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Washington State University
UCORE: University Common Requirements Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement

Policy

Departmental Responsibilities

Responsibility for UCORE courses rests with the department, school, or program offering the course, under the leadership of the chair or director.

A department or school is responsible for:

  • Keeping syllabi; they should align with the approved “master” syllabus (see “Syllabus Alignment” below).
  • Communicating the original or, after renewal, updated syllabus to new instructors.
  • Ensuring that a sufficient number of qualified faculty are available to teach the course regularly.
  • Preparing, supervising, and providing ongoing guidance to graduate students who may be involved with UCORE courses.
  • Developing appropriate instructional formats for courses proposed for UCORE, and monitoring class size in relation to student learning outcomes and pedagogy.
  • Assessing student learning in the course and making improvements, across various campuses and modalities (online, hybrid, campus-based).
  • Providing requested information during periodic reviews of UCORE courses, curriculum, requirements, or goals.

Policies for Departments

The following set of drop-downs provide expanded explanations of the aforementioned department, school, or program responsibilities.

Capstone Courses

Each department, school, or program determines its CAPS policy for its majors. Students may be required to take a CAPS course inside the major OR outside the major; or the choice may be left to the student. In addition, the department, school or program decides whether non-majors may enroll in a specific departmental CAPS course for majors. CAPS courses should keep enrollments to less than 50 students in order to provide adequate time for appropriate feedback on student work needed to develop disciplinary thinking, communication skills, information literacy, integrative thinking and application.

If a department chooses to offer a CAPS course with an enrollment ceiling of more than 50, the course proposal or renewal package should indicate how the evaluation of assignments will be structured to meet the learning outcomes and to deal with the realities of faculty time. Departments are strongly advised against assigning high-enrollment CAPS courses to graduate student instructors and faculty new to teaching UCORE courses. Advisors are discouraged from advising juniors into high-enrollment CAPS courses.

Because capstones are a summation of learning at WSU, and bear special responsibility for demonstrating student learning through assessment, ideally students will take their capstone as seniors. Effective Fall 2019, students must take CAPS courses in residence. “In residence” means a course either taught on a WSU campus or taught by WSU faculty, wherever the course may be located. Transfer and study abroad courses are not suitable for fulfilling the capstone requirement (March 2018).

Class Size

Departments are responsible for assuring adequate instructional faculty-to-student ratios in UCORE courses to be able to provide students the appropriate feedback necessary to develop disciplinary thinking, communication skills, information literacy, and other skills and knowledge that are cross-cutting objectives of general education.

Conjoint Courses

Conjoint courses are not permitted for CAPS. Any other conjoint course must provide a separate undergraduate syllabus showing how the UCORE learning goals are met (October 2014).

Dropping UCORE designation

Departments may wish to drop UCORE designations for a variety of reasons, including lack of qualified faculty, insufficient enrollment, change in departmental curriculum, or other reasons. To do so, file a request to drop UCORE designation at any time here: https://ucorewsu.sharedwork.com/requests/0309377136.

Rationale: UCORE status of individual courses is embedded in myWSU, the transfer tables, community college transfer articulation advising sheets, test credit equivalencies, a state look-up engine, and other data repositories. Changes to courses or requirements involves notifications to many internal and external stakeholders, and so a solid record and audit trail is needed (Fall 2017).

Duplication of Courses

Courses that duplicate existing UCORE courses will not be given a UCORE designation. If the Catalog Subcommittee discovers a duplication of which the UCORE Committee was unaware, it can reject the course without returning it back to the UCORE Committee (Fall, 2017).

Evaluation of Instruction/Course

Departments are responsible for assuring that there is appropriate and thorough evaluation of instruction in all courses approved for UCORE, and for making a summary of results available to the UCORE committee if requested in a review process. To assure the ongoing improvement of their UCORE courses, departments are encouraged to develop and regularly employ discipline-appropriate methods of assessing instructional quality that include feedback from both peer review or mentoring; from student course evaluations; and from the assessment of student learning. In most cases, this will be the same as the evaluation practice for other courses in the department.

