve not had in generations.”

- Alan Kalish, Assistant Vice Provost, Undergraduate Education

This Academic Advising video for students will further acquaint you with the structure and requirements of the new GE program.

Some Themes courses have been designated as Integrative Practice courses. These courses employ integrative practices or high-impact practices (HIPs). Integrative Practice courses include more intensive learning activities but allow students to fulfill a GE Themes requirement through completion of a single 4-credit Integrative Practice course rather than two “traditional” 3-credit Themes courses. 

Because Integrative Practice courses provide a shorter path to fulfilling Themes requirements, we anticipate they will be popular with students, necessitating the creation and provision of more Integrative Practices courses than are currently available. 

For a deeper dive into the GE structure, check out Connecting Campus: Launching the New GE, a recorded presentation from the 2022 Innovate conference. 


 

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High-Impact Practices (HIPs)

Learn about high-impact practices and course types in High-Impact Practices: Enhancing the Student Experience or explore Integrative Practices within the GE, including service-learning, education abroad and away, research and creative inquiry, interdisciplinary team-taught courses, and instruction in a language other than English.

Learn more about the GE Program and explore Frequently Asked Questions.

GE Course Submission Process

Having courses in the GE enables academic units to introduce students to their discipline and approaches. This can help students explore and develop their scholarly interests and equip them with key skills and perspectives that enrich their academic and life experience. Instructors from all departments and colleges are encouraged to propose new and revised courses for inclusion within the GE Foundations and Themes sections. The creation and revision of GE courses follows the standard lifecycle for course development, with a few additional requirements set forward by the Council on Academic Affairs. 

Below we outline what you can expect from the process and provide helpful recommendations and support resources.

Plan Your Course Proposal

When proposing a new or revised course, it’s important to thoughtfully consider how it will fit within and enhance the GE curriculum.

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Before you begin your course proposal:

Once your department or college has approved moving your proposal forward, you can begin preparing your submission for review. 

First, investigate what courses are already included in the GE curriculum so that your future course is distinguishable from other offerings, avoids duplication of efforts across units, and prevents potential confusion for students. You may schedule a consultation with one or more of Ohio State’s teaching support units whose expertise is most relevant to your course topics, disciplines, and learning outcomes.

All submissions to the GE must include a course syllabus, but other required details and materials will vary by college or program—reach out to your college’s curricular leads for guidance on what you should expect. Whether you plan to revise an existing course or suggest a new one, your submission must demonstrate alignment between your course goals and outcomes and the goals and ELOs of the new GE. Additional documentation will vary depending into which section of the GE curriculum your course fits. 

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Search the Course Catalog

Currently offered courses are recorded by the Office of the University Registrar and can be searched via the Course Catalog. To find existing courses in the Foundations or Themes, click on the magnifying glass to the right of the Course Attribute field and select GE2 ("General Education - New") from the search results menu. Then select the desired Theme or Foundation from the Course Attribute Value search results.

Bookmark these helpful resources to consult as you prepare your proposal submission:

Submit Your Course

Once you’ve worked through the GE course submission guidelines and pulled together all required materials, your local curricular contact (e.g., curriculum committee chair, department chair, curricular dean, or program manager) can upload your syllabus and supporting documentation through Ohio State’s curriculum portal. Your course will then proceed through the same review channels as major and elective courses, but with an additional phase of review through the Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committee (ASCC), which will make the review process take longer than for non-GE courses. Once all phases of review have been completed, the local curricular contact who submitted your course will be notified of the outcome.

New course submissions

For a new course, your syllabus will be reviewed and approved first by the appropriate local curricular bodies (e.g., department, school, or college) and then sent to the ASCC. Reviews of courses submitted from within the College of Arts and Sciences are streamlined so that local approval and GE approval happen seamlessly.

Existing course submissions

For an existing course that has been revised to align with GE ELOs, be listed as Integrative Practice, or both, there will be a cursory review at the local level, documenting a record of agreement to proposed changes before they are sent to the ASCC. 

Your course submission review will be returned with one of five possible designations:

  • Approved. The course can be offered as it was submitted. 
  • Approved with recommendations. The course can be offered as it was submitted, but could be improved by incorporating feedback from reviewers. 
  • Approved with contingencies. The course requires some changes to the application materials, as noted in the reviewers’ feedback. Changes should be made, and the course should then be resubmitted through the curriculum portal.
  • Returned without vote. The course, as presented, did not meet the threshold for full review (e.g., submission materials were incomplete or included a significant but fixable problem). It must be revised significantly before it is resubmitted through the curriculum portal for further consideration. 
  • Not approved. The course, as presented, is not a fit for the GE curriculum.

After receiving the outcome of your submission review, we recommended that you initiate a direct conversation with the ASCC and your local review group to ensure alignment. Stay in touch with your curricular contact throughout each step of the proposal, submission, and (potential) revision process.

Explore examples of successful GE course submissions.

