Operating Procedures for Curricular Items

Original Policy Source APPM Section III Item 3
Policy Approval Authority University Council
Responsible Officer(s) Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies
Contact Person Ian Gawron igawron@niu.edu
Primary Audience Faculty
Date Submitted to Policy Library 05-29-2020
Status Active
Adoption Date 06-01-2020
Last Review Date 05-29-2020
Policy Category/Categories Faculty & Academics
Governance / Administration
  1. Degrees and Other Units of Instruction
    1. Process: Curricular materials must be approved by all pertinent faculty curricular bodies, beginning at the department level. Initiating departments must also do the following:
      1. Provide timely notice (generally considered to be four weeks) to other departments whose resources will be affected or whose course offerings may be duplicated by the changes so they may respond before the changes are forwarded to the college level.
      2. Obtain appropriate formal recommendation from the Academic Planning Council for additions or deletions, and seek formal response in regard to the level of resource commitment from the appropriate dean and the Provost for changes that require more resources. When materials are forwarded to college and university curriculum committees, it will be assumed that resource questions have been answered satisfactorily.
      3. Take cognizance of the 50-hour limitation on the number of semester hours within the major department that can be applied toward the fulfillment of the requirements for the B.A. and B.S. degrees. Proposals exceeding 50hours need to present supportive evidence that such an exception is best national practice.
      4. Provide catalog copy describing
        1. admission standards beyond those listed in the general university or college sections of the catalog;
        2. required courses and number of credit hours within the department and outside of the department;
        3. additional requirements such as examinations, research papers (senior papers, starred papers, etc.), theses or dissertations, artistic works or performances, or internships.
    2. For undergraduates, GPAs higher than 2.0 may be established for entry into a major or minor; however, retention in and graduation from such a major or minor may not exceed the university requirement of an overall GPA of at least 2.0. The exception is when a certification agency requires a GPA higher than 2.0, and the appropriate department may require higher standards to meet the licensure requirement. Departments may require a GPA higher than 2.0 in department major courses for purposes of retention and program completion. 
      Requests for exceptions to this rule other than those already in the catalog, will be directed to the Undergraduate Coordinating Council.
    3. To protect the interests of students, Northern Illinois University recognizes that in some undergraduate courses or programs, successful performance may require achievement in prerequisite or background courses at a level higher than that reported by a D. Such a prerequisite proposal shall be accompanied by a clear rationale.
    4. Specializations or emphases should not be proposed unless they are substantially different from those already listed in the catalog. These differences should be apparent from the catalog requirements.
    5. A new or altered unit of instruction may not be offered before it has been fully approved through the curricular process, including the Board of Trustees and Illinois Board of Higher Education when necessary.
  2. General Education (Approved by Undergraduate Coordinating Council, September 2, 1993)
    1. The following criteria will be considered by the General Education Committee when determining whether a course should be included as a general education offering:
      1. All departments submitting courses for consideration to be included for general education credit shall follow the format for Submission of Courses for General Education Credit specified by the Undergraduate Coordinating Council.
        All departments submitting courses for reconsideration to be included for general education credit shall follow the Resubmission of Courses for General Education Credit specified by the Undergraduate Coordinating Council.
      2. Courses should include not only descriptions of facts and theories but should engage students in their analysis and interpretation.
      3. Both breadth and depth of course coverage are desirable.
      4. As far as is feasible, general education courses should attempt to achieve gender balance in knowledge presented by incorporating female as well as male experiences and treating both experiences as authentic and significant.
      5. As far as is feasible, an attempt should be made to achieve ethnic minority balance in knowledge presented by incorporating Black, Hispanic, and other ethnic minority experiences and promoting recognition of ethnic minority achievements.
      6. Courses that are numbered 300 and above should possess certain additional characteristics. Suggested guidelines for these courses are:
        1. Full-time, regular faculty should be assigned to teach the courses.
        2. Classes should be relatively small (25-30).
        3. Course requirements should include a significant amount of writing.
      7. Course proposal must be accompanied by a statement describing how the course will be monitored to ensure that it continues to meet the requirements outlined above.
      8. Courses in one of the five areas in the general education program will be reviewed through the general education resubmission process each year on a rotating basis.
      9. Approved new courses will participate in the regular review cycle.
      10. Any resubmitted general education course not approved by the General Education Committee is subject to removal from the general education program.
    2. Distributive studies area guidelines
      1. Humanities and the Arts-- In addition to courses taken in other departments, foreign language courses are appropriate provided the foreign language component is used as a tool for acquiring humanistic knowledge, and skill in the foreign language per se is not the sole basis for evaluating the students.