Faculty Expertise

Instructors assigned to UCORE courses are expected to have at minimum a master’s degree in the subject of the requirement area, which in some cases will align clearly with their department’s subject area (e.g., Math and QUAN). For interdisciplinary departments where faculty may have a variety of backgrounds, the expectation is that instructors will have at a minimum a master’s degree in the area requested.

For any Inquiry UCORE course proposal (ARTS, BSCI, HUM, PSCI, SSCI), it is expected that instructors possess advanced methodological expertise within the requirement area, e.g., PSCI courses will be taught by faculty with masters-level qualification in physical science; HUM by faculty with masters-level qualification in a discipline within the humanities. It is also the expectation that the department will have a sufficient number of qualified faculty available for the requisite frequency of offering noted below.

Frequency of Offering

Since students, including transfer students at community colleges, depend on these courses to build schedules several years in advance, and to repeat courses if needed, UCORE courses need to be offered regularly. Statewide or other degree pathways involving general education courses (direct transfer agreements, major-ready pathways, special articulation agreements) also require regular offering of general education courses. During the comprehensive review of the UCORE curriculum, the frequency a given course has been offered since its approval will be a consideration in the decision to renew UCORE status.

Graduate Student Supervision

Graduate students may teach UCORE courses, including autonomous sections, under the close and regular supervision of a faculty member who is qualified to teach the UCORE course in question. Departments offering UCORE courses have responsibility for developing appropriate means for preparing, supervising, and providing guidance to graduate students teaching UCORE courses. It is expected that the supervising faculty member ensures that the instruction and student learning outcomes are comparable to those of masters-qualified faculty as described above.

Instructional Formats

Departments are responsible for developing appropriate instructional formats for courses proposed for UCORE. The course format should not only be appropriate to the discipline and course content, but also should be consistent with the aims of general education and engagement of students. In most instances the goals of general education as set forth in these guidelines will not be met by instruction in mass lectures without substantial, well-developed active learning components, or discussion or laboratory sections, or well-structured field or service learning components that develop targeted learning outcomes and engage students.

Major Changes to Approved UCORE Courses

If a department wishes to revise an approved UCORE course to increase or decrease credits, or to make similar changes that could affect the course’s support of student learning outcomes, the UCORE Committee will review the course to make sure it still meets UCORE criteria (Fall, 2015). See https://ucore.wsu.edu/faculty/proposing-revising-renewing-courses/

Periodic Renewal

Courses naturally evolve over time; similarly, the UCORE criteria themselves will evolve in response to the experiences of implementing the changed requirements. Good practice dictates that UCORE courses be renewed periodically to ensure continued alignment with UCORE outcomes and criteria.

In addition, a special review may be initiated if an issue is brought to the attention of the UCORE Committee, for example, substantial misalignment of a current syllabus with the course as originally approved. UCORE course renewal will be conducted by either the UCORE Committee or a subcommittee thereof. Departments will be expected to submit materials for each course seeking renewal. The overall system of requirements may be changed through regular Senate processes.

Pre-Enrollment

In order to provide students with necessary foundational skills, meet state targets for timely completion of writing and quantitative courses, and to assist departments with enrollment management to prevent course bottlenecks, following receipt of placement scores, first-year students are pre-enrolled into ROOT, WRTG, and QUAN courses (2015-16).

Requirement Areas

In keeping with the goals of a broad liberal education and with UCORE’s particular goals and outcomes, majors-only, or substantially major-oriented courses should not be proposed for UCORE designation, with the exception of CAPS courses. ROOT, QUAN, COMM, and WRTG courses should be foundational lower-division courses with the expectation that entering freshmen will complete them in the first year. WSU must report data to the state on entering students’ completion of WRTG and QUAN by students’ fourth semester, and so they must begin their sequences in the first year.

