Updated: Nov 11, 2020
Every student at Rhode Island College is required to take courses that satisfy general education requirements necessary for graduation. RIC’s general education program is designed to supplement the courses students take for their majors with courses that meet 11 learning outcomes that highlight critical skills for students. Although RIC seems to be very clear with what they expect of students, why is it that so many students find themselves in situations where one or more of the general education requirements hold them back from graduating on time?
The general education program requires students to take 10 courses that are all worth four credits each. The 10 courses are broken down into three “core” courses as well as seven that fall under the category of “distribution” offerings. The three core courses won’t come as a surprise to students as we have all become familiar with taking First Year Seminar, First Year Writing and a Connections course. These courses are required for all programs and although students have the choice of the topic of FYS and Connections, they must be satisfied by all students without exception. The Seven distribution courses refer to the selection of courses that can be taken to satisfy requirements from within various disciplines. These disciplines are also likely familiar to you and include Visual and Performing Arts, History, Literature, Mathematics, Natural Science, Social and Behavioral Science, Advanced Quantitative/ Scientific Reasoning and Second Language. The distribution courses give students more choices for the department in which the course lies as well as the topic. However, how much of a choice do we really have?
Looking at the general education program at The University of Rhode Island, there is one significant difference in how students fulfill their requirements. Similar to RIC, URI’s general education program requires about 40 credits worth of courses that correspond with a set of learning outcomes. However, URI bases their program on the outcomes rather than the core and distribution courses. In other words, students are given the set of outcomes they are required to meet, and can choose their courses accordingly. This gives students more choices to find general education courses that interest them or even relate to their major. I’m not saying the outcome based system would be the right fit for RIC students, but I do know it is now being brought into question.
My personal experience with the general education program at RIC has allowed me to connect with many faculty members and students I never would have met within my major courses. I think being required to take a wide variety of courses spread across the disciplines has its benefits by enriching students with different types of thinking in different settings. However, in a society that is increasingly moving towards choice based learning models, the debate between course based general education vs. outcome based learning comes into play more than ever.
As the student representative for the college’s Committee on General Education, I hope to investigate further what my peers think about general education at RIC, and let them give their personal opinions on the program. I also hope to use their feedback to speak on behalf of them and be a voice for them. Stay tuned for more!