The University of Cincinnati boasts a rich story of General Education (GenEd) evolution. The initial implementation of a general education program at the University began in 1996. This program was innovative and ambitious. It required all GenEd courses to be approved by a committee, to engage in specified pedagogies, and to be taught in small enrollment settings. This program was never fully realized. Indeed, the 1999 North Central review found “uneven implementation compromised the coherence of the General Education program.”
Spurred on by our own concerns regarding our GenEd program and armed with the recommendations of the North Central review, UC chose to totally redesigned our program to better take into account the diversity of the individual colleges, their missions, and our individual organizational context while offering an educational framework that supports common knowledge, essential competencies, and their responsible application in a global context. UC’s new General Education program was implemented in fall 2001.
The 2001 GenEd program, now called the General Education Core, remains the foundation of our current program although the program has improved and matured through a process of assessment for continual program improvement (with major innovations introduced and supported by a faculty vote in 2006). The Program includes three essential parts: a Baccalaureate Competencies component, a Breadth of Knowledge (BoK) component, and a Program/Major component.
In 2012, the University of Cincinnati converted from a quarter to semester calendar. This brought about an exciting transformation of the university's curriculum, and a reinvention of the General Education Core. Changes included:
- Mid-Collegiate Experiential Learning. GenEd now requires one or more mid-collegiate courses or academic experiences that encourage students to engage in experiential learning to increase disciplinary proficiency and promote contextual understanding and knowledge integration.
- Introduction of Technology and Innovation (TI).
- Inclusion of Literature courses within the Humanities (HU) designation. (Previously, literature and humanities courses had separate designations.)
Integrated Core Learning (ICL): Our Signature Approach to Undergraduate Education
As part of the academic planning process, the University of Cincinnati reviewed the relationship between its mission and values and its General Education Program. This discussion resulted in a new vision for undergraduate education that we call Integrated Core Leaning (ICL).
ICL is our signature approach to undergraduate education and is named to reflect its call for the thoughtful integration of the General Education core, major course work, experiential learning (such as internships, study abroad, performance, undergraduate research, practicum, clinical placements, co-op, and service learning experiences), co-curricular activities, and faculty-guided reflection throughout the undergraduate curriculum. ICL underscores the University of Cincinnati’s strengths and places them within a holistic framework for student learning from the first undergraduate year through graduation. ICL envisions the purposeful weaving of high impact practices and experiences with high quality, rigorous instruction. ICL emphasizes:
- The various ways in which knowledge is produced and disseminated
- The myriad connections and inter-relationships among different disciplines, professions, career paths, cultural organizations, and civic life
- The benefits of thinking collaboratively across disciplines and approaching issues and problems from a multi-disciplinary perspective
- The transferability of knowledge and skills across multiple contexts
This combination—and integration—emphasizes the application of liberal learning in real-world contexts and defines the essence of a 21st-century urban research institution. ICL is built around 3 touch-points in the undergraduate experience to provide all students with key opportunities to develop, review, and act upon a learning plan for degree completion. It begins with a significant first-year experience as its cornerstone and continues with opportunities for self-reflection and on-going support through mid-collegiate coursework and experiences. Culminating with a senior-year experience (See an example of our Biomedical Engineering senior capstone course) where a comprehensive assessment of student learning takes place, ICL provides students with the necessary tools to transition to a profession or graduate program and continue to assume ownership for life-long learning, civic engagement, and social responsibility.