What is General Education, and what is the core curriculum?

“General education” courses are those broad-based introductory courses at the 1000-2000 level that are designed to introduce students to a discipline or a course of study. Sometimes general education is also referred to as liberal education. LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise) defines liberal education as “an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. A liberal education helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings" (

At Valdosta State University, general or liberal education courses are offered in VSU’s core curriculum, 60 hours of courses that provide the framework for a broad-based education that will assist students no matter what their eventual major. These courses help develop a variety of important skills and provide a broad-based knowledge that will serve students well throughout their lifetime. These courses also serve as the building blocks for more advanced study. Additionally, they enable students to explore new disciplines and possible new areas of interest.

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Why are general education courses needed?

• In an era when knowledge is the key to the future, all students need the scope and depth of learning that will enable them to understand and navigate the dramatic forces—physical, cultural, economic, technological—that directly affect the quality, character, and perils of the world in which they live.

• In an economy where every industry—from the trades to advanced technology enterprises—is challenged to innovate or be displaced, all students need the kind of intellectual skills and capacities that enable them to get things done in the world, at a high level of effectiveness.

• In a democracy that is diverse, globally engaged, and dependent on citizen responsibility, all students need an informed concern for the larger good because nothing less will renew our fractured and diminished commons.

• In a world of daunting complexity, all students need practice in integrating and applying their learning to challenging questions and real-world problems.

• In a period of relentless change, all students need the kind of education that leads them to ask not just “how do we get this done?” but also “what is most worth doing?”

(from “Liberal Education and America’s Promise”)

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Do general education courses benefit ALL students regardless of their major?

• “Employers do not want, and have not advocated for, students prepared for narrow workforce specialties. . . . Virtually all occupational endeavors require a working appreciation of the historical, cultural, ethical, and global environments that surround the application of skilled work.” (Roberts T. Jones, president, Education Workforce Policy, LLC)

• “Intel Corp. Chairman Craig Barrett has said that 90 percent of the products his company delivers on the final day of each year did not exist on the first day of the same year. To succeed in that kind of marketplace, U.S. firms need employees who are flexible, knowledgeable, and scientifically and mathematically literate.” (Norman R. Augustine, retired chairman and chief executive of Lockheed Martin Corporation)

• “[The] curriculum needs to help students develop . . . leadership, teamwork, problem solving, time management, communication and analytical thinking.” (Business-Higher Education Forum)

• “[Business leaders are] frustrated with their inability to find ‘360 degree people’. . . .” (Findings from 2006 focus groups among business executives)

• “Integrated capabilities are the key to this industry’s future.” (Keith Peden, senior vice president of human resources, Raytheon Company, 2006)

(from “Liberal Education and America’s Promise”)

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Where can I find VSU’s complete core curriculum and its designated learning outcomes?

Core Curriculum Information

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How many hours must VSU students complete in the core?

Students will complete 60 hours in core curriculum courses, including 42 hours in  the following areas: Communication and Quantitative skills (Area A); Interdisciplinary courses (Area B); Humanities and Fine Arts (Area C); Natural Science and Mathematics (Area D); and Social Sciences (Area E).  They must also complete 18 hours in Area F, courses appropriate to their declared major.

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Why are students required to complete a core curriculum at VSU?

Core courses serve at least 3 important objectives:

  • Core courses provide skills, such as written and oral communication skills and analytical thinking, that are useful for any major or career a student may choose. A Wall Street Journal survey showed that two of the top four attributes that businesses want graduates to have are the following: communication and interpersonal skills, and analytical and problem-solving skills. English, mathematics, and science courses in Areas A and D relate directly to these skills.
  • Core courses teach students about the country and the world in which they live. Courses in Area E, for example history, political science, geography, and sociology, address these topics.
  • Core courses enrich our students’ lives. Life consists of much more than a job and a career. Courses in Areas B and C, such as music, art, literature, ethics, and human expression, can bring enjoyment and a broadened perspective throughout life. According to the Wall Street Journalsurvey cited earlier, more than 50 percent of businesses stated that they wanted their employees to be “well-rounded” people.

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As instructors, no matter what the course or learning outcomes, what should our goals be for courses in the core?

Aim High—and Make Excellence Inclusive

Make the Essential Learning Outcomes a Framework for the Entire Educational Experience, Connecting School, College, Work, and Life

Give Students a Compass

Focus Each Student’s Plan of Study on Achieving the Essential Learning Outcomes—and Assess Progress

Teach the Arts of Inquiry and Innovation

Immerse All Students in Analysis, Discovery, Problem Solving, and Communication, Beginning in School and Advancing in College

Engage the Big Questions

Teach through the Curriculum to Far-Reaching Issues—Contemporary and Enduring—in Science and Society, Cultures and Values, Global Interdependence, the Changing Economy, and Human Dignity and Freedom

Connect Knowledge with Choices and Action

Prepare Students for Citizenship and Work through Engaged and Guided Learning on "Real-World" Problems

Foster Civic, Intercultural, and Ethical Learning

Emphasize Personal and Social Responsibility, in Every Field of Study

Assess Students’ Ability to Apply Learning to Complex Problems

Use Assessment to Deepen Learning and to Establish a Culture of Shared Purpose and Continuous Improvement

(from “Liberal Education and America’s Promise”)

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How much flexibility do VSU students have in the core curriculum?

