What is Gen Ed and Why Do You Need It?
Synopsis of General Education Requirement
I have a lot of students who don’t know what they want to major in or what they want to be when they grow up…but they’re still in college. They have decided to get started, anyway, taking their General Education courses. The idea is that they’ll get these out of the way and by the time those are done, they’ll be ready to choose a major. So, what it Gen Ed, and why do students have to have it?
Just What is Gen Ed?
Gen Ed, or General Education, usually refers to those classes that everyone has to take. A four year bachelor’s degree, whether online or on a traditional campus, is divided roughly into two parts: 2 years of general education and 2 years of classes in the major. The Gen Ed courses are usually introductory courses in a wide variety of disciplines and almost always include at least one class (sometimes more) from each of the following categories:
- Science (often one with a lab and one without)
- Social/Behavioral Sciences
- Foreign language
- Western Civilization I and II
- State/Local History
- Health/Physical Education
- Speech/Public Speaking
Different states have different requirements for Gen Ed, but most will look something like this, with varying numbers of hours required. Even for someone who hasn’t declared a major, there’s plenty of work to do in preparation for taking those more advanced classes.
Why is Gen Ed Required?
Many students complain about having to take Gen Ed classes that they perceive as having nothing to do with their major or intended career goals. For example, I was a Theater and Film major, and objected strenuously to the 6 hours of math I had to take. So, why do colleges require these courses for those who might have no interest in them?
One major university has spelled out its reasons for its Gen Ed curriculum. The following goals are adapted from Penn State’s Gen Ed website.
The General Education program is designed to enable students to:
- gain knowledge through critical information gathering, including reading and listening, computer-assisted searching, and scientific experimentation and observation;
- analyze and evaluate, where appropriate in a quantitative manner, the acquired knowledge;
- integrate knowledge from a variety of sources and disciplines;
- make critical judgments in a logical and thoughtful manner;
- develop the skills to maintain personal and community health;
- communicate effectively, through writing and speaking, and use the methods for presentation, organization, and debate appropriate to their disciplines;
- seek and share knowledge, individually and in collaboration with others;
- gain understanding of international interdependence and cultural diversity and develop appreciation values, lifestyles, and traditions that may differ from their own;
- comprehend the role of artistic and creative activities expressing both imagination and experience.
An individual student may or may not consider these standards to be personal goals for their education, but we’d all be a bit surprised to find a college graduate who didn’t have at least passable skills in each of these areas. Gen Ed requirements are an important part of making students into well-rounded, well-informed, and skilled citizens.
Are you ready to dive into your gen ed classes? Taking classes online allows you to get those generals taken and passed!