In the Fall of 2015, the University of Arizona will launch an exciting, one-of-a-kind general education program called the “UA General Education Academy.” While there are many unique features to the GE Academy, we’d like to introduce you to four of the aspects that promise to make this UA Online initiative the new industry standard for general education.
- The Mission
The goal of the GE Academy is to provide a high quality, fully-online undergraduate general education experience. Applying a student-centered pedagogical approach, the GE Academy will use cutting-edge technical resources to make rich, faculty generated content come to life in engaging and interactive ways.
- The Faculty
The faculty involved in the UA General Education Academy went through a rigorous selection process. Faculty were invited to submit proposals for online general education courses to be offered through the GE Academy. The goal was simple: to field the best possible courses. And field great courses we did. The faculty teaching in the GE Academy are some of UA’s most respected scholars and innovative teachers. Faculty who were accepted have committed to offering their course through the GE Academy for three years—providing the program with a rare level of consistency for an online program and an unique opportunity for continuous development. In addition, faculty agreed to participate in the wider learning communities developed in the GE Academy. Building learning experiences that cut across the curriculum will help students draw connections between the seemingly disparate courses that make up their general education experience, providing a more meaningful and well-developed education.
- The Students
UA is explicitly targeting first-year and early transfer undergraduate students who want to fully earn their degree online. Our desire is to drastically expand the notion of who and what a University of Arizona Wildcat is. According to Vice Provost for Digital Learning and Student Engagement Vincent Del Casino, offering fully online undergraduate degrees through the GE Academy will “expand the UA's reach to students who otherwise would not have access to a UA degree, or would not have thought of themselves as UA students even though they meet all of our existing admissions requirements." If you are a qualified student who wants the high quality undergraduate education the University of Arizona is known for, but are prevented by life circumstances from physically attending classes on our campus, the GE Academy is for you.
- The Education
UA’s General Education Curriculum emphasizes a breadth of knowledge and development of academic skills that will complement the depth of knowledge that you will acquire in their major fields. As Associate Professor of History Paul Milliman put it, the “main goal of the UA General Education program, and a UA education in general is to prepare students not just for careers but for life.” Students who complete their general education at UA develop a critical and inquiring attitude, an appreciation of the complexity and ambiguity of knowledge, and a tolerance for and empathy towards people different from themselves. These skills make UA graduates highly sought after employees and prepare them for effective citizenship in a democratic society.
These four aspects of the GE Academy highlight the uniqueness in our approach to a fully-online degree program. The University of Arizona is committed to a well-rounded education for all UA students. Our concentrated approach to general education eschews the “salad bar,” pick-as-you-go methodology most institutions use, and instead offers students a focused set of choices from UA’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 general education courses. By offering a smaller, more concentrated number of courses, the GE Academy is able to offer a higher quality of online education. This higher quality can be seen throughout the program—from the unique and engaging content generated in-house by our world-class faculty and design staff to the intentional learning communities that rise up from common questions and topics in courses from semester to semester, the learning environment in the UA General Education Academy is unlike anything you will encounter in higher education today.