General Education requirements expose students to the breadth of human knowledge and to the methods employed for studying it. Students focus on developing critical thinking, analysis, and communication skills; acquiring quantitative and scientific literacy; and understanding the basic tenets of civic engagement, citizenship, and the ethical dimensions of behavior. These requirements introduce students to the methods and concerns of traditional branches of knowledge — the arts and humanities, the social and behavioral sciences, and the natural sciences — and offer an historical perspective and appreciation of diversity across time, culture and national boundaries. They open opportunities to make interdisciplinary connections between concepts and ideas and provide an environment to contemplate their meaning and significance. As a common learning experience, general education requirements foster communication among students and create linkages both with the alumni who went before and with the cohorts of students who will follow. Finally, general education requirements provide an intellectual foundation for both the completion of a major program of study and a lifetime of learning.
Students complete the general education requirement by taking both required and elective courses. The required courses ensure that all students acquire a set of critical foundational skills. Guided electives provide the flexibility to explore in areas of interest while ensuring that primary academic skills are being developed. Most students complete their general education courses by the end of their third year of study.
Foundational courses foster effective communication, teach critical research and writing skills, and expand the capacity for quantitative reasoning. Foundational courses are taken early in a student’s program and develop skills needed to support learning during one’s time at UoPeople, and as a lifelong learner. Coursework in the three foundational areas is required of all UoPeople undergraduates.
Learning and Research Fundamentals
All students begin their study at UoPeople with UNIV 1001 Online Education Strategies. It is taken as a regularly-graded course during their first term of study at UoPeople. Students are introduced to the instructional methodology employed by UoPeople; receive training in academic policies and procedures; learn to gather, organize and use information from primary and secondary sources; and begin to develop the habits of mind necessary to be a successful student.
Familiarity with the abstract language of mathematics and the formal rules of statistical inference equips one to apply the appropriate principles and tools to the analysis of real-life problems in areas as diverse as the physical and biological sciences, politics, and economics. In today’s data-driven world, the ability to gather and interpret masses of information is critical. Students learn to weigh evidence, see relationships among objects and identify patterns and order, draw conclusions, and communicate their reasoning and conclusions to others. Students learn about the common errors made in quantitative reasoning and develop an understanding that not every question can be answered on the basis of available data.
Improving one’s academic writing is a fundamental tool for learning across the disciplines. The ability to write clearly and persuasively is essential for communicating ideas and expanding one’s capacity to make sense of information. Good writing requires the ability to frame questions, examine evidence, synthesize primary and secondary sources, develop and organize ideas, document sources, and express one’s ideas in a well-organized and compelling fashion. With an emphasis on the process of writing and gaining increased confidence in one’s writing, students begin the process of mastering the standardized methods required in academic writing.
Courses Giving Exposure to the Breadth of Knowledge
Ensuring a breadth of exposure to important areas of human knowledge is a central tenet of the University’s general education requirements. Students complete courses in Values and Ethical Reasoning; Civilization Studies, Culture and Belief; and in specific disciplinary areas in the Humanities, the Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the Natural Sciences and Technology. Some courses relate to a single field of study, while others are interdisciplinary in nature, cutting across multiple disciplines. In certain areas, students are required to complete specific courses; in others, they are able to choose among options.
Cross-Cutting Areas of Knowledge
Values and Ethical Reasoning
Individuals and cultures differ in their attitudes, judgments and actions regarding what constitutes ethical and moral behavior. Today’s global world requires knowledge of the complex systems of thought and religion that affect value judgments, an understanding of approaches to confronting ethical challenges, the ability to analyze values, and a willingness to examine the value-related issues encountered in one’s everyday life (e.g., religious, political, legal, financial, environmental, medical, etc.). Through this requirement, students will learn how to reason in a principled manner; understand the way in which value systems develop, spread and change; evaluate claims about ethical issues; and examine competing philosophies and historical definitions of good and bad, right and wrong, justice, equality, liberty, human rights, and diversity. They are introduced to the common fallacies in ethical reasoning; gain appreciation for the complexity of moral issues and values; and explore how values shape attitudes and beliefs, how attitudes and beliefs shape human behavior, and how human behavior can impact attitudes, beliefs and values.
Civilization Studies, Culture, and Belief
Cultures and beliefs mediate people’s understanding of themselves and the world that they inhabit. Citizenship in today’s global world requires the ability to examine how humans see themselves as members of social, religious, national, and regional groups in current and past historical eras, and how past configurations are supplanted by subsequent ones. Students study from contemporary and historical perspectives the beliefs, values, customs, and institutions of different peoples in different parts of the world; the origins of their cultural practices and religious traditions; the manner in which these influence as well as create conflict with one another; and the impact of each on the shape of their social structures. They learn theories and methods of historical analysis and gain an appreciation for how differing historical perspectives influence our understanding of the past and the present, and come to understand themselves as products of, and participants in, these cultures and beliefs.
Disciplinary Areas of Knowledge
Courses in the Humanities focus on how human experience is expressed in written, visual, aural, and other artistic forms, providing insights into the values and beliefs of others as conveyed through their art, literature, music, film, and theatre. Students learn skills for informed appreciation, criticism, and interpretation of the world of art and ideas; are introduced to the vocabularies, theories, and systems for their production and reception; and explore the interplay between them and the historical, cultural, political, religious, economic, and social contexts from which they emerged. By engaging with the most influential philosophical texts and works of art and literature, students gain insights into their own experiences and strengthen their ability to think and write critically about written and artistic forms and their contexts.
The Social and Behavioral Sciences
Courses in the Social and Behavioral Sciences focus on how humans organize themselves into complex social, political, cultural, and economic groups and institutions that both shape and are shaped by individual and collective behavior. In exploring theories and methods of social science research to critically evaluate and question empirical evidence and findings, students learn concepts and methods for analyzing societies and their social structures and processes and gain insights into individual characteristics and behavior; how humans connect and interact in their home, community, and nation; how the customs and laws guiding these interactions are created; and how nation-states engage with one another militaristically, economically, and diplomatically.
The Natural Sciences and Technology
Courses in Natural Science and Technology introduce students to the foundations of the physical and life sciences and their application to the engineering sciences, and to the methods of inquiry and techniques of observation and experimentation used to advance knowledge in this arena. In understanding how the rapid pace of scientific and technological change is increasingly defining the world in which we live, students explore how they may become informed consumers who will understand the impact of these changes on themselves, their families and communities, and society more broadly. They are introduced to the key questions at the forefront of science and develop an understanding of the power and limitations of scientific experimentation. They learn to read and interpret scientific results in visual, quantitative, and written form and develop the ability to evaluate scientific analyses and results in order to make independent assessments about scientific issues in a variety of contexts.
Each discipline studies the world through a unique set of constructs, principles, and terminology. Students majoring in a discipline learn to view the world through the lens of that discipline. They typically learn the history of the discipline as well as major figures and the theoretical base upon which the discipline is organized. By taking courses from other disciplines or majors, students learn there are different ways to view and understand the same phenomena. This deepens their understanding of their own discipline.