Frequently Asked Questions: The Requirements
Q: What are the requirements I need to fulfill under the new Common Curriculum Topics of Inquiry system?
A: The Topic of Inquiry guidelines are as follows:
1. Students must pass at least a total of 21 credits in the Topics of Inquiry.
2. Students must pass at least three credits of coursework in each of six Topics of Inquiry. Topics of Inquiry courses may be counted toward the major.
3. The courses fulfilling the Topics of Inquiry must represent at least six different subjects as designated by subject code (e.g., ANTH or WGSS) and at least one course must be passed in each Topic of Inquiry (some courses fulfill two). Exceptions to this rule are subject heading designations that group interdisciplinary studies through cross-listing, such as LLAS, AFRA, WGSS, AAAS, URBN, ENVS, EVST, HRTS, UNIV, and INTD. Other current and future interdisciplinary groups would also apply.
4. TOI courses may only have TOI courses as prerequisites and corequisites, with three exceptions: (a) Honors courses may require Honors student status, and (b) TOI-6 courses and Writing Competency courses may have prerequisites and corequisites that are not Common Curriculum courses.
5. Students must take at least three Common Curriculum courses in one Focus Area. Topics of Inquiry are by default eligible to serve as a Focus Area, but other Focus Areas may be proposed by a group of faculty and approved by CCC+ to fulfill this requirement. For example, faculty may design a Theme that spans multiple disciplines. Themes are recommended but not required.
6. To satisfy the Focus requirement, a student must fulfill at least three courses in a single Topic of Inquiry or all requirements of at least one Theme.
7. Up to three credits of repeatable one-credit courses may be included in the Topics of Inquiry. No more than six credits with the UNIV or INTD prefix may be elected by any student to meet the Common Curriculum Requirements.
8. Students must complete at least one laboratory course in TOI-6 (see TOI-6 for definition of laboratory class). This does not restrict courses outside TOI-6 from having laboratories, nor does it limit TOI-6 courses to be only laboratory courses.
Q: Does the new curriculum require more credit hours to complete than the previous system?
A: No. The task force resolved to make the new Topic of Inquiry (TOI) courses require no more credit hours to complete than the old Content Area (CA) courses. Both fulfill the same broad goal of what is sometimes called a distributive curriculum, to ensure that students learn from a robust variety of perspectives and subject areas across the university. Thus, exactly as with CAs in the old model, each student is explicitly required to complete at least 21 credit hours in TOI courses and with at least six distinct subject area codes represented. Beyond these TOIs total-credit requirements, credit hour requirements for competencies (W, Q, & Second Language) remain unchanged, resulting in a new system that does not require more credit hours of education than the legacy system.
Additional Information of Note:
- By retaining the same minimum total-credit requirements of the legacy system, we remain in compliance with NECHE accreditation standards for the entire university.
- While the general University requirements for the Common Curriculum remain the same, individual schools and colleges (e.g. CLAS, CAHNR, etc) may still decide to require their students to take additional or specific credits in a particular area. For instance, under the previous system, CLAS requires students to take additional credits in CA, Q and a Second Language beyond the general University-required credits.
Q: Are the competencies changing as well?
A: No. The Content Areas (CAs) have been revised into Topics of Inquiry (TOIs), but the Quantitative (Q), Writing (W), and Second Language (SL) competencies are all remaining the same.*
- All students must pass two Q courses, which may also satisfy TOI requirements. One Q course must be from Mathematics or Statistics.
- All students must take either ENGL 1007, 1010, 1011, or 2011. Students with Advanced Placement English scores of 4 or 5 are exempted from the ENGL 1007/1010/1011/2011 requirement. Additionally, all students must take two writing-intensive courses, one of which must be approved for the student’s major. These courses may also satisfy other TOI requirements. A writing-intensive course approved for the student’s major does not have any credit-hour restriction, but it is to be at the 2000+level.