Inquiry courses should also be lower-division introductions to disciplinary approaches and big ideas or grand challenges in the disciplines, suited for a broad audience with diverse intended majors.

Stipulating UCORE Requirements

While colleges and departments may require students to take certain courses that have been given UCORE status as part of their college or major requirements, they cannot stipulate how a student is to fulfill a university (UCORE) requirement in the absence of a college or major requirement approved by the Faculty Senate and listed in the WSU Catalog (Fall, 2016).

Syllabus Alignment

A department offering an approved UCORE course is responsible for assuring that the course is taught in line with the approved proposal and syllabus. Departments must have clear procedures for informing instructors about the UCORE criteria governing the approved course. These procedures may be requested during the course approval process or in a review process. To this end, departments are advised to maintain a copy of the approved UCORE course proposal and syllabus, and to provide it to any instructor teaching that particular UCORE course for the first time.

Instructors may refer to the faculty section of this website at any time for descriptions of the UCORE Curriculum. A UCORE syllabus must clearly indicate which UCORE designation the course holds. It must also include language about the course’s place within UCORE and which components of the course will advance required UCORE learning goals and outcomes for that course’s UCORE designation. See https://ucore.wsu.edu/faculty/proposing-revising-renewing-courses/ for sample syllabi, sample UCORE language for syllabi, and fillable learning outcomes grids.

Temporary Courses and UCORE Designation

If a course enters the curriculum approval process late in the year, temporary status is sometimes sought. Temporary courses may apply for UCORE designations, but the designation expires with the temporary status. In most cases, when a course is submitted for both temporary and permanent status, the UCORE designation, if approved, will apply to both (Fall, 2014).

Policies for Students & Advisors

The following set of drop-downs explains general UCORE policies that apply to advisors and students.

Grade Basis

No course designated as a University Common Requirement (UCORE) can be taken on a pass / fail basis. All UCORE-designated courses must be letter-graded (i.e., A, B, C, D, and F), with only a few exceptions for a limited number of CAPS courses, which carry S, F grading. While some courses with a UCORE designation can be taken on a pass / fail basis as electives or to fulfill major requirements, they will not satisfy UCORE requirements if not taken for a letter grade.

Honors Students

The Honors College Curriculum satisfies general education requirements, serving as an alternative to the University Common Requirement (UCORE). Since all students attending WSU satisfy general education requirements along with requirements for their specific areas of study, the Honors College curriculum works with all areas of study and is satisfied over the course of their undergraduate studies.

Overlap with Major

In order to maintain breadth of study required for accredited bachelor’s degrees, a maximum of three (3 or 4 credit) UCORE courses may be taken within the major. For the purpose of this limitation, three 1-credit UCORE courses may be combined to count for a single 3-credit UCORE course.

Quantitative Reasoning

This requirement can be satisfied by passing a UCORE-designated course in mathematics, through satisfactory performance on the Advanced Placement examination, or by passing a calculus course beyond Math 171.

Transfer Students

The direct transfer associate’s degree (DTA) will satisfy all UCORE requirements except for the Integrative Capstone [CAPS]. Students who transfer without a degree would meet requirements through course-by-course matches, as they do currently. Upper division programs that require specific courses as prerequisites to the major may need to develop more explicit advising pathways for prospective students, so that they take the appropriate course at the community college as part of the DTA.

Associate of Science Transfer (AST) degree holders (Track 1 and Track 2) have always had additional general education requirements to meet. With UCORE, AST holders must complete HISTORY 305, Roots of Contemporary Issues [ROOT], a second Communication course (either [COMM] or [WRTG]), the Diversity requirement [DIVR], and the Integrative Capstone [CAPS]. Thus, for AST degree holders, a total of four UCORE courses need to be completed at WSU.

For more, see Transfer Students in the Student section of this website.

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