General Education: Does it Really Matter?
By Tonya Troka, M.A., Program Director, General Education
“Does general education really matter?” “Why do I have to take all of these courses that aren’t related to my major?” These are questions I hear all the time from students. They are trying to understand why they can’t cut to the chase and start, say, their health care courses. General Education matters, let me explain why.
A recent Time magazine article indicated that the reason why new college grads aren’t getting hired isn’t due to their lack of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills. Employers are really looking for candidates who have a strong set of soft skills. According to the recruitment and staffing agency Adecco, 44 percent of senior executives in the United States cited soft skills as the biggest gap in workforce skills they find. The soft skills indicated in that survey included communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration.
Time’s article also claims that some of the skills employers are looking for are lifelong habits that can’t necessarily be taught. I, however, disagree. Based on the General Education curriculum we have developed at Colorado Technical University, we are teaching these skills to our students. That means our graduates have the ability to use what they have learned throughout their General Education courses to not only land that job, but also to be successful in the future.
The Undergraduate University Learning Outcomes at Colorado Technical University are considered our General Education requirements. These outcomes include some of the following skills:
- Effective oral and written communication
- Quantitative literacy
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Scientific and technological literacy
- The ability to recognize and acknowledge diverse perspectives
- The ability to collaborate and communicate with others
- Ethical decision-making
- Information literacy
Using our Professional Communications course as an example, students learn at least five of the eight skills listed here and which employers are actively seeking, from critical thinking and problem solving to, obviously, effective oral and written communication. All of that in just one course. We believe General Education matters, and mastering the soft skills that are gained from this critical part of a student’s program can help students as they enter or progress through their career.
Tonya Troka, M.A., is an Ed.D. candidate and has worked for CTU in a variety of roles since 2004. She is currently the program director of General Education. Learn more about Tonya on LinkedIn.
Image Credit: Flickr/John Walker