The 'supercourse' breaking down department silos

How one school plans to fix general education

Students at Southern Utah University (SUU) can now complete all of their general education requirements in one year by enrolling in a "supercourse" taught by eight professors from various departments, Mary Ellen McIntire reports for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The program, Jumpstart GE aims to connect the ways different disciplines work together in the real world. The class meets three hours a day, five days a week and covers 13 courses' worth of information organized into six-week units.

Instead of lectures, students sit in small groups. Typically, between three to five professors are in the room a day.

"You don't wake up and say, 'Today is a biology day,' but we do that at school," says SUU President Scott Wyatt. The program seeks to correct that by breaking down silos between subjects.

The main issue with general education is that courses end up with two types of students: those majoring in the topic and those just fulfilling a requirement, Wyatt says.

This year, the course is organized around a "freedom" theme, but in the future students will be able to choose from a selection.

Professors say that though the program is interesting, it also requires more work.

"It's very hard because you do need to devote time to it to be able to know what each of your colleagues has been doing," says Andrew Marvick, the school's full-time art-history professor.

It does keep teaching "fresh" though, says Jessica Tvordi, an English associate professor. "I'm not looking at the study questions I prepared a year go" when lesson planning, she says (McIntire, Chronicle of Higher Education, 10/2).

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From Research and Insights

General Education Curriculum Structure

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