LER reform group looks at courses

Maria Nann

Committee in beginning stages of revising core requirements because of delayed graduations

Kent State’s core required classes have evolved and expanded over the years, becoming more specialized to appeal to students in specific fields.

But because they have grown so much, these classes that were originally designed to be broad are delaying many students’ graduations, Provost Robert Frank said.

President Lester Lefton has charged the provost’s office with simplifying these Liberal Education Requirement classes.

Frank has formed a committee co-chaired by Tim Chandler, dean of the College of the Arts, and David Dees, assistant professor at the Salem campus.

“What we’re looking for is fewer LERs covering more majors,” Frank said. “It’s an impediment to students’ progress and the university.”

Dees said the provost asked the committee to look at core classes through a student’s eyes, to see how students view them and what they retain from them. It also is looking at models at other universities, as well as the history of LERs at Kent State.

Chandler expects the committee to make recommendations about LER reform by Feb. 6.

Chandler said the committee will likely do the following:

n Make recommendations about what LERs should look like in conjunction with the undergraduate philosophy statement.

n Make LERs less complex and more easily manageable.

n Ensure what students learn in LER courses matches the goal of the 21st century initiative.

n Work in conjunction with the 21st century core curriculum committee to make sure LERs fit with the overall undergraduate curriculum.

The 21st century initiative seeks to define the Kent State experience and includes a committee that is exploring the first year experience.

The LER reform group has only met three times, but Dees said he guessed the outcome would affect Kent State’s core classes in both the short and long term.

“I think what we’re going to find is that we have a unique chance to do long-term changes, to reform the whole LER experience,” Dees said.

He added that he hopes the committee can find short-term solutions to graduation roadblocks that students often run into. For example, when students switch majors, LERs they took often don’t count toward their new major.

Frank said the committee is consulting with the Tiger Team – a group charged with finding and proposing ways to fix inefficiencies in the university. He hopes the committee will have something to share by the end of the semester.

The group is part of the 21st century initiative and is using an undergraduate philosophy statement, which the Faculty Senate approved Monday, as the basis for the reforms they hope to make.

Dees said the group is not aiming to cut any classes but only to make the process easier for students.

Chandler said the important thing is balancing improvements and trying to make the program better while thinking about unintended consequences of change.

“There’s always a concern when you’re looking to make changes,” Chandler said. “While we may be trying to make LERs less complex, we must think of what we’re giving up. If we’re not careful, we might detract from education.”

Frank has asked the committee to “go as fast as they can,” because the issue is critical.

“We need it to be something people will rally around,” he said.

Contact academic affairs reporter Maria Nann at [email protected].