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Frequently Asked Questions about the GE Redesign

Q: When was the last major overhaul of general education at BYU?

A: Although there have been some changes (including the addition of Global and Cultural Awareness roughly 15 years ago), the current general education program was established shortly after the centennial celebration of the university in the late 1970s and revised in the early 80s—almost 50 years ago!

Q: Is something wrong with the current GE program?

A: One of the strengths of BYU is the devoted, talented faculty. Their teaching is superb, and many wonderful things currently happen in GE classes. The aim of the GE redesign is to take the best of what we have, fix structural problems, fill gaps, and reorient the overall approach of general education to better meet the needs of students today. One problem with a 50-year-old GE program is the dated logic that informed its design. Baggage and loopholes developed not unlike the tax code. The program needs cleaning up to make it more intelligible for students and faculty alike. For more on the reasons that motivated the update, see: “Why are we designing a new GE?”

Q: What are the main goals of the new GE program?

A: The main goals match the charge given to the design committee by AVP Shane Reese. The new GE needs to consider:
  1. Identity: the program should have a clear identity to match the principles expressed in the Mission and Aims of BYU, engage the religious mission of the university, and not exclude other core competencies or values for which BYU is known (or to which it might aspire);
  2. Simplicity: students should be able to chart an intentional course through GE and recognize the values embedded in a broad-based education;
  3. Commonality: the new program needs to provide students more common experiences while retaining the flexibility that comes from a distribution model; and
  4. Efficiency: on the whole, a new GE program should not add credits or time required to degree.
Lastly, the GE redesign needs to respect the current distribution of university resources (budget, FTEs, space, professional development, etc.).

Q: How was the proposal for a new GE program developed?

A: The beginning of the process to develop a new GE program began almost a decade ago with various attempts to modify the current program and develop something new that better met the need of students. The assessment data gathered over recent years led to renewed efforts to reform the GE program. This kicked off with several GE-sponsored events designed to solicit input including the “Envisioning GE Academy” in spring 2018 and follow-up workshops in which faculty, advisors, and students contributed ideas about making changes to the GE program. In March 2019, a GE Design Committee (GEDC 1.0) was organized with the charge to develop several models for a new GE. These models were not designed with regards to restraints or to open up thinking about the possibilities for GE at BYU. During a feedback period, copious feedback was gathered from the campus community in fall 2019. In January 2020, a second GE Design Committee (GEDC 2.0) was organized with a charge from Academic Vice President Shane Reese to develop a single model that took into account BYU’s unique identity, the work of previous committees, feedback on GEDC 1.0’s models, research on GE, and national general education standards to develop a model for a revised GE. GEDC began by researching and developing learning outcomes for the program and requirements to meet those outcomes. The work of GEDC 2.0 concluded in fall 2020 when they turned a complete proposal over to the Faculty General Education Committee (FGEC). The FGEC has subsequently continued the development of the proposal while in discussion with colleges and faculty members to prepare a formal proposal to present to the University Curriculum Council. The proposal would not have been possible except for the contributions of the hundreds of full- and part-time faculty, advisors, and students who made suggestions, provided feedback on models, and served on committees.

Q: Does the proposal change the total credits required by GE?

A: Simply put, yes. The proposal reduces the total credits from 39 to 36. However, there are important details behind this reduction in overall credits. Currently, students must take between 39-51 credits to graduate (39 if the Languages of Learning requirement is filled by a three-credit math/statistics course and 51 if Languages of Learning is fulfilled by a world language 101-202). The proposal reduces this requirement to 36-38 credits (the variation depends on how students fulfill the new Languages and Cultures requirement). However, it should be noted the proposal seeks to eliminate classes that simultaneously fulfill two GE requirements (for instance a History of Civilization class currently certified to fulfill both History of Civ 2 and Global and Cultural Awareness).

Q: How is the proposed First-Year Seminar different from other GE Explorations classes?

A: The First-Year Seminar (FYS) is an Explorations class incoming freshmen complete their first semester. Students link this class in an envelope with sections of First-Year Writing and possibly a required religious education class. In addition to academic content, the FYS will train students to help them transition to university life. Available resources will determine the size of these Explorations classes. Based on research, we anticipate the FYS experience will particularly help first-generation, under-represented, and at-risk student populations.

Q: Is the Quantitative Reasoning requirement new?

A: Yes and no. There is currently a Quantitative Reasoning requirement, but it is only required of students who score 22 or lower on the ACT. The new Quantitative Reasoning requirement replaces the Language of Learning math/stats option and will be required of all students. Students with low quantitative proficiencies may need to take a pre-requisite course to prepare them for this new Quantitative Reasoning requirement.

