Learning at Harrisburg University
The goal of learning at Harrisburg University is to obtain the relevant knowledge, competence, and experiences to best be prepared for an enriching career. Learning is, therefore, a multi-faceted activity that occurs throughout and across the college experience; it integrates both academic learning (acquiring and applying new knowledge) and student development (learning about oneself).
Competency-based learning outcomes with programs that are intentionally designed to be engaging, integrative, and experiential are emphasized. There are four inter-dependent program characteristics that help define the Harrisburg University experience:
- Highly Available: The University provides learning experiences to meet the student’s needs. This is demonstrated through one or more team-taught general education courses, the use of technology inside and outside of the classroom, and the non-curricular or cocurricular learning opportunities available.
- Highly Collaborative: The student develops knowledge and skills through shared experience, as opposed to learning in isolation or in competition with each other. The faculty is responsible for creating learning environments based upon the premise that knowledge can be gained from everyone. The student has the advantage of learning from the minds and experiences of classmates, business mentors, or future employers.
- Highly Experiential: The University deliberately ensures that learning is highly linked to both practical and professional experience. This represents a shift from one-way (faculty to student), text-heavy content delivery to a more robust learning model that deliberately values experience, both inside and outside the classroom. Experience is emphasized through Projects I and II for undergraduates and industry-related internships and experiences for the student.
- Highly Applied: The learning conversation focuses on the practical application of knowledge. The intention is to shift the question from “How do I remember this information?” to “How can I act on this information in order to create knowledge that is both useful and actionable?” In this way, learning becomes an exercise in both preparation for career and readiness for life.
Learning Assessment at Harrisburg University
Harrisburg University’s model for the assessment of student learning is structured to support learning goals. The goals of the programs and courses are clearly defined and are relevant to the mission of the University. Course syllabi establish specific learning objectives, articulate the instructor’s expectation of the student, and outline the standards against which the student’s learning will be measured. Learning assessment of coursework and experiential learning is creative, in that it goes beyond instructor-driven evaluation through examinations and papers in most cases, and is done both inside and outside the classroom by faculty, business and academic professionals. Further, student learning around each of the University competencies is a focus of assessment activities. Student learning assessment is anchored in the use of ePortfolios throughout the student’s program of study. The University is committed to improve its program offerings by comparing student assessment outcomes to the program and course goals.
Competencies and ePortfolio
Competency-Driven and Across-the-Curricula: A hallmark of the Harrisburg University experience is competency-driven education. The student will be expected to demonstrate mastery of eight university-wide competencies:
- Civic Engagement
Definition: Civic engagement is “working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community through both political and non-political processes.” (Excerpted from Civic Responsibility and Higher Education, edited by Thomas Ehrlich, published by Oryx Press, 2000, Preface, page vi.). In addition, civic engagement is participation in personal and public activities that are both life enriching and socially beneficial to the community.
- Written and Oral Communication
Definition: Written communication is the development and expression of ideas in writing. It involves writing in a variety of styles, genres, and technologies and mixing text, data, and images. Written communication abilities develop through repeated writing experiences across the disciplines.
- Critical Thinking
Definition: Critical thinking is the use of deliberative thought, characterized by the comprehensive exploration of topics, ideas, artifacts, or events before accepting or formulating an opinion or conclusion. Using reason and experience to form informed judgments, the critical thinker combines or synthesizes existing ideas, images, or expertise in original ways; and reacts to experience in imaginative ways, characterized by innovation, divergent thinking, and risk-taking. The critical thinker solves problems by designing, evaluating, and implementing a strategy to answer an open-ended question or achieve a desired goal. Quantitative Literacy (QL) – also known as Numeracy or Quantitative Reasoning (QR) – is a “habit of mind,” competency, and comfort in working with numerical data. Individuals with strong QL skills possess the ability to reason and solve quantitative problems from a wide array of authentic contexts and everyday life situations. They understand and can create sophisticated arguments supported by quantitative evidence and they can clearly communicate those arguments in a variety of formats (using words, tables, graphs, mathematical equations, etc., as appropriate).