Design or Revise Your Course

Once your submission has been approved, you can dive into the nuts and bolts of designing or revising your course for delivery. Many university resources are available to support you throughout this process, including multiple programs for which you can receive teaching endorsements through the Michael V. Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning.

Course Design

Multiple versions of the Course Design Institute (CDI) are offered throughout the year by the Drake Institute. In the CDI, Ohio State instructors are introduced to a “backward design” process and strategies that support significant learning. Participants learn evidence-based instructional practices and resources to build effective, student-centered courses. The program creates the time and space for instructors to concentrate on design work in the company of colleagues and educational developers. Participants who successfully complete this program earn a Course Design teaching endorsement.

ASC Distance Education, in partnership with the Drake Institute, is offering a GE Course Design Institute specifically focused on designing or redesigning a course for the GE curriculum. Additional articles and videos on Course Design Strategies are also available from Arts and Sciences Office of Distance Education.

Information Literacy

Students’ success, in academic and professional life, relies on their ability to effectively locate, critically evaluate, and ethically use and share information. Although research indicates that most instructors consider information literacy to be important for their students, many are uncertain about how to approach teaching information literacy. University Libraries’ Information Literacy endorsement is made up of a self-paced, fully online course, designed to help instructors learn how to purposefully and strategically teach information literacy skills and concepts in their classes. Participants are introduced to the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, which outlines six core information literacy concepts. Following the backward design model, participants then identify information literacy learning outcomes and develop an outline for an assignment or activity that could be used to teach and assess information literacy. By the end of the course, participants will have developed an Action Plan for integrating information literacy into a course.

Additional resources on teaching research and information literacy are available from University Libraries.

Meaningful Inquiry

University Libraries and the Center for Study and Teaching of Writing partnered to create an endorsement around meaningful inquiry. Program participants learn about persistent racial and social class equity gaps in higher education and consider the ways in which a common practice – the research assignment – may contribute to those gaps. Using an equity framework, participants learn practical strategies for designing meaningful and equitable research assignments and transparently communicating expectations for performance. Topics covered include information literacy, Decoding the Disciplines, Transparency in Learning & Teaching (TILT), student motivation to learn, and asset-based pedagogies. 

Technology-Enhanced and Online Teaching

The Office of Technology and Digital Innovation (OTDI) offers assistance and expertise through professional learning opportunities and resources designed to help Ohio State educators leverage university-supported technology to provide consistent high-quality learning experiences for students, foster inclusive online and technology-rich learning environments, and make informed evidence-based decisions about teaching with technology. Programming includes virtual and recorded workshops and online asynchronous courses.

Explore the OTDI workshop catalog, upcoming learning opportunities, and teaching endorsements..

Writing

The new GE curriculum includes Expected Learning Outcomes (ELOs) around Advanced Writing which were designed to reflect current best practices in writing intensive curricula across the United States. By incorporating strategies to promote transparency and culturally sustaining pedagogies, instructors can promote transparency in teaching and learning and be responsive to the diverse range of their students’ needs.

The Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing (CSTW) provides resources to help faculty begin to develop their course plans for Advanced Writing in the GE as well as a week-long endorsed seminar in which instructors comprehensively examine their course curriculum and identify the unique needs of their diverse student populations and design or redesign a sequenced writing assignment for their course.

 

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An instructor's hands gesture while lecturing to students.

Additional Support

Looking for other programs and resources to support you on your course development journey?

Course Development and Teaching Support

The Teaching and Learning Resource Center (TLRC) provides an ongoing feed of learning opportunities from partnering units, including in-person and virtual workshops and online courses. Most TLRC partners also provide teaching consultation services to Ohio State educators on an as-needed basis. Consultants are available to support a variety of areas, including clinical teaching, course design, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), information literacy, instructional strategies, online teaching, open educational resources (OER), technology-enhanced teaching, and student engagement. Browse and select the teaching support form most aligned to your needs.

GE Curriculum and Course Submission Support

For general inquiries about Ohio State's GE curriculum and structure, contact Alan KalishFor help with submitting a course to the GE program, contact Michael Hilty  or Rachel Steele in ASC Curriculum and Assessment Services.  

Stay informed about the new GE by subscribing to the General Education Implementation Newsletter.

      Summary

      Ohio State launches a new General Education curriculum in autumn 2022. Organized into three areas—Bookends, Foundations, and Themes—the new GE aims to better prepare 21st century students for the opportunities and challenges they will encounter beyond the undergraduate experience.

      Use the process below to submit a course to the new GE:

      1. Plan your course proposal. Consider how your course goals and outcomes align to the GE program, and secure approval from your unit. Use the GE submission guidelines to prepare your proposal, ensuring that you have included all the necessary materials.
      2. Submit your course. Connect with your local curricular contact to upload your materials through Ohio State’s curriculum portal. After all review phases are complete, your curricular contact will be notified of the outcome: approved, approved with recommendations, approved with contingencies, returned without vote, or not approved.
      3. Design or revise your course. Consider leveraging university resources and learning opportunities, such as the teaching endorsements offered by the Drake Institute, to support your course development journey.

      Bookmark these helpful resources: