If passed, a new proposal will increase the amount of Duke courses students must take to graduate.
The proposal, which was presented to the Arts and Sciences Council at their Thursday meeting, would require students to take 24 Duke courses in order to graduate. Under the current policy, 17 of a student’s 34 credits must be taught by Duke faculty—the other 17 may come from transfer courses, study abroad courses, Advanced Placement credit or interinstitutional credit. The proposal aims to increase the number of required Duke courses, as well as to create a policy regarding online courses for credit.
“It’s not how many non-Duke courses should students be allowed to take, but really, how many Duke courses constitute a Duke degree? ” said Suzanne Shanahan, chair of the Curriculum Committee and acting director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics. “What we want to do is set a floor, not a ceiling.”
Courses taught by Duke professors not only include courses taught on the Durham campus, but also courses taken at the Marine Lab in Beaufort, courses taken as part of a “Duke-In” study abroad program and courses taken at Duke Kunshan University or at any future international campus.
The proposal would continue to allow students to use up to two pre-matriculation courses, two non-study abroad transfer courses and 10 study-abroad transfer courses to count for credit towards graduating.
But the proposal would change the number of credits a student could use from the interinstitutional agreement between Duke and the University of North Carolina system. Currently, students may take one course each semester at UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro, North Carolina Central University or North Carolina State University, so long as the course is not being offered at Duke in the same academic year. The proposal aims to limit the number of credits a student may earn from this agreement to four.
The proposal also creates an avenue for students to receive credit for online courses. It would allow students to take one online course each semester, whether it is a Duke course or a course from another accredited university.
The concept of online courses for credit was raised by the Council last Spring, when the University signed a contract with Internet education provider 2U. The Council voted down a proposal to accept online classes for credit, though many members said at the time that they took issue with the nature of the already-signed contract rather than with the concept of online courses themselves.
“It’s an issue of pedagogy and course delivery format, it’s not a question of having to have separate standards for approval,” said Ingeborg Walther, associate dean of curriculum and course development, referring to the conversation surrounding accepting online classes for credit.
Although a number of faculty members expressed support for the ideas in the proposal, some raised concerns.
“My sense is that students try to manage financially through using AP credits, going on study abroad that’s cheaper than Duke requirements or taking summer classes at home,” said Diane Nelson, associate professor of cultural anthropology.
Shanahan acknowledged that the committee had not spent much time considering financial ramifications of the proposal.
Lee Willard, associate vice provost for undergraduate education and senior associate dean for academic planning, asked how the proposal might affect graduating with honors.
“The important thing here is not to focus on extreme outliers,” said Charles Becker, associate chair of the economics department, noting that very few students take high numbers of courses from non-Duke professors. “To have the rules of the curriculum determined by a few outliers would be a mistake.”
For the proposal to become policy, a vote by the Council is required. The Council will discuss the proposal again at its February meeting, chairman Thomas Robisheaux said.
“You can see when you open this box how many interesting things come out,” Robisheaux noted.
In other business
The council unanimously voted to approve a major for Brazilian and Global Portuguese Studies within the Romance Studies department.
The department currently offers a number of Portuguese language and literature classes, but the creation of a major will introduce several new courses. No additional funding will be needed.