Ideally, a suitable Gen Ed course will satisfy the following general principles (this is meant to be a helpful guide, not hard and fast criteria):
- the title and description of the course are concept-driven
- course is geared toward non-specialists
- it is not a course about a scholarly discipline, nor is it centered on illustrating the methods of a particular scholarly discipline to a non-specialist audience. It may, however, deploy various disciplinary methods in order to elucidate the course concept.
- it is “unusually explicit in drawing connections between the classroom and the world beyond it, between the subject students are studying now and the people they will one day become.” (If this is implicit in the submitted materials but not made explicit, we will invite faculty to make this explicit.) Such connections may be found in courses on contemporary topics, as well as in aesthetic questions that have a long history or an artistic genre or other phenomenon that has long engaged humanity.
Logistical details (based on FAQs)
- Capping enrollment: Enrollment caps are generally discouraged; however, we recognize that in certain instances, they may be necessary or desirable to achieve course goals (e.g., the course includes a “hands-on” component with limited throughput). In such situations, an enrollment cap may be instituted (no fewer than 50 students). We are also happy to work with faculty to investigate creative solutions or obtain additional resources that will enable course scaling to accommodate increased enrollment. Please contact the Gen Ed office to discuss options.
- Prerequisites: Faculty are encouraged to design Gen Ed courses that are accessible to the widest possible audience; however, we recognize that in the same way that we assume a certain degree of literacy for students, some endeavors may require a certain degree of numeracy or other knowledge in order to achieve the course goals. In such cases, prerequisites may be unavoidable; however, they should be kept to the absolute minimum needed and must be limited to courses that are commonly taken by a large fraction of the student population and early in the student’s time at Harvard. Please contact the Gen Ed office to discuss options.
- Teaching Fellows: We recognize that for some faculty, recruitment of Teaching Fellows from within their own department to support Gen Ed courses may represent a barrier to entry to the program, and in many cases, due to the non-disciplinary nature of Gen Ed courses, Teaching Fellows (or Teaching Assistants) from outside the department may add significant value. We are happy to help faculty recruit appropriate teaching staff. Please contact the Gen Ed office to discuss your needs.
- Co-teaching: Recognizing that Gen Ed courses are not moored in any specific scholarly discipline, we anticipate that Gen Ed will offer a unique opportunity for cross-divisional and cross-school collaborations in developing and implementing courses. Such interactions are encouraged, and can be facilitated by the Gen Ed program; however, we must emphasize that it is essential that co-teaching situations include clear rationale for the joint efforts and that both (or all) faculty instructors are engaged in all aspects of the course (i.e., distinct from the model of instructor “switching,” where individual faculty take individual responsibility for separate sub-sections). Please contact the Gen Ed office to discuss.
- Concentration credit: While departmental courses (which may satisfy a distribution requirement) cannot satisfy Gen Ed course requirements (in Aesthetics & Culture; Ethics & Civics; Histories Societies, Individuals; Science & Technology in Society), departments or programs may count Gen Ed courses for concentration credit at their discretion.
- Requirement tags: Gen Ed courses may be approved to satisfy two different requirement categories. Students must take four courses offered in the new Gen Ed program, but a course approved for two requirement categories may be used to satisfy one requirement or the other (not both).
- Multiple courses by the same instructor: No more than two courses by a faculty member will be offered in the new Gen Ed program (including team-taught courses).
- Assignments and assessment: Gen Ed courses are meant to be as challenging as any other in the college, with commensurate expectations for student workload, class time and grading. For this reason, Gen Ed courses are expected to include exams or other synthetic assessments that prompt sustained engagement with all course materials. In addition, we recommend frequent low stakes assignments, as well as opportunities to connect course material to the world beyond the classroom.
- Class meetings and attendance: Gen Ed courses usually meet for 75 minutes twice a week (in addition to sections led by Teaching Fellows). Some courses will have good pedagogical reasons for offering the course once a week (in addition to sections led by Teaching Fellows) with approval. Attendance is required at all class components (lecture, section, lab, etc.). While digital resources are encouraged to enhance work in the classroom, they may not substitute for class meetings.