PULLMAN, Wash.—A Washington State University system-wide committee has updated the suite of one-to-four-credit university (UNIV) student-success courses and processes for the first time in a decade, resulting in several changes effective starting in fall 2023.
Some changes impact the elective courses themselves: New courses were added, the numbers of some courses were changed, and new course categories were put in place.
Some changes impact procedures: An online form was designed for new course proposals, and the form also facilitates mandatory reviews of existing sections each semester prior to scheduling.
“The UNIV Curriculum Committee saw the opportunity to be more intentional as to how instructors across the university teach using the UNIV curriculum, and to create processes to ensure centralized review of new UNIV course proposals and also that defined student learning outcomes are built into syllabi across every section taught,” said Michael Highfill, interim assistant vice provost for academic engagement and student development, and committee chair.
“Members are confident that the updates put in place for UNIV courses will advance student academic success as well as benefit those who teach UNIV courses across the university.”
A Sustained Effort
Working together for more than a year, the committee reviewed existing UNIV courses in depth to align descriptions, learning outcomes, and sequencing.
The charge was to envision and strategize how the classes in the UNIV suite could better meet student needs and provide expanded learning opportunities. Additionally, the committee was tasked with ensuring courses were consistent across the system while allowing for the unique needs of each campus.
The committee added or significantly updated several courses in the UNIV portfolio and established system-wide learning outcomes for all courses during the process. The WSU Faculty Senate approved the committee’s course proposals. Oversight and management of UNIV courses is under the auspices of the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement (DAESA), in the provost’s office.
UNIV courses and categories
UNIV courses are elective offerings designed to help students from all majors build skills necessary to succeed at college and in life. Students enroll, or are pre-enrolled, in UNIV courses for a number of reasons, such as to gain special skills, fulfill a prerequisite, or get credit for an internship experience.
Twenty-one existing or new courses with the UNIV prefix are organized into four categories: Academic support and transition; career preparation and exploration; leadership and global citizenship; and research and creative discovery.
New UNIV procedures
Each semester, instructors will submit for committee review information about each of their UNIV sections whether they are new or continuing. Highfill said recent outreach to instructors has already led to submission of materials for dozens of sections. Those approved will be available to be scheduled and offered in fall 2023.
“Submitters understand that, for example, some syllabi may need tweaked slightly to meet a course’s defined learning outcomes and the latest university syllabus guidelines,” said Highfill, “or the instructor may choose to seek a different course number that better aligns with their intent.”
Committee member Thabiti Lewis, WSU Vancouver associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, said he was “very engaged and happy with the UNIV changes and outcomes.”
“The committee is, I believe, a reflection of how OneWSU should work,” he said. “We worked together to create in UNIV courses the best learning experiences for students and teaching experiences for faculty system wide. We collaborated and listened to pros and cons on such things as student learning outcomes for each course. Sometimes we had to come to agreement on how to meet individual campus needs within a system-wide course structure.
“For example, WSU Vancouver offers a two-semester learning community course plan for first-year students. The New Coug Learning Communities utilizes these courses as ongoing grounding and growth for first-year students.
“We’d been using UNIV 104 and UNIV 250 as the course numbers. As a committee, it was decided it would be best to create a course number 204 for the second semester on career exploration. That allows the 250 number to be used system-wide now for course credit with a focus on success in college and beyond. “All in all, the UNIV changes refreshed what we offer in a systemized and uniform way. We all benefit.
Michael Highfill, Interim Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Engagement and Student Achievement, firstname.lastname@example.org