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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, the course will appear on the Focus Status List. (The exceptions are 399/499 (directed reading/research) and Study Abroad courses that are approved for one semester only, and are not included on the list.) Each semester the General Education Office (GEO) sends emails to departments via the listserve about upcoming proposal submission deadlines. The GEO notifies persons submitting the proposal when the appropriate Board(s) and/or Committee make their decision.

Note that it is the responsibility of the department/persons submitting the proposal to ensure that approved designations are correct on Class Availability, to check the Focus Status List to see when their approval(s) are expiring, and to pay attention to the upcoming proposal submission deadlines.

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

Please contact us.

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

Beginning Fall 2022, a COURSE-Based Focus proposal became the only option to request a new Focus designation or to renew a designation that has expired. The only exceptions for submitting an INSTRUCTOR-Based proposal are for 399/499 (directed reading/research), variable topics, and Study Abroad courses. For Focus Proposal Forms and submission deadlines, please see our Proposal Forms page.

COURSE-Based Designations

+ Why were INSTRUCTOR-Based Focus designations 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.
  • 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.

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

The only exceptions for submitting an Instructor-based Focus Proposal are for 399/499 (directed reading/research), variable topics, and Study Abroad courses.  These forms are available on the Proposal Forms webpage. For all other courses, a COURSE-Based proposal form needs to be submitted. Upon approval, all sections of the course, regardless of who is listed as the instructor, will carry the Focus designation throughout the duration of the approval period.

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

All instructor-based Focus approvals will be honored through the end of their approval period. For example, if Prof. Jones is approved to teach ANTH 210 with a W Focus through Summer 2027, all of Prof. Jones’s sections of ANTH 210 will be designated with her approved W Focus until the end of Summer 2027 unless our office is told not to designate.

+ 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?

Even if an instructor had Focus approval in the past, if this is the first time a COURSE-Based proposal is being submitted for the course, the box for “new” should be checked.

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

On the Focus Proposal Form, you will be asked to provide a modified course description for the catalog that reflects the inherency of the Focus. The modified description 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. (This is for the description only, so things such as pre-requisites, grading options, class standing, etc., should not be included.) 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 will have a given Focus designation (e.g., “Course has a WI,” or “This course is Writing-Intensive.”). 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.
  3. After the proposal is approved, our office will generate the UHM-2 form to change the description in the catalog. We will send the UHM-2 form to your department to route for signatures and to submit to the OVPAE (Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Excellence).

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

  • All other areas of our Gen Ed program (Foundations and Diversifications) are 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!
  • During the AY 2021-2022, instructors were given the option to renew their Instructor-based Focus designations for up to five more years (Summer 2027), 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.
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 OVPAA (Office of the Vice President for Academic Strategy) webpage for UH System-wide General Education Redesign.

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