Of the 42 hours (Areas A-E) required for all students, no matter what their major, very few courses are required of all.  These required courses include basic English composition and mathematics courses, world literature, and American history and government courses.  Students must also take two laboratory science courses, but most students will be able to choose those lab sciences from a wide range of courses.  Students in specific majors may have more precise requirements in Area A and Area D (see for further details).

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What are Perspectives courses and why are they important?

“Perspectives” courses are Area B in VSU’s core curriculum. These courses are unique to the VSU campus and are designed to be interdisciplinary, with emphasis on interaction between two or more different disciplinary areas and the development of an ability by the student to synthesize varying points of view. Perspectives courses connect issues that affect individuals within our own region of the country (a regional perspective) with those affecting individuals in other parts of the world (a global perspective).

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What are some of the academic rules governing the core?


  • Effective Fall 2010, for freshmen entering the USG system Fall 2010, students who have earned 60 hours but have not completed Areas A1 and A2 must enroll in the next course necessary to make progress toward completing this Area in every semester in which they take classes.
  • Effective Fall 2011, this hour limit is lowered to 45 hours for freshmen entering the USG system Fall 2011, Spring 2012, and Summer 2012.
  • Effective Fall 2012, the hour limit is lowered to 30 hours for freshmen entering the USG system Fall 2012 and thereafter.


Orientation courses may not be placed in Areas A–F. Up to four hours of orientation courses may be required outside of Areas A–F in excess of the maximum number of hours indicated for undergraduate degrees. Transferring students taking orientation hours at one institution may be required to take additional orientation hours (outside the maximum hours indicated for the undergraduate degree) at the receiving institution.


Courses with a primary emphasis on studio, performance, field study, or internship may not be placed in Areas A–E.


Each institution will first submit the courses proposed for Areas A–E to the relevant Academic Advisory Committee and then to the Council on General Education. US/GL/CT courses and plans must be approved by the Council on General Education.

The courses in Area F must be approved by the relevant Academic Advisory Committee.


Students successfully completing a course in one institution’s Areas A–E will receive full credit in Areas A–E for the course upon transfer to another USG institution as long as the following conditions are met:

  • The course is within the Area hours limitations of either the sending institution or the receiving institution, and
  • The student does not change from a non-science major to a science major.

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Are Core Classes available online?

Students should check BANNER for any VSU core classes that may be offered in a completely online or hybrid format.  In addition, VSU is a member of eCORE®, Georgia’s Core Curriculum Online.  These courses are available each semester.  For more information about eCORE® at VSU, visit

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Where can a student who is struggling in my core curriculum class go for further assistance?

VSU’s Academic Support Center (ASC) offers free tutoring for many core curriculum courses, including math, writing, foreign languages, biology, chemistry, computer science, physics, and social sciences. Tutoring is available either by appointment, from any computer (on or off campus) or on a walk-in basis.  Contact the ASC (Academic Support Center website) for more information.

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My students are having difficulties making the transition from high school to college. Are there any available online resources to help me discuss my expectations with them?

Crown College:

JED Foundation:

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I would like to recommend that my students form study groups.  Are any online resources available to help them get started?

The University of Dallas has a presentation that might provide some useful ideas of how to help them start ( 

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What are some of the possibilities for using social media in my classroom?

This blog from provides an overview of some of the options (

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Are there any online resources to assist faculty teaching supersections?

Contact VSU's Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) ( 

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Where can I find a copy of VSU’s academic honesty policy?

A complete statement appears in the VSU Code of Conduct.  Faculty members and students alike should be familiar with this statement.  It can be accessed electronically at or at

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What can I do to prevent plagiarism?

Avoid open-ended research assignments. Carefully designed projects with specific parameters, prescribed research plans, designated approaches, and/or required sources significantly reduce opportunities for plagiarism. In addition, frequent interventions in the writing process, including mandatory research proposals, submission of annotated bibliographies before the final essay is due, and submission of copies of all sources used in the essay can further ensure the integrity of student work.

TurnItIn a “plagiarism prevention service” designed to help students and faculty members alike to identify unoriginal content in student essays. For information on how to set up and use this service, see

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What should I do if a student plagiarizes or cheats in my course?

