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We hope to answer questions you may have below, but if we do not have an answer for you on the website, please donʻt hesitate to contact us and we will add your inquiry (if pertinent) for future reference for others.

General Education Designations

+ How long does the Gen Ed designation last?

Initial approval is for three years, and renewals are good for five years. Once approved, your course will appear in the Focus Status List. The General Education Office (GEO) sends multiple reminder emails each semester of upcoming proposal deadlines. The GEO will also contact you via email once the appropriate Board(s) and/or Council make their decisions.

Note that it is your responsibility to ensure that approved designations are correct in Class Availability, and that you pay close attention to posted and emailed deadlines for proposals.

+ A designation is not showing up for my course in Class Availability. What do I do?

Please contact us.

COURSE-Based Designations

+ Why are INSTRUCTOR-Based Focus designations being phased out?

In AY 20-21, the General Education Committee voted to phase out INSTRUCTOR-Based Focus proposals and move to all COURSE-Based Focus designations for the following reasons:

  • Course-based Focus designations contribute consistency and clarity to the role of those courses in the General Education curricula and student learning objectives at all levels in UHM, and this benefits the design, practice, and assessment of curricula at all levels in UHM. 
  • Course-based Focus designations contribute stability to the curriculum for students planning their courses of study.
  • Cases where not all sections of a course have the same Focus designation(s) have led to confusion and have hindered student success or increased time-to-degree; and 
  • Preparation of instructor-based Focus proposals and renewals by multiple instructors who teach the same course adds redundancy to the workload of faculty instructors.
  • The reviewing of instructor-based Focus proposals and renewals by multiple instructors who teach the same course adds redundancy to the workload of the General Education Office, the General Education Committee, and General Education Boards; and this comes at the cost of effort spent in other activities such as program assessment, development and enhancement, as well as instructor support.
  • All General Education designations except Focus are course-based.

+ When does the move to all COURSE-Based designations go into effect?

Beginning in Fall 2022, COURSE-Based Focus proposals will be the only option to request a new Focus designation or to renew a designation that has expired.

+ Are there any exceptions? Will all designations have to be for all sections of the course all the time?

The only exceptions will be for Directed Reading/Research courses (typically numbered X99) and “Topics” courses, both of which have variable content.

+ What happens to instructor-based approvals that are “good” past Fall 2022?

All instructor-based Focus approvals, including those that are obtained or renewed in AY21-22, will be honored through the end of their three- or five-year approval period. For example, if Prof. Jones is approved to teach ANTH 210 with a W Focus through Summer 2024, all of Prof. Jones’s sections of ANTH 210 will be designated with her approved W Focus until the end of Summer 2024 unless our office is told not to designate.

+ Can instructors renew their Focus approvals early to extend the approval period?

Yes, early renewal submissions will be accepted.

+ Our department is submitting a request for a Course-Based Focus for a course that's had an Instructor-Based approval in the past. Do we check off "new" or "renewal" on the form?

Since this will be the first time a Course-Based proposal is being submitted for the course, please check off “new.”

+ How should I modify the course catalog description if I’m proposing a course-based Focus designation?

Our office will generate a UHM-2 form for you once you’re approved for a course-based designation. On the Focus proposal form, however, you are asked for a modified course description for the catalog, and this is reviewed as part of the proposal review process by the appropriate Gen Ed Board. Here are tips to consider:

  1. The modified course description must stay within the 35-word limit. Any proposed course descriptions longer than this will have to be sent back to you for revision.
  2. Because Focus designations may not be renewed in the future, and because the catalog is only updated annually, course descriptions cannot directly state that a course has a given Focus designation (e.g., “Course has a W”). Here are some examples of acceptable language to use in modified course description:
    • Contemporary Ethical Issues: Ethical issues in electrical engineering discussed.
    • Hawaiian, Asian, & Pacific Issues: Hawaiian and Asian perspectives on health care integrated throughout.
    • Oral Communication:
      • Course covers colonial history, contemporary Indigenous groups, and significant attention to oral communication skills.
      • Candidates perform, present, and teach to develop oral communication skills. 
      • Focus on student teamwork and oral communications.
      • Includes an emphasis on instruction and feedback in oral communication.
    • Writing Intensive:
      • This course develops written communication skills.
      • Significant attention paid to developing writing skills.
      • Emphasis on writing instruction.

+ Isn’t this the same action that was proposed in a 2019 Senate resolution but was voted down? Why is the GEC trying to do this again?

Although a change to (almost) all course-based Focus designations is the same as the goal of the 2019 resolution, several conditions have changed since then:

  • We are including a transition period of >5 years for the phasing out of instructor-based focus designations
    • During the forthcoming academic year, the General Education boards will accept and review new and renewal instructor-based proposals, including proposals to add or renew instructor-based designations that will not expire until fall 2022 or later (i.e. early renewal is encouraged for those who wish to extend their instructor-based designations beyond their current approval periods).
    • Currently-approved instructor-based courses can continue to be taught as such until their approval expires, whether they are renewed early or not.
  • The GEC has removed the requirement for course-based proposals that two or more instructors had to have taught the course previously with instructor-based designations; this makes course-based proposals as easy to apply for as instructor-based proposals have been. Both instructor- and course-based Focus proposal forms now use the same forms with the same questions regarding the hallmarks and student learning objectives.
  • In 2018, only 10% of submitted Focus proposals were for course-based designations. This number rose to 33% in 2020, the first year that course-based Focus proposals did not require two previous offerings with instructor-based approval. These early data indicate that more departments are willing and able to attach course-based Focus designations to their courses, and that the restrictions on doing so described above may have been hindering them. 
  • A new Memorandum of Understanding, which replaces the original MOU from 2003, was signed by all parties in spring 2021 following several years of negotiations.  This new MOU clearly spells out what is in the GEC’s authority, as well as the roles of the Senate, GEC, six General Education Boards, General Education Office, and Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Excellence, regarding oversight and implementation of the general education program. Item 2 in the MOU states “The GEC has the responsibility and the authority to define the general procedures and processes by which the GE Program, including its requirements as established by the MFS and the Board of Regents (BOR), are administered and assessed.”

