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Gen Ed Course Tips

The College of Arts and Sciences offers the vast majority of gen ed courses at OSU. We take great pride in being such an integral part of the freshman experience at OSU, but there is also a great responsibility to help those students succeed. It is often our classes that give freshmen students their first impressions of OSU and of the college experience.


In fall of 2020 CAS had 29,000 Gen Ed enrollments from 13,500 unique students. That represents 2/3 of the OSU undergraduate student body. These enrollments included 4096 new freshmen, which was 99% of the freshman class and our numbers are following the same trajectory for this fall 2021 enrollment.


Imagine a student who is a first-generation freshman, eager to be the first in the family to earn a degree, but who has never heard of office hours, has no idea OSU has free tutoring, and has never taken notes during a lecture. This student and many others enrolled in your class may not have the resources and support to be successful, so let’s take a few small steps and to meet them where they are.


I’ve got five simple strategies to help give our freshman support as they begin their four years at OSU. It doesn’t matter if you’re teaching a face-to-face course an online course or a hybrid, these are just good teaching practices for any modality.


First, overcommunicate how to communicate. Your contact info should be on the syllabus, but also any Graduate or teaching assistant names and contact info, too. Include your office hours, and be sure to explain what office hours are for so students understand what to expect and when to show up. Email this info to all the students so they see it in multiple places. If you are teaching an online course, create a home page where your contact info and bio are posted for students to see every time they enter the online course. For face-to-face instructors, have the first slide of your presentation include your contact info to be displayed every day as students enter the class.


Second, put all of the assignment due dates in the Canvas calendar. This includes exams. It’s common to have exam dates on the syllabus, but not included on Canvas until after the exam has occurred. If you create the exam as an assignment in Canvas with the scheduled day and time it’s supposed to be taken, that info will auto populate into the students’ Canvas calendars. Students are taught to pay attention to this calendar in orientation, so if the exam date is not in there they could miss it.


Third, have students take action the first week of class, for credit in the course. This could be responding to your initial email and getting extra credit for it. That ensures communication pathways are not broken and helps the students become comfortable with emailing you. This could also be a syllabus quiz, where students are quizzed on important deadlines, or behavioral expectations and it’s a quiz grade in the course.  The options are limitless, but get students working in the class the first week so that you can proactively reach out to any students who have not participated yet and head off potential barriers to success.


Fourth, explain tips and resources. Provide links to the LASSO Center, the Math Learning Resource Center, Counseling Services or the Writing Lab. If your teaching an online course, we created a video for students you can share that includes these things and you can embed it directly into your Canvas page.


And Fifth, explain to your students what academic integrity is, and share existing OSU resources, such as the Top 10 ways to promote academic integrity or the frequently asked questions that showcases the actions students can take to uphold academic integrity. Explicitly discussing academic integrity can inspire a community of students who value honesty, trust, respect and fairness. OSU has a reputation for having a welcoming and friendly atmosphere, so let’s explain to students in our gen ed classrooms how they can do their part.


Not many students know that OSU has a commitment to academic integrity, and it states: I will respect OSU’s commitment to academic integrity and uphold the values of honesty and responsibility that preserve our academic community.


These simple strategies can make a difference on whether a student drops out of your class, or college altogether. Let’s do our part to not only retain students in our classes, but also help create members of the OSU and CAS Cowboy family. Go Pokes.


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