Mar 28, 2023
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.
Foundational Studies Writing Requirements (0-6)
- 100-level Rhetoric and Composition (0-3 semester hours). Writing and revising argumentative and analytical essays. This requirement can be satisfied by:
- Obtaining a grade of C or better in ENGL 103 or an equivalent course, or
- Obtaining equivalent transfer credit, or
- Passing the Writing Composition Foundational Studies Competency Examination, or
- Obtaining credit for ENGL 103 through examination by credit (Advanced Placement).
- 200-level Writing in the Domains (3 semester hours). Writing and revising argumentative and analytical essays; analyze, evaluate, and synthesize material from a variety of sources; incorporate domain-appropriate writing and rhetorical styles as well as documentation styles. This requirement can be satisfied by:
- Obtaining a grade of C or better in ENGL 203, ENGL 204, or an equivalent course, or
- Obtaining equivalent transfer credit.
Foundational Studies Oral Communication Requirements (0-3)
This requirement can be satisfied by:
- Passing COMS 100, or an equivalent course, or
- Obtaining equivalent transfer credit, or
- Passing the Oral Communication Foundational Studies Competency Examination.
Foundational Studies Quantitative Literacy Requirement (0-3)
This requirement can be satisfied by:
- passing MATH 101 or equivalent course, or
- obtaining a C or better in MATH 155, MATH 201, MATH 206, MATH 210, MATH 211, or MATH 229, or an equivalent course,
- obtaining credit for one of the mathematics courses listed above, except MATH 101, through credit by examination (Advanced Placement), or
- obtaining a grade of C or better in STAT 208, STAT 350, or ISYE 335; and obtaining
- a grade of C or better in MATH 110, or
- an ACT mathematics score of at least 24, or
- an SAT mathematics score of at least 560, or
- an A- or B-level placement on the mathematics placement examination
- obtaining equivalent transfer credit, or
- passing the Mathematics Competency Examination.
Foundational Studies Course Descriptions
Knowledge Domain Requirements and Course Descriptions
There is a required minimum of 21 semester hours in the three General Education Knowledge Domains. The three General Education Knowledge Domains are areas of human endeavor (Creativity and Critical Analysis; Nature and Technology; Society and Culture) and will: (1) help students attain a sound liberal education and acquire sufficient general knowledge and intellectual versatility to become productive and resourceful members of society, (2) explore human thought and relations in order to understand and respect cultural heritage, (3) provide an understanding of the scientific method and the application of scientific facts and principles pertaining to the natural and technological worlds, and (4) examine the role of knowledge in promoting human welfare.
The required minimum of 21 semester hours in Knowledge Domain studies cannot include more than two courses in any one department. (A course with an affiliated laboratory course shall be counted as a single course.)
A maximum of two approved general education courses in the student’s major department may be used to fulfill general education requirements. (A course with an affiliated laboratory course shall be counted as a single course.)
The 21 general education semester hours required in the three Knowledge Domains can be earned by: (1) successful completion of designated courses; (2) general education credit articulation; (3) transfer articulation; or (4) credit by examination.
Foundational Studies courses do not count toward general education Knowledge Domain requirements. Any single course cannot count towards fulfilling more than one Knowledge Domain requirement.
Creativity and Critical Analysis (a minimum of 6 semester hours)
Courses in Creativity and Critical Analysis will challenge students to develop the skills involved in critical reflection and creative expression. Students will: (1) become acquainted with methods for analyzing primary sources and critically evaluating the ideas, events, traditions, and belief systems that have shaped human experience and expression; (2) explore fundamental modes of aesthetic and creative expression; and (3) understand and evaluate the diversity of humanity’s most notable cultural achievements from artistic, historical, linguistic, literary, and philosophical perspectives.
Nature and Technology (a minimum of 6 semester hours)
Courses in Nature and Technology will develop students’ understanding of the role of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and their relevance to societal issues. This domain encompasses human activities through which we observe, measure, model, and interpret the natural world and physical universe. Courses will explore the process of scientific discovery and how the resulting knowledge is applied to understand technological and societal change. Students will: (1) be able to articulate society’s connections to, and responsibility towards, the natural world; and (2) learn to apply the scientific method, including assessing empirical data, investigating the predictions of existing theories, and developing experimentally testable hypotheses.