      2. Sciences and Mathematics--(1) Courses should build upon a background of science and mathematics from high school and the mathematics component of the core competencies or upon another course in the science and mathematics list (two courses in sequence or a course in one department with a prerequisite from another department). (2) Science courses should utilize mathematics and involve some quantitative treatment of physical properties and phenomena. (3) Courses that provide a clear in-depth perspective of one area of science or mathematics are preferable to those that attempt to survey a larger realm at the expense of or risk of failing to achieve the other objectives; however, both breadth and depth of course coverage are expected.
      3. Social Sciences--(1) The social sciences consist of a number of different disciplines that have in common their use of the methods, concepts, and principles of science to study the origins, development, changes, and persistence of various human behaviors. These behaviors may be studied at the level of the individual or at the level or aggregates of individuals, involving relationships and interactions within or between groups, organizations, institutions, societies, or even entire nations or collections of nations. (2) Courses in social sciences are offered by the Departments of Anthropology, Economics, Geography, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology, but may be offered by other departments as well. (approved by Undergraduate Coordinating Council, September 2, 1993)
      4. Interdisciplinary Studies--Interdisciplinary courses provide an opportunity to integrate information from two or more areas; they afford a stimulus to innovative, exciting, and challenging new courses; and they provide an opportunity for students to broaden their cultural outlooks. Interdisciplinary studies should include only courses that integrate knowledge from at least two disciplines. Interdisciplinary studies should include (1) courses in which certain disciplines can be brought together into an inclusive and unified system through pervasive ideas, principles, or methodologies; and (2) courses that cross-relate and synthesize central findings of separate disciplines.
    3. Use of permits
      1. Entry into general education courses is not to be controlled by the issuing of permits to selected students except as follows:
        1. Honors sections of a general education course, although general education courses may not be offered exclusively for honors students.
        2. Educational Services and Programs (ESP) sections of core courses in English and Communication Studies.
        3. English as a Second Language (ESL) sections of core courses in English.
          Under unusual circumstances, other exceptions will be considered on an individual basis by the General Education Committee (GEC) and reconsidered during the established general education course review. Where necessary, numerical limits may be imposed upon general education courses by following the usual registration procedures. (approved by UCC 2/13/92)
  3. New Courses 
    1. Common rationales for a course that is programmatically justified:
      1. The course updates offerings to better reflect the scholarly substance of the academic discipline.
      2. The course increases the choices of students within an instructional unit.
      3. The course provides an instructor with an opportunity to teach her/his special field of scholarly expertise.
    2. Note:
      1. Adequate resources, including instructional personnel with appropriate professional competence and experience, must already exist in the department or additions must have been formally approved before a new course is proposed.
      2. All other departments with courses or instructional units related to the topic of the course must be formally advised of the new course proposal in time to address the duplication issue before the proposal is forwarded to the college curriculum committee.
      3. The new course should be
        1. justified within the perspective of the existing curriculum;
        2. appropriately numbered to reflect the level and order of the course in the curriculum;
        3. titled and described concisely, with due sensitivity to cultural issues.  In the case of courses to be offered under the 400/500 rubric, the title and the catalog description of the undergraduate and graduate courses should be identical;
        4. given appropriate prerequisites or corequisites, when applicable; for graduate courses, all prerequisites and corequisites must include the phrase "consent of department";
        5. supported by ancillary materials such as a list of topics, a list of appropriate texts.
      4. A new course may not be offered before it has been approved by all of the appropriate curriculum committees and academic council(s).
      5. If a course is proposed to carry graduate credit and has a title of more than 30 characters in length, the proposal is to include a suggested abbreviation of not more than 30 characters. (This is to help ensure that abbreviated titles are meaningful when they appear in the Schedule of Classes and on transcripts.)
  4. Non-Duplication and Impact on Other Units
    1. A department proposing any new course, unit of instruction, or other curricular change that potentially conflicts with other departments must consult with those departments regarding the possibility of duplication.
    2. If the departments contacted see no duplication or no concern for duplication, or if concerns are raised and resolved, the originating college's minutes should reflect that fact both in the narrative of the minutes and in the curricular attachments to the minutes. This can be done in the curricular attachments by including a parenthetical statement--for example, "The Department of _______________________ was notified on ___________. A response has been received, indicating no conflict."
    3. In cases in which departments within the same college disagree over whether a particular item constitutes duplication, the department chairs together with appropriate representatives of the departmental curriculum committees are expected to meet and attempt to resolve the issue. If the issue cannot thus be resolved, statements of the position of each department are to be forwarded to the college curriculum committee for resolution. If the departments reside in different colleges and chairs of the college curriculum committees are unable to resolve the issue, the positions are to be forwarded to the Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum or the Graduate Council Curriculum Committee, as appropriate, for resolution.