Definition: Entrepreneurship is the process of organizing tangible and intangible resources in order to pursue opportunities that generate value, meet an identified need, or satisfy an organizational or societal market (such as the creation of a business, organization, or laboratory). At Harrisburg University, entrepreneurship represents a “frame of mind” demonstrated by both thinking and action.
- Ethical Awareness and Reasoning
Definition: Ethical decision making actualizes the realization and inclusion of the moral dimension for personal decision-making. “Reasoning about right and wrong human conduct requires students to be able to 1) assess their own ethical values and the social context of problems, 2) recognize ethical issues in a variety of settings, 3) think about how different ethical perspectives might be applied to ethical dilemmas, and 4) consider the ramifications of alternative actions.” Ethical self-identity evolves both on individual and organizational (e.g., corporate) levels.
* Source: AAC&U / VALUE rubric
- Global Awareness Rubric
Definition: Global awareness is knowledge of the world citizenry’s common interests in community, social, political, information, and financial systems of different scales; appreciation and respect for diversity, culture, and environment; and the interactions and impacts of individuals, global systems, and cultures.
- Information Literacy Rubric
Definition: Information literacy encompasses knowledge and familiarity with different media types, efficient data storage, retrieval methods, and research techniques. For the purposes of this rubric, “information” is not only text-based information, but also includes images, sounds, data sets, databases, artifacts, numerical and statistical data.
- Teamwork and Collaboration Rubric
Definition: Teamwork and Collaboration encompass the ability to work effectively with others in a concerted effort toward a common goal. “Behaviors under the control of individual team members” include efforts put into team tasks, manner of interacting with others on the team, and the quantity and quality of contributions to team discussions.
* Source: AAC&U / VALUE rubric
Regardless of the student’s program of study, employers and community leaders desire these competencies; they also serve the broader purpose of preparation for life and citizenship.
ePortfolio Requirement: Harrisburg University defines an ePortfolio as an organized, mediarich collection of documents that allows the student to demonstrate competence to a multitude of audiences. The ePortfolio will be central in how the student organizes, develops, and reflects upon learning. It will also be a lever for assisting the way in which faculty develop curricula, view teaching, and deliver content. Ultimately, the ePortfolio will be a coalescing force for making tangible and visible the University-wide competency program while serving as a key tool in evaluating student success.
Structure of the Program
The undergraduate program structure is designed to provide the student with basic foundation knowledge, program specific knowledge, opportunities to apply new knowledge, and the flexibility to explore interesting topics. All undergraduate degree programs have the same five structural elements: 1) Foundation courses, 2) General Education courses, 3) Program Requirement courses, 4) Experiential courses, and 5) Elective courses. The number of semester hours covered by the structural elements adds up to the total of 120 semester hours needed for graduation. Each structural element has specific semester hour and course requirements associated with it. Generally, the breakdown of semester hours by structural element is 18 semester hours in Foundation courses, 30 semester hours in General Education courses, 40 – 50 semester hours in Program Requirement courses, 13 semester hours in Experiential courses, and 9 – 19 semester hours in Electives.
The purpose of the Foundation courses is to provide the student with mathematics and communication knowledge and skills that will be used throughout the selected program of study. More importantly, mastery of foundational knowledge and skill is required for success in science and technology careers. Every student must complete 9 semester hours of mathematics courses: MATH 120 College Algebra, MATH 280 Introductory Statistics, and MATH 220 Calculus I (MATH 210 Discrete Mathematics I for the CISC, GSTC, and IMED program student). The student completing the Analytics program must satisfy the mathematics requirements by completing MATH 220 Calculus I, MATH 210 Discrete Mathematics I, and MATH 280 Introductory Statistics. MATH 081 Prealgebra may not be used to satisfy any portion of this requirement because it is a developmental course. The course is included in the student’s semester course load, which determines the student’s enrollment status. The final grade earned is calculated in the student’s term and cumulative grade point averages. The credit value associated with the course is not applicable toward the minimum 120 semester hours needed for graduation. Additionally, every student must complete 9 semester hours of communication including the following topics: composition, speech, and advanced composition and technical writing.