Faculty members should clearly outline their classroom policies on plagiarism and cheating on their syllabi and/or assignment materials as well as discuss these policies with their class.  The academic sanction of plagiarism or cheating is at the instructor’s discretion.  For some tips about preparing materials about plagiarism, consult

Besides the academic sanction, instructors have the option to complete a “Report of Academic Dishonesty” documenting the specific actions in their course.  The link to the form is available at When two such reports are filed on a student, further disciplinary action will be taken.

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I’m having trouble with students using cell phones in class.  Can I forbid their use in class?

Yes.  “The use of cell phones, pagers, or any other electronic devices utilized in a manner that causes a disruption in the classroom, library, or other university facilities is prohibited. Additional abuses that are prohibited are the use of the device’s photographic capacity to photograph test questions or for any other form of academic misconduct.” (Student Handbook page 63.)

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Am I allowed to confiscate a student’s cell phone if it is improperly used in class? 

No. Cell phones are the personal property of individuals.

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How can I encourage better student conduct in my classes?

Joan Flaherty, an assistant professor in the College of Management and Economics at the University of Guelph, recommends the following:

Sometimes, then, a small step is called for. Professors might, for example, discuss in their introductory classes the impact of digital distraction on everyone's learning, including their own. Students can be enlisted to create written guidelines on respectful classroom behavior, particularly technology etiquette. A quick survey of my own students yielded suggestions that ranged from hard-line (an outright ban on the use of digital devices; a requirement that all cellphones be deposited at the front of the classroom upon entry) to moderate (a ban of digital devices only during guest-speaker presentations; a request at the start of every class for cellphones to be turned off) to accommodating (a five-minute "digital break" for classes longer than two hours).

Admittedly, these small steps take up class time, leading us away from our specialized course content into the mundane, elementary details of good classroom manners. But as much as we may chafe at associations with fussy schoolmarms, those mundane, elementary details have their role. They ground us with respect, morale, and confidence—and we need that grounding in order to achieve all of our goals.

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What should I do if I have a student who engages in disruptive or troublesome behavior in the classroom or in my office?

If possible, always try to talk privately to students first, making them aware of the disruptive nature of their behavior.  If problems persist, instructors have the option of filing a Student Conduct Incident Report (SCIR), available at .  If the conduct is immediately threatening, and you feel that you or others are in danger, contact University Police.  Their regular phone line is 229-333-7816; their emergency phone line is 229-259-5555


TP: What are some things that faculty can do to set the right tone to minimize disruptive student behavior?

Jenkins and Gonzalez: The best way to head off disruptive behavior is to appear confident and authoritative from the start. That's "authoritative," not "authoritarian." You don't have to act like an angry jerk who rips students heads off and eats them for lunch. You can have a pleasant and friendly demeanor, yet at the same time make it clear that you will brook no nonsense. Notice also that I said "appear," not "be." You might not feel confident and in charge, especially if you're a fairly new (or brand new) teacher. But you must put on a good act, unless you want to be the one who's on the menu.

TP: How important is the syllabus in preventing and dealing with disruptive student behavior?

Jenkins and Gonzalez: The syllabus is one of the keys. It must include detailed coverage of the instructor's own conduct policy, including personal "pet peeves" like cell phones or laptops. It should also include relevant excerpts from the college's policy manual governing such issues as student conduct and academic honesty. The instructor must make sure that every student has a copy of the syllabus (or has access to a copy), including late arrivals and addees, then he or she needs to walk the class through the syllabus on day one, going over all of the policies and making sure they're clear to everyone. Finally, throughout the semester, the instructor MUST strictly adhere to his or her own policies (and the school's policies) as they are laid out in the syllabus.

TP: What are the potential liability issues with dealing disruptive student behavior and how might faculty protect themselves and the institution?

Jenkins and Gonzalez: Potential liability issues associated with inappropriate or careless responses to student conduct issues would include violation of federal privacy laws (like FERPA), making false accusations, and failing to follow due process procedures. Faculty members can protect themselves and their institutions by knowing the laws and their college's policies, following them meticulously, and keeping supervisors and other appropriate administrators in the loop as the situation unfolds. This also implies, by the way, that supervisors and other administrators know the laws and policies and also follow them meticulously.

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What should I do if I am concerned about a students’ physical or mental well-being?  What about students who appear unable to complete assignments, miss class frequently, appear socially withdrawn, fall asleep in class, threaten themselves or others, cry in the office, or show other signs of distress?

The VSU Counseling Center provides assistance in crisis management as well as general counseling services.  Additional information and guidelines for referral are available at

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I want to incorporate more technology into my classroom. Where can I find help?

VSU’s eLearning department offers workshops and individualized training in using BlazeView, the university’s online course management program, as well as in using clickers, podcasting, and other forms of educational technology. A list of training services, workshop dates, FAQs, and other helpful information is available on the eLearning website.

For equipment in the smart classrooms:

Find guides for BlazeVIEW on the eLearning website.