Q: Is the Language and Culture requirement new?

A: Yes and no. There is currently a world languages requirement at BYU, but it is one of two options available through the Languages of Learning requirement. What is new is all students will be required to fulfill both a quantitative reasoning requirement and a (reduced) world languages requirement. With the new Language and Culture requirement, students no longer complete a 202 or higher course language course; rather all students, regardless of ability level, complete at least six language course credits.

Q: Are students still required to take at least six credits of language even if they pass a proficiency test?

A: The diversity and strength of language instruction is a distinguishing feature of BYU. Indeed, President Kimball said BYU should be “the acknowledged language capital of the world” (“Second Century Address”). Though most BYU students with advanced language proficiency are either heritage speakers or learned a language from a mission experience, it is fair to require the same amount of course work from all students. As in the parable of the talents, regardless of the proficiency level where one starts, BYU is uniquely able to add an increase. The requirement provides opportunities for students with advanced proficiency in a language to both solidify those skills and find ways to apply and use them in their chosen areas of study and interest.

Q: Does the proposed revision eliminate double counting between major requirements and GE?

A: Classes will continue to fulfill both GE and major requirements. Specific classes that double count is determined by the major program.

Q: Will the GE class I currently teach be eliminated in the new program?

A: Almost all classes currently certified for GE will have a place in the new program, although in some cases some revisions might be required. The requirement distribution is different, so there could be diminished demand for certain courses and increased demand for others. Colleges and programs are invited to thoughtfully consider how they allocate GE teaching resources between established and new courses.

Q: How will the new GE proposal impact adjunct instructors?

A: Adjunct instructors play a crucial role in the instruction of GE classes. This role will continue. Departments and colleges will determine individual course loads for adjunct instructors in the new GE program as they have in the past.

Q: How will the new program impact current major programs?

A: The answer largely depends on how integrated the major is with GE classes. For the vast majority of academic programs, there will be no change (or even a reduction) in total credits to graduation. For programs highly integrated with the current GE program, initial analyses suggest there might be a minimal increase in some cases if major requirements remain unchanged.

Q: Our department wants to propose a new GE course. Should we wait?

A: It is the general preference of the FGEC to wait on approving new classes until the details of the new GE program are finalized. If there are courses, however, that need to be approved to alleviate a hardship for students because of other curricular changes, exceptions might be made. To consult about particular circumstances, contact the General Education office.

Q: What are the differences between GE Disciplinary Perspectives and GE Explorations courses?

A: The Disciplinary Perspectives courses look much like many of our current disciplinary based GE courses. These courses introduce a methodology and way of understanding the world from a specific disciplinary perspective with reflection on how that perspective is distinctive. Explorations courses, in contrast, are inquiry-driven and less structured by content and a specific methodology. Courses are not only built around a question (contemporary or enduring) that might lend itself to a particular disciplinary approach but also engages other ways of thinking. Exploration course instructors are not expected to teach disciplines outside their own per se, but they should enter into a dialog with other approaches. Distinctions between the two might be understood as follows:

GE Disciplinary Perspectives
GE Explorations
Microbiology Confronting COVID-19
American Literature 1865-1914 Racial encounters in American Literature
Computer Programming Technophilia and its Discontents
Planetary Geography Building a Habitable Planet
Genetics Biotechnology and Huan Nature’s Future
Industrial Design Designing for Function, Beauty, and Equality

Q: What will GE do to help support creation of Explorations classes?

A: GE will provide support including time and resources for faculty to develop and implement new Exploration courses as part of the curriculum. GE will also provide on-going, cross-disciplinary conversations, and guest lecturers to focus on topics of broad interest and import for those developing inquiry-driven classes.

Q: What is the timeline for the implementation of a new GE program?

A: The answer to this depends on the approval process. Once the proposal receives final approval (as early as this summer but perhaps later), it would be a minimum of 1.5 years before entering freshmen would begin with new GE requirements. This time will be necessary for individual programs to consider the impact of a new GE on their course offerings and, in some cases, requirements for majors. It is our hope that changes to GE and corresponding changes in departments can be submitted for approval the fall semester before the new program is implemented so that all changes can go into effect at the same time.

Q: Will current students need to fulfill new GE requirements if they do not graduate before the new GE is implemented?

A: Students enrolled at BYU before the date of implementation would complete the requirements of the current GE program. Only students beginning after the official start of the new GE would complete the new requirements.