    4. The chair of a department proposing any new major, minor, emphasis, specialization, or other unit of instruction must contact the chairs of all other departments whose courses are to be included in the program to be sure that the necessary courses are available for the anticipated students. The same procedure is to be followed where additional courses from other departments are to be added to the requirements of an existing program. Programs requiring courses from other departments will not be approved by the Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum, the General Education Committee, or the Graduate Council Curriculum Committee until problems of resource allocation are resolved. Statements regarding impact on other departments should be included in the curricular attachments as described in paragraphs 2. and 3. above.
  5. Course Deletion
    1. Common rationales used are:
      1. The course no longer reflects the best scholarly substance of the academic discipline.
      2. The course has not been offered during the previous three years.
      3. The unit of instruction of which the course is a constituent part has been changed or deleted.
      4. Resources to teach the course are no longer adequate.
    2. Other departments whose units of instruction may be affected by the deletion of the course should be notified. Where necessary and possible a suitable course to replace the deleted one should be provided for affected units of instruction.
  6. Course Revisions
    1. When implementing a course revision the initiating department (or college) should provide a supporting statement explaining the need for the change.
    2. Courses that keep the same or similar title but whose course description bears little conceptual resemblance to the original course will be treated as new courses.
    3. A course revision may affect one or more of the following:
      1. course number.
      2. course description (editorial changes), to clarify, abbreviate, or expand current descriptions (but not to expand course content so much as to warrant a new course proposal), or to incorporate recent developments or shifts of focus in a topic area.
      3. course title to conform to changing terminology within the discipline, or to reflect a change in course description, but with due sensitivity to cultural issues;
      4. number of credit hours that may be earned;
      5. prerequisite/corequisite to encourage adequate student preparation or optimal program sequencing, or as necessitated by changes in other courses. If a prerequisite/corequisite is added or deleted, such changes should be evaluated to ensure that they do not create artificial barriers for student enrollment or success in the course or negatively impact program requirements for majors outside the proposing department/college.
  7. Catalog Descriptions
    1. Course number
      1. 100- and 200-level courses are intended primarily for freshmen and sophomores.
      2. 300- and 400-level courses are intended primarily for juniors and seniors and often have prerequisites.
      3. 500- 600-, and 700-level courses are offered for graduate credit only, except in special circumstances for seniors in 500-level courses. (See the Graduate Catalog .)
      4. Prerequisite courses should have lower numbers than the courses for which they are prerequisites.
      5. Numbers of deleted courses should not be assigned to new courses for a period of six years. If reassignment within six years is unavoidable, a "T" follows the reassigned number. The "T" is removed after six years.
      6. Course numbers 199, 299, 399, and 499 are normally reserved for use by the University Honors Program; 699 is normally reserved for thesis courses, and 799 is reserved for dissertation courses.
      7. Courses that treat different scholarly aspects of the same academic subfield may be grouped under the same numerical designation with different alphabetic suffixes (e.g., 490A, 490B, 490C, 490D). This is also a means of providing a more precise transcript record for independent study and topics courses. The following letters should not be used as a suffix to designate a topic subfield because they have other meanings:
        F - first-half-session course
        I - looks like a one
        L - last-half-session course
        O - looks like a zero
        P - permit course
        S - laboratory section
        T - reuse of a former course number when former course was in effect fewer than three years ago
        X - crosslisted course
        Z - international course
    2. Course title
      1. The title should not be repeated in the course description.
      2. It should be sufficiently brief so as to fit (when abbreviated, if necessary) legibly on a transcript. (The transcript limitation is 30 characters, including spaces.)
      3. It should accurately and concisely reflect the content of the course.
    3. Course description
      1. The description should not repeat the course title.
      2. It should consist of concise phrases that avoid "catalog cliches" such as "This course is a study of . . . ."
      3. It should not include information normally provided in advisement.
    4. Credit hours
      1. Lecture courses commonly carry 3 hours of credit.
      2. Undergraduate lecture courses with a laboratory normally carry 4 hours of credit.
    5. Prerequisite/corequisite
      1. should be an appropriate course, one that contains the content necessary for entry to the subsequent/concurrent course.
      2. for graduate-level courses, should include "or consent of department."
    6. Crosslisted courses
      1. Any course may be crosslisted with one or more other departments through the curricular process.
      2. Instructional responsibility remains with the department housing the original course, except that the original department may delegate that responsibility to another department.
      3. Agreements relating to crosslisted courses must be made in writing and approved by the appropriate deans and college curriculum committees before being forwarded to the Committee on the Undergraduate Curriculum and/or the Graduate Council Curriculum Committee.
      4. The chair of the originating department has the responsibility of coordinating any changes in a crosslisted course with the crosslisting department(s) and for seeing that the appropriate changes to all references to the course in the catalog(s) are forwarded to the appropriate university-level curriculum committee(s) at the same time.
      5. The letter "X" as a suffix to a course number indicates a crosslisted course with primary responsibility in a different department.
  8. Course Syllabus Policy

