GE pilot launched

Story by Breann Schossow

Before 8 a.m. today, freshman Kathryn Larson headed to the first class of her UW-Eau Claire career – Anthropology 161, a general education course. However, Larson will be looking at GE courses in a different way than most Eau Claire students.

Larson is one of 140 first-year students in a pilot program to enhance learning in general education courses at UW-Eau Claire. The pilot, or bundle program, is one way UW-Eau Claire is integrating high impact practices at the university to improve student learning, said Laurel Kieffer, UW-Eau Claire’s Title III grant activities coordinator.

In addition, she said, the bundles are meant to aid student retention and graduation. While this idea isn’t new to universities around the U.S., Kieffer said Eau Claire has a unique version of the program.

The pilot features six separate bundle programs, each of which answer a ‘big question.’

“The idea of the big question is really to try to get several different disciplines looking at a big question, a concern, some topic and being able to, during that process, help students to understand that there are many ways of looking at things,” she said.

The six initial questions featured stemmed from faculty interest, said Stephanie Turner, English professor and one of the faculty members teaching a bundle course.

The whole process has been a lot of work, she said. Not that she minds, however.

“The fun part of it is conceptualizing how we’re going to do our assignments,” she said.

The bundles are funded in part by the federal Title III grant, Kieffer said. Additional funding is provided by part of the provost’s Blugold commitment initiatives.

Turner said she hopes that in the future of the program, students will help generate big questions for a bundle of courses.

Academic Affairs director Mark Morgan said there hasn’t been a lot of student involvement yet, but, like Turner, he hopes to see students involved in the generation of more course ideas. He said the bundle program has that potential for students and could make it easier for timely graduation.

“It’s a radical change to how you do general education,” he said. “There’s always going to be concerns as to ‘this might go wrong, that might go wrong’ but I think it’s a good move.”

First-year students were introduced to the bundle program during Phase II orientation.

Larson said the orientation advisor highly recommended the program, but she wasn’t initially interested. While perusing class choices, she discovered that some of the general education classes she wanted to take were part of the bundle that focuses on human and animal rights.

“I wanted to go with different kinds of classes … kind of out of my comfort zone,” she said.

Larson thinks the bundle program will be interesting, and likes the interaction she’ll have with other students in her bundle.

“I know that I’ll be with students that are interested in the same thing as I am.”

Big Questions

  • 1. How does consumerism shape our world?
  • 2. How are human rights and animal rights similar, and how do they differ?
  • 3. Why is the climate changing and what should we do
    about it?
  • 4. Who are we? How do we define ourselves?
  • 5. How do humans make decisions about risk?
  • 6. What is or should be our relationship with the planet?