Envisioned as a signature liberal arts campus and a living laboratory for teaching and learning innovation, the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus has implemented changes to the academic schedule over the last year. As a designated catalyst for innovation in the University’s strategic plan (For the Public Good), Augustana is now considering additional ways to improve the undergraduate learning experience by focusing on the curriculum.
Beginning in late February, Augustana formed the Curriculum Review Research Committee (CRRC), which is examining possibilities for achieving a better balance of programs, integrating elements of the Core, reducing course requirements in majors and developing new interdisciplinary concentrations and majors/minors.
In order to advance this work, a five-member team made up of members from CRRC will attend the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ 2018 Summer Institute on Integrative Learning and Signature Work in July.
“This institute will address exactly what CRRC’s goal has been all along: to explore the ways in which we can make our curriculum more integrative either through revising our core, or our majors, or both,” says Janet Wesselius, Associate Dean of Teaching and the person who spearheaded the application to the institute, which was accepted with great enthusiasm.
Wesselius credits the group’s acceptance on the work that Augustana has already done to implement the New Calendar, which features a three-week block followed by an eleven-week session in each term, as well as new First-Year Seminar courses aimed at providing incoming students a quick launch experience designed to aid their understanding of what it means to be a university student while offering a common skill set that will assist them in becoming engaged participants in their own learning. Other factors that make Augustana a fit for the institute include its small campus size, which allows for the successful incorporation of relatively large changes with some ease, and the campus’s commitment to the liberal arts and sciences which already attracts students who want an experience that values experiential learning, close relationships with their professors, undergraduate research and integrative learning.
The Institute on Integrative Learning and Signature Work will help bolster the research already taking place in these areas, and could lead to the creation of signature work areas, which Wesselius likened to Augustana’s current capstone courses and projects.
“As it is, not every student takes a capstone course,” said Wesselius. “If we incorporated signature work into our curriculum, every student would get this opportunity, and it would be a way to differentiate us as an institution, as well as our students in the experience that they get. Instead of an honours program that benefits only our elite students, every student attending Augustana would be given a select experience.”
Along with the practical learning the team will glean from the institute, Wesselius is also interested to see what other universities and colleges who are attending the conference are currently doing so that we don’t have to “reinvent the wheel”.
“Ultimately, we want to discover what will provide a good education for our students, what will speak to and take advantage of our strengths and what will make us distinctive from other institutions,” says Wesselius.
The findings from the institute will be brought back to the faculty to inform their continued work on the curriculum.