Now you shouldn’t get lost in the LER system

Regina Garcia Cano

Liberal education requirements should not delay graduation, nor should they be a pain to take. For this reason, Kent State administrators are looking to revamp the system.

To address the inefficiencies of LERs and improve the educational experience of students, the LER Core Committee recommended in their final report that classes should be more outcome-oriented instead of teaching-oriented.

An example of the differences between LERs systems


A student is currently a biology major and wants to become an electronic media production major. Under the LER humanities category for biology, the student chose to take Introduction to Shakespeare (ENG 21054) and Black Experience I (PAS 23001). The electronic media production requirements only offer two options for its students: History of the United States Formative Period (HIST 12070) and History of the United States Modern Period (12071). Therefore, when the current biology major switches to electronic media production, he or she must now take HIST 12070 and 12071 to fulfill the LERs humanities requirement. Yet, ENG 21054 and PAS 23001 will count as Liberal Studies Requirements.

Under the new plan:

If the biology major became an electronic media production major, ENG 21054 and PAS 23001 would transfer, fulfilling the humanities requirement. If the College of Communication and Information wanted its majors to take HIST 12070 and HIST 12071, they would have to move those classes to major-specific requirements.

“What you will take away with you at the end that you didn’t have at the beginning,” said Timothy Chandler, senior associate provost and co-chair of the committee. “In some cases that will just be knowledge, things that you didn’t know then, that you know now, but hopefully it will be insights and skills.”

The committee expects the learning outcomes of each class to align with Kent State’s 21st Century undergraduate philosophy: knowledge, insight, engagement and responsibility. The Tiger Team, a group of university officials that looked into inefficiencies within the university, developed the philosophy last year.

The learning-centered approach focuses on what students are able to manifest with their knowledge rather than on the content and coverage of a class, according to the report.

“Instead of giving a syllabus that says here is the material you’ll know, the syllabus will say here is the material, and then here is how we’re going to demonstrate that you have mastered this material during the course of this semester,” Provost Robert Frank said. “The master goals will be as important as the syllabus.”


The committee revised the system with input from students, faculty and members of the Kent community.

Students often said the different LERs each college asks for delay graduation. To simplify the system, the committee recommended majors should not require specific LERs.

“In general, we are saying any course that is designated as an LER and fulfills the requirement, has to be accepted by any major,” Chandler said. “If there are courses that happen to be LERs that majors require, it’s a major requirement, it’s not an LER. They can double count, but no program may specify that you must take a course to fulfill an LER requirement.”

Chandler said he presumes the total number of credit hours required by major will not increase; instead, he hopes courses will be reformulated around learning outcomes. This will allow students to learn more concepts while maintaining the same number of credit hours.

The proposed system aligns with the Ohio universities’ transfer module, requiring a total of 36 LER credit hours.

Currently enrolled students will be allowed to switch to the new LER system if they wish so. The university has always permitted students to move a catalog forward.

The model also proposes the creation of interdisciplinary courses.

“If we can find a course that combines the learning outcomes of two courses and put it into one, then we could actually reduce the number of credit hours and create more options in here,” Chandler said.

For example, an economics class could be combined with a literature class to create an LER called Financial Literacy.

LERs must be re-approved

Undergraduate students have more than 100 LERs to choose from under the 2008-2009 catalog. The committee did not propose classes to be taken off the list. It suggested, however, all currently approved LERs should be re-written by stating clear learning outcomes in order to maintain their LER status. The University Requirements Curriculum Committee then will re-approve the classes.

With the revision of course descriptions, Chandler said, it may be evident that some gaps exist as well as some overlapping of content in the classes.

Thus, Chandler said, it is up to each college to decide the number of LERs it will offer. If the class is not re-approved, it would still be on the books, but it won’t have an LER status.

“What we are recommending is that when people write a course description, they write what the learning outcomes are, but also, what are the experiences that students will have,” Chandler said. “What kind of pedagogical approaches will they take, what kind of materials will they need and how they will assess the learning outcomes.”

If faculty members can make their classes more attractive – not by giving an easy ‘A’ – Chandler said more students will then enroll.

With Responsibility Center Management, the university’s new budget model, each college’s budget depends on the number of students enrolled in the classes. For Frank, the proposed LER system will not pose budget conflicts to the colleges.

“There is some concern that with this model (RCM), a lot of colleges want LERs to be required so that they can get students enrolled,” Frank said. “I think that by the time this gets done, (it) all washes out. It is fairly neutral with RCM.”

Chandler said he believes if the quality of the LERs courses increase with the reform, then more students will enroll in those classes.

“(Students) will choose the courses that they like, they’ll choose the ones that they think are exciting and interesting and valuable, not because they’ve been told ‘This is the LER you have to take.'”

Changes in teaching

Imminently, faculty members have a great responsibility in the success of the proposed system. The recommendations ask faculty to analyze the different ways in which students learn.

“If I think what I want them to learn, I also would like to think how they might learn it best,” Chandler said. “And if I think how they might learn it best, then I might be thinking about alternative ways of presenting that material.

“So, we’re just trying to move the thinking from worrying about teaching to worrying about learning.”

Frank said by encouraging faculty members to have a more engaged and dynamic class, the focus will be placed in the mastering of certain topics as opposed to memorization of simple concepts.

As in any other situation that involves change, Frank said, he expects to see positive and negative reaction from faculty members. But he is confident most faculty members share the core concepts of the reform.

The committee expects the recommendations will be in place Fall 2010. The undergraduate council of the Educational Policies Council accepted to put together an implementation team of the reform last month. The team will look at any conflicts that the recommended system may have with the colleges and also ways in which the reforms should be launched if approved by the necessary instances.

Contact academics reporter Regina Garcia Cano at [email protected].