In addition, factors in favor of the change remain in place:

  • The phasing out of instructor-based Focus designations was recommended by the External Review Team in their 2018 report, and the GEC agrees this change will bring much needed stability to the program.
  • The confusion for students and barriers to their timely graduation caused by instructor-based focus designations have not gone away. The change will help in instances where departments need to make last-minute instructor changes.  Currently they have to scramble to submit proposals ASAP and have them undergo expedited review, in order to keep designations on classes with students already enrolled.

+ How does this fit with other aspects of the general education program?

  • Focus requirements are the only area of Gen Ed where designations can vary from instructor to instructor; all other areas of our Gen Ed program (Foundations and Diversifications) are already course-based. Moreover, any new Gen Ed curriculum will be course-based, as it is for every other institution of higher education in the country!
  • Early renewal is an option during the AY 2021-2022, giving instructor-based designations up to five more years, at which point we hope to be well into transitioning to a new General  Education program.
  • Students and advisors will be better able to plan progress through degree programs with increased curricular stability.

+ What are my options if I still want an instructor-based focus designation on my course?

  • Renew early or submit a proposal for new designations in fall 2021 or spring 2022 (which, if approved, may last until Summer or Fall of 2027).
  • If your department chooses to keep instructor-based focus courses for the next 5 years, make sure to advise students as early as possible which sections of a course will or will not carry a given focus area so that they can plan their graduation requirements accordingly.
Oral Communication Focus Designation

+ Can multiple sections of the same O Focus designated course meet at the same time and place?

In Fall 2019, the Oral Communication Board decided that regardless of whether there is TA/GA assistance, all O Focus classes can have no more than 20 students (if primarily individual O assignments) or 30 students (if primarily group assignments). Multiple sections of the same O course can meet at the same time/place as long as there are breakout/recitation sections that meet the enrollment requirement (i.e., 20-30 students max) at least once a week.


+ How can I propose a course Iʻm teaching for a specific designation?

Check out our Proposals webpage.

+ Do I need to check the "Online or Hybrid" box?

Courses offered with particular Gen Ed designations are inherently different when delivered mostly or fully online. For example, hallmark 5 of courses with a Contemporary Ethical Issues (E) designation requires that “A minimum of 8 hours of class time will be spent in discussing contemporary ethical issues.” That requirement for 8 hours of discussion is more difficult to fulfill if all classwork is done asynchronously and via online discussion forums, for example. Checking the “online or hybrid” box on a proposal form alerts reviewers to these considerations, allowing them to offer faculty pedagogical support and resources to assist them with fulfilling the hallmarks and learning outcomes.

So should you check the box? If a course is being taught mostly or fully online, please check the “online or hybrid” box on page 1 of the proposal form and submit the syllabus or syllabi with the proposal that reflects this instructional mode (e.g., the syllabus reflects fully online or hybrid instruction, with synchronous or asynchronous class meetings and assigned work indicated). We encourage you to explore our teaching resources online, as well as the resources and tutorials offered by the UH Online Innovation Center. Please feel free to contact us and the relevant Gen Ed Board as well for support with moving your classes to a different instructional format.

+ Do your proposals include support?

The proposal process is outlined in our website, if you have additional questions, please contact us.

+ The deadline for submission has passed, but can I still submit my proposal?

Unfortunately, proposals will not be accepted after the final deadline except under extraordinary circumstances.

+ Why do I have to include a syllabus?

Through the Gen Ed proposal process, faculty and departments are asked to consider the requested designation’s hallmarks (and explanatory notes) and student learning objectives. The syllabus is used in addition to the proposal to determine if the course meets the requested designation’s hallmarks and student learning objectives.

+ What if I’ve revised my syllabus since the initial proposal?

If you are revising your syllabus, please make sure that it continues to reflect how your course is meeting the Hallmarks of your approved Focus. However, submission of the revised syllabus is not required until the Focus designation is up for renewal.

+ I am submitting a renewal and nothing has changed in my course. Why do I have to submit again?

The primary goal of the renewal process is for the reviewing Board to assess the course to ensure it continues to meet the goals of the designation’s requirement. The General Education Committee encourages faculty to reflect on the renewal questions and consider possible changes to a course. Additionally, the General Education forms may have changed during the approval period. The reviewing Board may request different information than what was originally required in the initial proposal. In addition, renewal proposals include an assessment component that is not required for new proposals.

General Education Redesign

+ I heard General Education at UHM is being redesigned. Where can I get more information?

General Education redesign is a UH System initiative begun in 2021. Detailed information can be found on the VPAA webpage for UH System-wide General Education Redesign.

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