Riverland AA degree remains comprehensive

Published 9:45 am Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Terrence Leas, Riverland Comm. College

Riverland Community College begins its 70th academic year of classes on Aug. 23. With this milestone comes the knowledge and pride that as a college we have successfully educated thousands of students for transfer and career training. Our recent academic strategies ensure that we will continue that tradition of excellence in teaching and learning.

This fall, all Riverland students beginning an associate in arts degree will be required to complete fewer credits to earn their degree.

Terrence Leas

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Riverland’s AA degree is now a 60-credit transfer degree fulfilling the general education or the equivalent of the first two years of requirements for a bachelor’s degree. To earn the AA degree, students must complete 40 credits representing the entire Minnesota Transfer Curriculum along with 20 elective credits selected from courses numbered above 1,000 and at least one credit in physical education or health. The Minnesota Transfer Curriculum commits all public colleges and universities in Minnesota to a broad educational foundation that integrates a body of knowledge and skills with a study of contemporary concerns.

This degree offers a comprehensive menu of courses under the five broad disciplines of communication, natural sciences, mathematical/logical reasoning, history and the social and behavioral sciences, and humanities and fine arts.

Riverland launched three accreditation initiatives in the fall of 2006 to improve student learning. An important requirement for every academic institution in the assessment of student learning is demonstrating constant improvement of its curricula to ensure a better education.

First, Riverland integrated five core learning themes (or degree outcomes) into its entire curriculum to enhance student teaching and learning. Every student successfully completing a Riverland degree must possess core abilities in critical thinking, human diversity, global perspectives, ethical and civic responsibility, and people and the environment. These five themes provide Riverland graduates with expanded career opportunities because our university partners and potential employers value them.

Second, Riverland plans to improve curricula on one of its five core themes annually. Ninety percent of faculty members participate in that process by choosing areas for improvement and then reporting the results of their improvement efforts.

Third, Riverland faculty members are nearing the end of a two-year project to revise and update the master course outlines for every course the college offers. These curricular blueprints include specific learning outcomes or standards for every course. This documentation ensures students have the most updated information when making course selections and provides an advantage to a student transferring to another college or institution because the master course outlines clearly document these outcomes.

As an institution with three campuses and an active online learning environment, master course outlines ensure all instructors teach the same learning outcomes and academic goals college wide. Once the MCO project is completed, students will have access to a master course outline on our college website, www.riverland.edu, for each course they take.

These strategies provide our students with a blueprint for success and assure Riverland’s academic excellence well into the future.

Terrence Leas is the president of Riverland Community College. His column appears monthly.