- Students meet the minimum requirement if admitted to the University having passed the third-year level of a single second language in high school, or the equivalent. When the years of study have been split between high school and earlier grades, the requirement is met if students have successfully completed the third-year high school-level course. With anything less than that, students must pass the second course in the first-year sequence of college level study.
*Please note that some schools and colleges require additional credits in these competencies beyond the general University requirements. Please check with an advisor in your school or college to see if you need additional credits.
Q: Is “double-dipping” and “triple-dipping” still allowed?
A: Yes. Given the new structure that requires one course in each of the six TOIs (breadth) plus three courses in one area (depth), this technically adds up to 24 credits. However, the new system only requires 21 credits in the TOIs, which automatically allows for a double-dip.
Under the new guidelines, any course may be designated to fulfills up to two TOIs, but not more. Courses may also fulfill one or more competencies, though. For example, then, a student could potentially count one course as TOI-2, TOI-4, and W.
Remember, however, that courses fulfilling the TOIs must still represent at least six different subjects as designated by subject code (e.g., ANTH or WGSS) and at least one course must be passed in each TOI. Exceptions to this rule are subject heading designations that group interdisciplinary studies through cross-listing, such as LLAS, AFRA, WGSS, AAAS, URBN, ENVS, EVST, HRTS, UNIV, and INTD. Other current and future interdisciplinary groups would also apply.
Q: Why do the Topic of Inquiry courses include a Focus requirement? Isn’t that what a student’s Major is for?
A: While it is true that each major curriculum provides one important type of educational focus, our research on student sentiment indicated that a lack of focus in the general education system itself has been a missed opportunity at UConn. Students wanted a way to make connections across their general education courses, but instead they typically felt that course selection was an exercise in disconnected “box-checking.”
Our first task force spent a considerable amount of time reviewing educational best-practices, with research showing that “strands” or “pathways” models that make connections across core courses are a recognized high-impact practice. After considering several more-or-less restrictive implementation models, the second task force arrived at the current more flexible model. At minimum, this Focus requirement will spur a discussion among students and advisors about how to get more meaning out of the core curriculum by choosing a TOI to explore in just a bit greater depth.
More importantly, the Theme format provides an opportunity for faculty across disciplines to curate an intensely meaningful pathway through the core curriculum. This is exactly that type of engagement that students expressed a desire for, that research shows works, and that has been designed with sufficient flexibility for a flagship public university.
Frequently Asked Questions: Themes
Q: How does the Focus Area work? What is the difference between a Focus Area and a Theme?
A: The "depth" part of the Common Curriculum can be satisfied in two way:
- Students can take any 9 credits in one TOI to complete a Focus Area, OR
- Students may complete a faculty-developed Theme. Themes include courses from more than one TOI that center around a specific topic, ability, or perspective. Themes may have 3-7 courses in them, although students are only required to pass 9 credits worth of work in them.
In the case of both a Focus Area and Theme, we highly encourage students to pursue an area of depth outside their comfort zone. For instance, if you are a STEM major, choose an area other than TOI-6 for your Focus Area or Theme. Remember that the Common Curriculum is designed to allow you to build skills in other areas that will help you in your career and beyond.
*Please note that students cannot create their own Theme. Themes can be developed and submitted for CCC+ approval by faculty on behalf of any school, college, department, unit, or campus. See the Themes page for forms and guidelines on submitting a Theme for CCC+ review and approval.
Q: If I choose to do a Theme for my Common Curriculum focus area requirement, will it appear on my transcript?
A: No. The name of the Theme will not appear on your transcript anywhere.
Q: How is a Theme different than a minor? Can I use the course in a Theme toward a Minor?
A: There are two major differences between a Minor and a Theme:
- Minors consist of 12-18 credits of 2000+ level course work.
- Themes only require 9 credits and can include course work at the 1000 level.
If a course or courses in your chosen Theme are at the 2000+ level and they fulfill an established Minor, you can count your Theme course(s) toward your Minor. In some cases, your course work in a Theme may lead you to discover a Minor that you want to pursue.