The purpose of general education is to offer the undergraduate student a dynamic platform for both foundational and skill-based learning to prepare them for a well-rounded life during which they will make informed decisions, contribute to society, and become lifelong learners. General education is a degree requirement for each undergraduate student.
Given the sheer vastness of knowledge and the rate at which new knowledge is developed, the student typically cannot command mastery or deep expertise in the broad areas known as the sciences, social sciences, humanities, or applied knowledge domains such as entrepreneurship or leadership. The purpose of general education is not to produce experts. Instead, the goal is to integrate contributions from multiple fields to give the student more comprehensive explanations and understandings of the world. In essence, general education – and all academic work at the University, begins within a framework of applied and self-directed learning.
The Mind courses are cross-disciplinary, applied courses. The student is required to successfully complete at least 30 semester hours of general education, 24 of which must be the Mind courses.
Two 2-course sequences totaling 12 semester hours are part of the first-year program.
- GEND 102-103: The Creative Mind I and II
- GEND 112-113: The Scientific Mind I and II
Two other Mind courses are 6 semester hours and usually team-taught.
- GEND 201: The Civic Mind
- GEND 351: The Organizational Mind
The remaining 6 semester hours can be additional Mind courses or General Education (GEND) electives.
The student will complete 13 semester hours of experiential learning. The University is committed to preparing students for careers in science and technology fields. Part of what makes the degree program unique is an emphasis on experiential learning, which includes an internship, two projects, and seminar courses. By connecting the classroom, workplace, and research experiences within the program, the student can gain a range of marketable skills.
These skills are linked to the eight competencies at the heart of the University’s curriculum in addition to the learning goals within the student’s program of study. The experiential courses are expected to provide the student with an enhanced resume prior to graduation from the University.
Guidelines for Experiential Learning – Multiple Components in One Semester
In order for a student to be able to complete two experiential learning components in one semester, the student must comply with the following:
- Student must have a GPA of 3.0 or above.
- Student must not have an “I” or incomplete in any previous Experiential Learning component (Project or Internship).
- Student must not have previously failed any Experiential Learning component (Project or Internship).
Seminar Courses – The seminar courses integrate the student’s academic, personal, and professional development success. These courses provide the student with the support and skill development needed to complete experiential learning courses and achieve the university core competencies. Additionally, seminars facilitate the completion of a reflective ePortfolio that includes evidence of experiential and competency-based learning.
Projects – Each project challenges the student to identify, investigate and analyze a particular topic or problem in the program of study and concentration. A key objective is to apply skills, methods, and knowledge obtained in previously completed courses with independent thinking and research; the final product represents the successful and purposeful application of knowledge. Projects are undertaken with the close mentorship of a faculty member, and may involve a community partner. Projects can involve scientific-based research or laboratory experiences, needs analyses or development plans for external organizations, the development of software applications, or market studies and business proposals. The student develops a unique plan and contract and establishes individual learning goals in consultation with a member of the faculty.
Internships – Internships – An internship allows the student to apply classroom experiences to the workplace at an off-site placement, where ideas are tested and competencies and skills are developed. For one semester, the student interacts with professionals in an external organization to explore career options related to the student’s program of study. Each student is responsible for finding and completing an internship. The Office of Experiential Learning and the students’ Faculty Advisor provides guidance through the process of obtaining and completing the internship. A student is able to enhance post-graduation career prospects by integrating this external experience into the academic program.
The elective component of the curriculum provides the student opportunities: 1) to explore disciplines not included in the foundation, general education, and program requirements; 2) for study beyond the minimum requirements in the program discipline; or 3) to independently pursue an area of interest under the supervision of a faculty member. The number of elective semester hours required for graduation is specified by each program.
Outline of Baccalaureate Degree Program
The curriculum requires a minimum of 120 earned semester hours to fulfill the Bachelor of Science degree requirements. The courses are distributed in the following required areas: foundation, general education, experiential, program, and electives.
Foundation Courses 18 semester hours
General Education Courses 30 semester hours
Experiential Courses 13 semester hours
Electives 9 – 19 semester hours
Program Requirements 40 – 50 semester hours
Bachelor of Science Degree total of 120 semester hours