Society and Culture (a minimum of 6 semester hours)
Courses in Society and Culture will develop understanding of the methods of inquiry used to study humanity, from individual behavior to how people organize and govern nations, societies, and cultures. Students will: (1) learn the role, principles, and methods of social and behavioral science in understanding individual and collective behavior in society; (2) hone the reasoning skills required to understand theories of human behavior and social phenomena; and (3) develop the ability to understand and evaluate the communication of results in the social and behavioral sciences.
Elective from any Knowledge Domain (1 course, a minimum of 3 semester hours)
Knowledge Domain Course Descriptions
Creativity and Critical Analysis Course Descriptions
Nature and Technology Course Descriptions
Society and Culture Course Descriptions
- AHRS 200 - Disability in Society Credits: 3
- ANTH 120 - Anthropology and Human Diversity Credits: 3
- ANTH 220 - Introduction to Cultural Anthropology Credits: 3
- ANTH 230 - Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology Credits: 3
- ARTE 109 - Strategic Visual Thinking Credits: 3
- ARTH 310 - Studies in Ancient and Middle-Eastern Art Credits: 3
- ARTH 320 - Studies in Medieval Art Credits: 3
- ARTH 330 - Studies in Early Modern European Art Credits: 3
- ARTH 360 - Studies in Design Credits: 3
- ARTH 370 - Studies in Asian Art Credits: 3
- ARTH 380 - Studies in African, Oceanian, Native American, Pre-Columbian Art, and Latin-American Art Credits: 3
- BKST 200 - Racism in American Culture and Society Credits: 3
- BKST 211 - Educating for Cultural Sensitivity Credits: 3
- BKST 219 - Introduction to African Studies Credits: 3
- CLCE 100 - Community Leadership and Civic Engagement Credits: 3
- COMS 240 - Rhetoric of Interpersonal Communication Credits: 3
- COMS 410 - Communication and Gender Credits: 3
- ECON 160 - Contemporary Economic Issues Credits: 3
- ECON 260 - Principles of Microeconomics Credits: 3
- ECON 261 - Principles of Macroeconomics Credits: 3
- EPFE 201 - Education as an Agent for Change Credits: 3
- EPFE 355 - Sociology of Schooling Credits: 3
- FCNS 207 - The Consumer Credits: 3
- FCNS 230 - Child Development Credits: 3
- FCNS 280 - Human Development, the Family, and Society Credits: 3
- FCNS 406 - Global Food and Nutrition Issues Credits: 3
- GEOG 202 - World Regional Geography Credits: 3
- GEOG 204 - Geography of Economic Activities Credits: 3
- HIST 381 - Colonial Latin America Credits: 3
- HIST 382 - Modern Latin America Credits: 3
- KNPE 111 - Sport: Culture and Society Credits: 3
- LGBT 350 - Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies Credits: 3
- PHHE 201 - Social and Individual Patterns of Drug Use Credits: 3
- PHHE 206 - Contemporary Health Concepts Credits: 3
- PHHE 295 - Introduction to Public Health Credits: 3
- POLS 100 - American Government and Politics Credits: 3
- POLS 210 - Introduction to Law and Courts Credits: 3
- POLS 220 - Introduction to Public Policy Credits: 3
- POLS 260 - Introduction to Comparative Politics Credits: 3
- POLS 285 - Introduction to International Relations Credits: 3
- PSPA 220X - Introduction to Public Policy Credits: 3
- PSYC 102 - Introduction to Psychology Credits: 3
- PSYC 225 - Lifespan Development: Childhood Through Adulthood Credits: 3
- PSYC 245 - Thinking Credits: 3
- SEAS 225 - Southeast Asia: Crossroads of the World Credits: 3
- SOCI 170 - Introduction to Sociology Credits: 3
- SOCI 250 - Contemporary Social Institutions Credits: 3
- SOCI 260 - Introduction to Social Psychology Credits: 3
- SOCI 270 - Social Problems Credits: 3
- WGST 101 - Women, Sex, and Gender Today Credits: 3
- WGST 201 - Gender and Justice in Global Perspectives Credits: 3
Knowledge Domain requirements may optionally be fulfilled by a set of PLUS Pathways courses. A Pathway is a body of course work drawn from all three Knowledge Domains that examines a theme from different disciplinary perspectives. Courses in a Pathway coalesce around a set of large questions that are central to the Pathway theme. Each course addresses one or more of these questions. The Foundational Studies courses cannot be counted towards a Pathway.
The Pathways will be available starting with the 2016-17 Undergraduate Catalog.