Core curriculum to provide foundation for College of Technology
A two-year process that began with a desire to create a common learning experience for all College of Technology students will launch Fall 2011 with the first course of the core curriculum — TECH12000 (Technology and the Individual).
The planning committee for the core curriculum sought participation from representatives from each academic department. That input resulted in a set of courses that will be foundational to each student’s CoT experience.
We sat down with three individuals who have been involved with the project since the initial meetings: Mary Sadowski, associate dean for undergraduate programs; Dan Lybrook, associate professor of organizational leadership and supervision; and Pat Connolly, associate professor of computer graphics technology. They offered their perspectives on the planning process, the purpose of the core curriculum, and the courses that will make up the curriculum.
Where did the idea of the core curriculum come from?
Mary Sadowski: The strategic plan provided the impetus for it. We were looking at ways to serve our students better and create a signature for technology. We looked at all of our courses across departments and COMM 11400 was the only one in common.
Why is this set of courses needed?
Sadowski: It’s giving students a common experience, covering some of the things that we typically haven’t been good at like culture and diversity. We learned [our students] had the technical skills, but were lacking in areas such as oral communication. We wanted to give all students a common core of courses, so no matter where they start, they will all take these. It’s common knowledge that is flexible across a variety of majors. It’s a great way for students to get to know each other across departments. Working in teams will be a component of all three courses. It could also help the students to begin identifying with the college, not just their departments.
Dan Lybrook: One, in the educational world, each program in the college is accredited based on program outcomes. The core will enable each program to achieve these with a great measure of efficiency through the combination of required core courses and program specific requirements.
Why is it important for all CoT students to learn about these concepts?
Lybrook: These are the skills that employers are seeking in graduates. This will enhance their value to employers and society for the future. A department typically provides program-specific knowledge and skills. But there’s more to the workplace than that. Employers want skills in oral and written communication, the ability to work in teams, knowledge of project management. They want global sensitivity and understanding.
What involvement did you have from faculty throughout the process of developing the curriculum?
Sadowski: It was open to any faculty who were interested. We had between 15 and 30 who were involved at some point. If you showed interest, you were on the committee. I drove the early meetings, then everyone else began driving the process. The faculty is doing this. They took ownership.
What questions were asked to get this started?
Lybrook: We needed to figure out what a College of Technology student looks like. What do we think they need as a graduate? What is common across all our departments? As we boiled this down, content became identifiable, and we were able to separate that into courses that made sense.
What courses will make up the core?
Lybrook: The paradigm became the individual, the organization, the world. We volunteered to lead the development. Pat Connolly is coordinating Technology and the Individual, I volunteered for Technology and the Organization, and Jamie Mohler and Mike Nolan are developing Technology and Global Society.
What is the role of the coordinators?
Lybrook: They are developing the actual content of the courses, acting on feedback from various departments. We are putting together the shell, then asking for input, to make sure the content is relevant to all departments. The coordinators will also teach one section of the course to start. This will help them get a feel for it and allow us to improve as we go along.
How will the courses be rolled out?
Lybrook: Technology and the Individual will begin this fall. It is the foundation course and is a prerequisite for the other core courses. The goal is to offer this every semester and summer. Technology and the Organization will begin Fall 2012 and Technology and the Global Society will begin Spring 2013. There is no required sequence for these two courses.
Who is teaching the courses?
Sadowski: We are beginning 12000 this fall. We will have four sections taught by Pat, Matthew Stephens, Don Petrin and Dawn Laux. We want out best teachers teaching these courses.
What textbook will be used?
Sadowski: We are using a designer textbook. We are working with a publisher to pull in content from a variety of texts. We will try to use electronic books and clicker technology and incorporate extensive use of Blackboard.
Professor Connolly, you are coordinating the course set to launch this fall. How does this course fit with the other core courses?
Pat Connolly: The TECH 12000 course is the first of the three core courses. It is targeted at incoming freshmen and transfers to provide an exposure to many aspects of technology, technology careers, and success skills in technology fields.
When will students take this course?
Connolly: The goal is for all incoming freshmen to take it during their first semester. Additionally, all students transferring into the college will take this course. It is also available for USP students.
What are the main concepts covered in this course?
Connolly: Introduction to Technology; Success Skills in Technology Careers; Learning Skills, Styles, Practices, Techniques; History of Technology; Writing in Technology; Technology Today; Data Literacy; Professionalism in Technology; Introduction to Ethics in Technology
What are the biggest challenge(s) to overcome when it comes to designing and delivering this course?
Connolly: It is an extremely broad and complex set of topics to cover. It will be a huge challenge to cover the material to the necessary depth to be beneficial to the students. From a course administration standpoint, selecting, organizing, and preparing the course materials and resources will be a difficult task.
What is common across these three courses and how do they build on each other?
Lybrook: They’ll all have certain content that is common, such as ethics, diversity, teamwork, all examined at different levels and contexts.
How does the core curriculum serve as a foundation for each college major?
Lybrook: TECH 12000 – Technology and the Individual will serve as an intro to the college and to the university. TECH 32000 – Technology and the Organization will introduce public policy, teaming skills, and project management to enable students to achieve those outcomes. TECH 33000 - Technology in a Global World will address diversity and global issues relevant to the college, enabling these outcomes in a targeted relevant to the college method.
Professor Lybrook, why did you get involved in this process?
I’ve been engaged in the OLS curriculum for a number of years. I knew the core curriculum would have an impact on our department. The core courses turn out to have a lot of the competencies of OLS: teaming, ethics, leadership. It seemed like a necessary involvement on my part. I worked on this project from the beginning.
What kind of affect did this have on department curriculum?
Sadowski: We are doing this without adding hours to the program of study. The departments had to decide how offer fewer discipline hours in the first semester.
Lybrook: In OLS, we’ve been able to eliminate some courses since the concepts were covered in the core. We can now work more efficiently and better manage our resources. Other departments have done it differently. Some, like ECET, have altered their course from 4 to 3 hours. This allows them to fit better with other course throughout the university. AT has cored their curriculum into three concentrations instead of three separate degree tracks.
What was the biggest challenge during this process?
Sadowski: A large challenge was trying to figure our how to divide the courses, what fits where. It was a series of challenges that we met as they arose. I think the biggest challenges are still to come. Logistics is one: how do you teach 1,000 kids a year in each class?
Lybrook: The concepts are universal. Once we get the content aligned, the challenges are the same as with any course offering – relevance to the students, adding value to their CoT experience.
What are some other plans moving forward?
Sadowski: The University has an Impact Task Force about active learning techniques. They have been taking larger courses with high DF rates and working with faculty to incorporate active learning in that setting. I want to look at what they are doing and apply it here. It’s also a great setting to communicate with all our freshmen students at the same time. This would work great for surveys, gathering information and sharing.