Frequently Asked Questions: The Transition
Q: When does the Common Curriculum go live, and what happens to the current General Education system then?
A: The new Common Curriculum officially goes live in Fall 2025! That being said, most structures and courses will be in place by Spring 2025 in time for New Student Orientation and registration.
The outgoing General Education Content Area system will remain in place for now, but it will sunset over the next several years. This means that UConn will operate two different systems simultaneously for a while until most students who came in under the outgoing system have graduated. After this, the old system will be phased out.
Q: How do I transition my course from Content Areas (CAs) to Topics of Inquiry (TOIs)?
A: On April 3rd, 2023, all departments and units received a spreadsheet that lists all their courses approved for CAs as of the April University Senate meeting. For each course, the department or unit is asked to choose one of the following options:
No Transition – The course is not moving to a TOI at this time. It can still be moved in the future using a CAR form. If the course is never transitioned to a TOI, it will cease to count toward any General Education or Common Curriculum requirements once the legacy General Education system is phased out.
Direct Transition – The course will be considered for the TOIs indicated on the spreadsheet. Courses considered for direct transition may change slightly but not enough to require catalog copy revision. In short, the course will largely transition as-is. A standard syllabus for each course should be included in the packet returned to the CCC+.
*Please note that all sections of the same course should have the same Learning Objectives, including learning objectives that address their Common Curriculum content. Please see the individual TOI pages for criteria and sample learning objectives.
Transition w/Revisions (CAR Needed) – The course is changing significantly enough to require new catalog copy (i.e. a change in title, description, number, or prereqs). This course should still be reported on the spreadsheet, but a Curricular Action Request (CAR) form will be needed to finalize the changes.
Spreadsheets are due along with all related syllabi on November 1, 2023 to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your department or unit has not yet contacted you about transitioning your course, please touch base with them to find out where they are in the review process at this time.
Q: How many Topics of Inquiry and Competencies can my course be approved for?
A: Courses in the Common Curriculum are limited to two Topics of Inquiry (TOI), but they can also carry a W, a Q, or both. It should be noted, however, that the move from General Education to the Common Curriculum changes Environmental Literacy from a separate entity to a TOI, so any courses that currently hold two Content Areas plus an E will need to make a decision about what areas to focus on when they transition to TOIs.
Q: My Content Area course is approved for the Intensive Session. Does that approval carry over to the TOI version?
A: No. General Education courses under the outgoing system currently require special approval to be offered in Intensive Sessions (IS) of 4 weeks or less (mainly Winter & May terms). The same will be true of Common Curriculum courses, but current approvals of courses in their Gen Ed versions will NOT carry over for TOIs.
To have your Common Curriculum version of a course considered for offering in IS before November 1, 2023, please make sure that the person in your department or unit who is completing the Common Curriculum Course Migration Spreadsheet has a copy of the condensed IS version of your syllabus, as this will need to be included with the course packet they return to the CCC+. After November 1, a separate form will be required to request approval for offering in the IS.
To find out if your outgoing General Education Content Area course is currently approved for offering in IS, please visit GEOC's Approved Gen Ed Courses page. Again, however, please remember that this approval will not roll over to the TOI version of the course. If the course is currently approved for offering in IS and you do not request approval for it under the TOIs, that approval will be withdrawn after Summer 2025. You can still choose to have the course considered at a later date using our usual approval process.
Q: This seems like a big job. How are we going to get all this done?
A: The implementation of the new Common Curriculum is a whole-university effort that will rely on the help and input of faculty, advisors, staff, and students across multiple departments, schools, colleges, and campuses. Moreover, the Provost's Office has pledged financial support and resources to ensure the success of this program.
Things that you can do to help:
- Commit to thinking outside the box and being creative.
- Break down silos and work with others.
- Volunteer and be supportive of transition efforts.
- In short, do all of the things we ask our students to do!