Innovative Multimedia Approach to New Gen Ed Requirement

Posted: June 6, 2001 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Michelle Nery

An innovative way of teaching Western civilization begins this fall in response to the new general education requirements, which include two new courses. Starting in fall 2001, all undergraduate students will have to take a specially designed semester-long class in Western civilization.

The responsibility of creating this course fell to the History and Art History Department. The new requirements meant that the Western civilization course would need to be increased from seven sections to 40 and would need to be taught in one semester rather than two. Currently, the course is split over two semesters with one semester covering ancient times to the year 1700, and the second semester covering the year 1700 to the present.

“We dubbed this program ‘from Plato to NATO,'” says Marion Deshmukh, an associate professor of history and the project coordinator. “With 40 sections of the course, we could have had the faculty do everything, but we would have gutted out the graduate program, and we could have packed 500 students into a lecture hall.” Instead, the department chose an innovative multimedia approach that would maintain a small class size of no more than 25 students, with active learning exercises to encourage student interaction with the faculty.

The Western civilization course will be built around a series of 13 lectures. Over the summer, professors will tape lectures based on their area of expertise, with the help of GMU-TV. The professors will use visuals incorporating more than 1,000 images, as well as PowerPoint presentations. The students can tape the lectures, which will be shown on cable television, buy the tapes in the bookstore, or watch them in the library before attending their weekly discussion sessions taught by the History and Art History Department. Students will also use WebCT, an online course management system.

The full story will appear in the September issue of the Mason Gazette.

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