The Progressive Learning in Undergraduate Studies (PLUS) General Education Program at Northern Illinois University provides foundational skills and breadth of knowledge through study in a broad variety of disciplines. Together with course work in the major and co-curricular experiences, general education provides students with opportunities to develop competencies in NIU’s baccalaureate student learning outcomes. The baccalaureate experience at Northern Illinois University challenges students to think critically, create, and communicate by participating in a progressive, engaged learning environment. Major area studies, general education, and co-curricular experiences prepare students to become productive members of a culturally and globally diverse society, and lifelong learners ready to meet the challenges of a dynamic career. See: “The Baccalaureate Experience” for a listing of the baccalaureate outcomes.
The PLUS General Education Program consists of two types of course work.
First, the Foundational Studies courses develop the competencies necessary to succeed academically and personally. They emphasize students’ abilities to: (1) think critically and creatively; (2) reason quantitatively and qualitatively; (3) communicate clearly and effectively; and (4) work collaboratively across disciplines.
Second, Knowledge Domain courses continue to develop foundational competencies, as well as assure exposure to a broad array of ideas, disciplines, and ways of obtaining and interpreting information. The three knowledge domains are Creativity and Critical Analysis, Society and Culture, and Nature and Technology. Knowledge Domain courses emphasize students’ abilities to: (1) connect human life to the natural world; (2) understand and respect diverse cultures; (3) integrate knowledge of global interconnections; and (4) synthesize knowledge and skills.
Knowledge Domain requirements may optionally be fulfilled by a set of PLUS Pathways courses. A Pathway is a body of coursework drawn from all three Knowledge Domains that examines a theme from different disciplinary perspectives. The Pathways take the disciplinary breadth inherent in the Knowledge Domain component of general education, and comprise courses that address a set of common questions. The purpose of a Pathway is to provide coherence and relevance to general education, and allow students to choose a general education experience that aligns with their interests and goals. Pathways will further enhance the level of content integration and will give students and instructors greater opportunities to develop the skill of collaborating effectively across disciplines.
Through Foundational Studies, students will begin to develop the fundamental skills of written communication, oral communication, and numeracy, all of which are required for academic, professional, and personal success. Students will learn to: (1) write skillfully with a thorough awareness of context, audience, and purpose; (2) communicate effectively through speaking, presenting, and debating, with an awareness of the specific practices in different disciplines; (3) perform basic numerical computations, display facility with using formal and quantitative reasoning analysis and problem solving, and interpret mathematical models and statistical information; and (4) work collaboratively with peers from different backgrounds.
The Foundational Studies general education requirements consist of two courses in Writing Composition, one course in Oral Communication, and one course in Quantitative Literacy. Foundational Studies courses do not count toward general education Knowledge Domain requirements.
All students must satisfy the Foundational Studies requirements in Writing Composition, Oral Communication, and Quantitative Literacy for 3-12 semester hours of general education credit.
The requirements in the Foundational Studies can be met by completing the designated course, by transfer credit, by passing a competency examination, or, for some Foundation Studies, through credit by examination. (See “Credit by Examination.”) Although passing a competency examination fulfills the requirement for the Foundational Studies, it does not result in the awarding of NIU course credit (i.e., it reduces the required number of general education hours but does not reduce the number of hours required for a degree.) Students with strong academic credentials are encouraged to attempt the competency examinations. Information on competency examinations is available from the Office of Testing Services.
The specific ways to satisfy the Foundational Studies requirements are listed below.