KU: Time will tell if strategic plan successful - KCTV5

KU: Time will tell if strategic plan successful

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- The University of Kansas has begun implementing a new strategic plan designed to improve its standing among research universities, but the results likely won't be known for years, Provost Jeff Vitter said.

One of the first steps in the strategic plan, called "Bold Aspirations," was to create a core curriculum for undergraduates to be in place by the fall of 2013.

A committee is determining the exact requirements for the new curriculum but the plan is to greatly reduce the number of general-education requirements, and orient those classes around six specific educational goals, Vitter told a local media publication.

"There was never a direct connection between `Here's what we're trying to achieve in the learning process' and `Here are the courses that will provide that,' " Vitter said.

The learning goals are "critical thinking and quantitative literacy," "communication," "breadth of knowledge," "culture and diversity," "social responsibility and ethics" and "integration and creativity."

The strategic plan, unveiled in September 2011, has already improved student recruitment, Vitter said. The size of the incoming freshman class grew by 5.3 percent, the first increase since 2008, and the class also had a record for average ACT scores.

The university also is trying to retain students, so the plan, which runs through 2017, includes goals of 90 percent freshman retention and a six-year graduation rate of 70 percent. The current rates are about 80 and 60 percent, respectively.

Vitter said it could take that entire time frame to achieve those goals, particularly the graduation rate, Vitter said.

"We may very well have put into place what will then lead to that six-year graduation rate getting up to 70 percent," Vitter said, "but it won't likely actually reach there for a few years."

Kansas has introduced several measures to help freshmen succeed, including a new online system to help students keep up with their classes, a common-book program and learning communities, in which students studying the same subjects live near each other in the same residence hall.

During this academic year, Vitter said, more focus will be placed on finding different ways to help students learn. That will include changing some classes from traditional lectures to classes that allow students to watch "lecture" videos online, then discuss during class time.

"Students actually will now come to class, because class is so valuable," Vitter said.

The university's Center for Teaching Excellence and Center for Online and Distance Learning will help train more faculty members to train for the new type of class.

Other efforts this year include forming a plan to increase research opportunities for doctoral students and working to form partnerships between corporations and faculty for research and potential jobs for students.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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