The Undergraduate Committee for the Curriculum of Liberal Education (UCCLE) is currently discussing ways to improve the system.
“People have been talking about what they don’t like about the CLE for years. We are just now getting to the drafting stage, so that we can have something to show staff and students for feedback,” said Dan Thorp, Director of Curriculum for Liberal Education.
For the past 25 years, Virginia Tech has been operating under the Curriculum for Liberal Education (CLE) with only small changes made along the way, frustrating some students.
Due to CLE requirements, Brandon Weidemann, a sophomore finance major, barely took classes in his major during his freshman year.
"I don't see the point (in CLE's). I think college years could be eliminated two to three years if used in your major," said Weidemann, "If I know I want finance, let me jump in."
The CLE system has always been a distributive model, or what Jill Sible, Assistant Vice President for Undergraduate Education, likes to call a "cafeteria model." Students have broad area requirements with endless classes to choose from whether it relates to their major or not.
“I think in a broader sense, it’s the fact that the CLE courses often don’t have relevance for students,” Sible said.
In order to improve the CLE, the hope is to begin integrating general education courses with specific majors across campus.
“There seems to be this notion that general education is something you kind of have to hold your nose and just get it over with," Thorp said. "That’s what we want to change. We think it’s a mistake to encourage students to believe that knowledge is compartmentalized.”
By providing integrated education, the UCCLE also intends to combine technology and increased discourse, both oral and written, into a more common general education for students across campus.
This idea has been in the works for about two years, and could take a few years to take effect. After this current draft is complete, the ideas will be released to the public for a response period this spring. Eventually, courses will need to be created and passed through university governance.
“In the past, there was faculty and students grumbling about the CLE, but there was nobody in the higher administration that really seemed to think it was a high priority,” Thorp said. “Now, people that are responsible for undergraduate education really want this to happen, so we hit the ground running.”
With all of these improvements in mind, the UCCLE plans to keep the CLE requirement between 33 and 36 hours, as is required for accreditation.
“We want to change the nature of the CLE experience, rather than the duration,” explained Thorp.
Thorp and Sible agree that the reason for making these changes is based around the improvement and expansion of each student’s career at Tech, but they also hope that this will challenge teachers to think differently about what happens in the classroom.
“The idea is that a student should be well rounded, so we want to take the opportunity when you come to a university to learn deeply and broadly,” Sible said. “We want to give students the opportunity to be the authors of their own education, and to make meaning across the different courses and have a more integrated and engaged experience.”
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