The General Education Research Project
Recently, there have been many questions and concerns raised by faculty and administrators over the implementation of the SUNY general education policy. These questions pertain to a range of issues, including policies, procedures, oversight, technical reporting systems, academic freedom, accreditation, assessment, and student outcomes – particularly as they relate to student mobility. Through ongoing discussions and a preliminary data analysis, it has become apparent that a significant initiative will be necessary to update current systems and gather the data needed for a more rigorous policy analysis. To that end, we are requesting funding for two graduate interns who will work out of the Provost’s Office under the supervision of the Student Mobility Project Coordinator.
I. The project aims to support data-driven policy discussions regarding SUNY-GER. In collaboration with IR, the group will address the following research questions:
1. Campus level
i. For campuses that require fewer than the 10 SUNY categories, which categories are they requiring, and which are they leaving out?
ii. For campuses with additional requirements, what are the distributions, credits, and/or topics required?
iii. Are there differences in the general education requirements for native vs. transfer students at four-year institutions?
iv. How many campuses have a policy to waive the completion of specific categories for transfer students who have completed all 30 credits at the associate level?
v. Is there a difference between students who transfer with or without the associate degree?
2. Program level
i. Do general education requirements differ by program?
1. If so, what are the differences?
ii. Does the requirement for the completion 30 general education credits vary by discipline?
b) Student outcomes
1. How many students completed their SUNY-GER requirements during their first two years?
i. How many of those students choose to transfer?
ii. Where did they transfer to?
iii. What majors did they choose?
2. For students who did/did not complete their full SUNY-GER prior to transfer, are there any statistical differences between:
i. majors selected?
ii. time-to-degree ?
iv. credits earned at graduation?
c) Attitudes and Opinions (survey research):
i. How do faculty view the SUNY-GER?
ii. Do these opinions vary by sector?
iii. How do the requirements (particularly the 30 credits) impact the design of new programs?
1. Do these requirements affect AA and AS program development differently?
i. How aware are students of SUNY-GER (vs. local campus requirements).
ii .How do students view the SUNY-GER?
iii. For transfer students who do/do not complete SUNY-GER prior to transfer, how likely are they to:
1. Study abroad?
2. Engage in an internship?
3. Participate in other extracurricular activities?
iv. Using the above metrics, is there a difference in transfer student participation rates in these activities at campuses that have additional general education requirements (beyond the SUNY-GER) vs. those that do not have additional requirements?
II. The project will develop a database that contains an accurate, updated list of all approved SUNY-GER courses for every campus. The database will build on the SUNY-GER table maintained by the Provost’s office. At over 14,000 entries, the table is currently inaccurate and has inconsistencies in formatting. An accurate and properly formatted table is essential as a source of record for oversight purposes, as well as for the technical processes of course submission. The graduate interns will:
a) Format the Provost SUNY-GER table to fit specifications supplied by the IT department, such that the database will be compatible with Oracle.
b) Work with general education campus representatives to update and verify the current list of SUNY-GER courses. Campuses will be responsible for reviewing and updating their course lists in a timely manner.
c) As a reliability check, the Provost’s office course lists will be compared to the SUNY-GER course lists published on campus websites (where applicable). Discrepancies will be resolved with campus representatives.
It is anticipated that the database will be completed by September, 2012, though this is a tentative estimate based on a preliminary evaluation of current state of the Provost table.
III. In collaboration with IT, the project will develop new technical systems for reporting and approving SUNY-GER courses.
a) The revised Provost’s table will act as a filter for courses submitted to SIRIS as approved SUNY-GER. Submitted courses not found in the table will trigger a fatal error in the business rules.
b) A new general education course approval submission software application will be created. The application will capture the information and documentation necessary for general education course approval at the Provost’s office.
1. The submission process will be maintained entirely in digital form.
2. There will be both an internal and campus-facing user interface.
3. Campus personnel will be able to log-on and check the approval status of courses.
4. Course approval will trigger automatic updates in the data warehouse and the provost course table, as well as notify campus personnel of approval via email.
It is anticipated that the project will enhance oversight, improve course approval efficiency, and provide essential data for general education policy analysis. For the graduate interns, the project will offer valuable experience in higher education research and administration, and the opportunity to participate in shaping system-wide policy. Results will be distributed to administrators and faculty as requested, and made publicly available on the Provost website, where appropriate.