So, after 1 year, 3 months, and 13 days, the General Education Committee acted on the proposal I submitted on behalf of our department for a new course called The Digital Past.
And, of course, the course was not approved.
Their reasoning works like this…After I submitted the proposal, the Committee decided to rewrite the student learning outcomes (SLOs in ed-speak) for the technology competency portion of our general education requirements. That process took quite a while (I took part in a two hour workshop on the changes last summer and thought it was all done then…). Now that the new SLOs are done, the syllabus I submitted, in the judgment of the committee, no longer measures up. The committee felt, in the words of their chair:
that a higher level of explicit alignment with two of the new SLOs is necessary– specifically, with the first clause in SLO # 2 excerpted here: “Students will understand the core IT concepts in a range of current and emerging technologies…” and, to fully meet the ethics requirement, with SLO# 5: “Students will understand the essential issues related to information security, how to take precautions and use techniques and tools to defend against computer crimes.”
So it’s back to the drawing board for me. The good news is that I have been assured that the committee is anxious to approve my proposal. So I will be spending some time today making the changes they propose, sending the revised syllabus around to colleagues who helped create it, and then resubmitting it. Perhaps I can get it approved before the semester ends next month and the committee disbands until fall. One piece of good news is that, because the course was already approved by the College curriculum committee, it is already in the catalog and so once approved by the general education committee, it will be approved to meet the IT requirement in our general education program.
This whole process raises an interesting question more broadly applicable to higher education–namely, the degree to which committees outside of academic departments can or should dictate the specifics of language in an instructor’s syllabus? The answer to some parts of this question is fairly clear–the institution ought to be able to stipulate that a syllabus include ADA language, a statement of learning goals, etc.
But I think that the micro-managing of language in those parts of a course syllabus that deal with academic content is a symptom of a larger problem with general education at our university and elsewhere. As I have written previously, I think the entire general education system at my institution has gotten completely out of whack. We have decided, for whatever reason, that we know better than our students when it comes to what they ought to learn to the point that we now not only dictate which courses they must take, but also what the syllabi for those courses must say.
I’m assuming (maybe I’m naive) that the general education committee will now go back to every single course previously approved to meet our IT requirement and reread every syllabus with the same care they applied to mine. After all, the SLOs are different now than they were when the earlier courses were approved, right? All I can say is I’m glad I’m not on that committee!