Feedback and Response

3.6.1  The institution’s post-baccalaureate professional degree programs, master’s and doctoral degree programs, are progressively more advanced in academic content than undergraduate programs. (Post-baccalaureate program rigor)


Findings of the Off-Site Reaffirmation Committee

During fall semester of 2013 the UNO Graduate Council created a document, called “Characteristics of a Graduate Education”. This document is used to evaluate and recommend the establishment of new graduate degree programs. The document covers seven elements to define the content and rigor. One of the criteria listed in the document includes “requirements for degree and courses demonstrate rigor beyond the undergraduate level”. A chart is included that demonstrates that the learning outcomes for the graduate programs are more advanced than the undergraduate programs.

The course approval process which includes the department, the Graduate Council as well as the Provost’s office assures that they are rigorous in both content and student expectations.

5000 level courses are beginning graduate courses that are dual-listed with 4000 level advanced undergraduate courses. The current policy is that 50% of graduate courses can be completed below the 6000 and 7000 level; however a new policy to go into effect fall 2015 will change this to only 25%. The Graduate Council does require 5000 level courses to contain a description of the additional work required for graduate credit beyond that required of undergraduates, and that additional work is as rigorous as needed for a graduate course. A chart in the document shows 5000 level courses which includes extra work for the graduate student.

The committee recognizes that there are plans in place to make the graduate programs more rigorous; however it cannot be determined at this time.


Response and Actions Taken

As noted in the off-site review report, the current ByLaw (University of Louisiana System Chapter II Students, Section XI Requirements for Master’ Degrees) states that a minimum of one-half of the course credits for the degree must be in courses open only to graduate students. At UNO, the 6000 and 7000 courses are open only to graduate students. All graduate programs at UNO are compliant with this policy. The previous Director of the Graduate School established an initiative to reduce the percentage of co-listed courses (5000 level) in graduate programs to a maximum of 25% with an original timeline for implementation in Fall 2014. While we understand the need for rigor in graduate programs of study, the Graduate Council approved amending the timeline upon the appointment of the current Director of the Graduate School (Dr. Kenneth Sewell). Rather than addressing rigor only by adjusting the percentage of co-listed coursework allowed, new actions were completed to address rigor in graduate programs at three levels.

Course level. The Academic Standards Sub-Committee of the Faculty Senate adopted a document that defines the purpose of each level of coursework (1000-7000) and provides guidance for the development of Student Learning Outcomes appropriate to each level. Specific to graduate programs, this document will be used as a tool by faculty and the University Courses and Curriculum Committee to approve course proposals at the 5000-7000 level to add new courses or modify existing ones. One component of our plan involves asking each department to review all existing graduate coursework to determine if the number needs to be changed and/or student learning outcomes need to be changed based on the purpose of the course as indicated in the course description document. Our expectation is that several 5000 level courses will be revised to 6000 level courses. Thus, in the future the percentage of coursework open only to graduate students in each degree program will increase. Again, it is important to note that the current practice is fully in compliance with University of Louisiana System policy.

Program level. During the Fall 2014 semester, the Office of Academic Affairs, in collaboration with the Faculty Senate, formed a committee (Faculty Governance Committee) to establish a formal program review process and to initiate a review of all academic programs, both undergraduate and graduate. One purpose of the review process was to identify academic programs that should no longer be offered due to issues of rigor or dwindling resources needed to sustain an effective program. The committee adopted six criteria, based on a model used by the University of Alaska, to guide the review process that leads to four categories. See Table 1 for a description of each criterion. See Table 2 for category descriptions.

Table 1: Academic program review criteria and weights

Criterion

Key Components

Weight

External Demand for Programs

Short term and long term demand (new students); workforce demand

15%

Internal Demand

General education and support of other programs, feeder to masters programs, number of majors

15%

Size, Scope, and Productivity

Retention, SCHs, Completers, research

20%

Quality of Inputs and Outputs

Number of full time, tenure track faculty; Quality of student outputs

10%

Revenue

Tuition, state allocations, indirect from grants, donation

15%

Impact, Justification, Essentiality

Alumni, industry, mission alignment

25%

 

Table 2: Program Categories used by Faculty Governance Committee to review academic programs

 

Category

Description

1) Enhance

Programs with the highest potential for positively impacting the university mission; should receive enhanced resources to support growth in student learning outcomes, scholarly productivity, and revenue (current resources are deemed insufficient)

2) Sustain

Programs with clear potential for positively impacting the university mission; should receive sufficient resources to support growth in student learning outcomes, scholarly productivity, and revenue (current resources are deemed insufficient)

3) Restructure, Merge, or Otherwise Transform

Programs have potential for growth and making an important impact on the university mission; scarcity of resource, changing demand, program stagnation, or other limitations threaten program viability; new models or approaches are needed to build stronger programs that can flourish; some programs may later be deemed non-viable, but the majority are expected to emerge with strength; Colleges must devise transformation plans by the end of the spring 2015 semester

4) Close

Due to the current fiscal and enrollment climate, these programs can no longer be maintained and should be closed

Discontinuance of three academic programs was recommended by the Faculty Governance Committee. This recommendation was expanded by the Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs and the President to include a total of seven degree programs, including seven graduate programs: M.A. Political Science, M.A. Romance Languages, M.Ed. Curriculum & Instruction, M.Ed. Special Education, Ph.D. Curriculum & Instruction, Ph.D. Political Science, and Ph.D. Special Education.  This action was approved by the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors in December 2014 [Page: 2] .

The work of the Faculty Governance Committee continues this semester (Spring 2015) to review the 24 programs that were placed in Category 3 (Transform). Of this number, 15 programs are at the graduate level as seen in Table 3.

Table 3: Graduate-level category three programs (restructure, merge or otherwise transform)

Masters Level

Doctoral Level

M.A. Arts Administration

M.A. History

M.A. Political Science**

M.A. Romance Languages**

M.A. Sociology

M.A.T. Special Education

M.Ed. Curriculum & Instruction*

M.Ed. Educational Leadership

M.Ed. Special Education*

M.F.A. Fine Arts

M.S. Applied Physics

M.S. Engineering Management

M.S. Urban Studies

Ph.D. Curriculum & Instruction*

Ph.D. Educational Leadership

Ph.D. Special Education*

*Already included in UL System Board action to discontinue programs

**Program proposed for closure in future

Operation. The third level of planning improving graduate programs focuses on the operation of the programs of study. Two key changes are projected for Fall 2015. First, the role of the Graduate Council is changing from a courses and curriculum committee to one focused on the overall support (recruitment, retention, student support, assessment) of graduate programs. The second change involves restructuring the University Courses and Curriculum Committee to address course and curriculum changes at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Procedures are being revised to ensure that at least 50% of the membership from each college will include faculty with graduate appointments. The committee will be organized into two subcommittees (undergraduate and graduate) to ensure an efficient model of course and program review. This model will particularly improve the review of 4000-5000 courses which currently are reviewed separately by both the University Courses and Curriculum Committee (undergraduate review) and the Graduate Council (graduate review). The new process will ensure that the 4000 and 5000 co-listed courses are reviewed consistently to improve the rigor of 5000 courses.

 

 

Supporting Documents

Document Description
Document IconFR_Course_Level_DescriptionsCourse_Level_Descriptions
Document IconFR_Recommendations_from_President_Fos_to_UL_BoardRecommendations_from_President_Fos_to_UL_Board
Document IconFR_UL_System_Board_Minutes_December_12_2014UL_System_Board_Minutes_December_12_2014
Document IconFR_UL_System_Bylaw_II_Student_XIUL_System_Bylaw_II_Student_XI