    Students need a consistent level of basic information about the content and expectations for each course in which they are enrolled. A syllabus is a written document that informs students about course requirements and expectations. 

    Instructors of record are required to develop a syllabus for every course, regardless of delivery method (e.g. traditional, online, hybrid, etc.), and distribute the syllabus to students enrolled in the course in an appropriate written format. The syllabus must be distributed in class or posted electronically on Blackboard on or before the first scheduled day of the class. The Higher Learning Commission’s Credit Hour Policies, developed to enforce the U.S. Department of Education’s requirement related to credit hour definition, necessitates that a syllabus be available for review for each course taught. 

    All syllabi must include an Americans with Disabilities statement (view a sample statement).  Faculty may use the sample statement or create their own, providing it includes similar content.

    Syllabi vary in format, but ordinarily include:

    1. Course Information
      1. Course title
      2. Designator and number
      3. Section number
      4. Number of credit hours
      5. Semester/Term
      6. Course location (if applicable)
      7. Related lab, recitation, studio locations
      8. Course website (if applicable)
    2. Instructor/TA Contact Information
      1. Name and title
      2. Office location
      3. Methods of communication (Two methods suggested, including office phone, email, fax, etc.)
      4. Office hours
      5. TA information (if applicable), including name, office location, email address, and office hours
    3. Course Description
    4. Intended Learning Outcomes
    5. Student Assessment
      1. Assessment types (e.g. quizzes, exams, journals, observations, performances, etc.)
      2. Weighting of assessments
      3. Grading scale to be used
    6. Course Resources
      1. Required reading assignments (if applicable)
      2. Required software, equipment including personal response system (if applicable)
      3. Suggested readings (if applicable)
      4. Course packs (if applicable)
      5. Electronic reserves (if applicable)
      6. Course website on Blackboard (if applicable)
      7. Laboratories, studios, and learning centers available for the course (if applicable)
    7. Course Policies, as appropriate (e.g. attendance, make-up work, extra credit, etc.)
    8. Academic Integrity Statement
    9. Proposed Course Schedule
    10. Additional College or Unit Requirements (if applicable)

Exemptions:  For nontraditional courses (e.g., theses, dissertations, independent studies, and internships), the syllabus may be replaced by a learning contract and/or proposal providing it includes items 1-5 above.

Use of Syllabi: Information from course syllabi will be used internally and for accreditation-related purposes and will not be disseminated publicly.

Approved by Graduate Council, March 2, 1992 
Approved by Undergraduate Coordinating Council, April 30, 1992 
Modified by Undergraduate Coordinating Council, September 2, 1993, September 10, 2012
Modified by Graduate Council, Spring, 2006, (part C.2.c.3; part G.1.) 
Modified by General Education Committee, October 18, 2012 (part B1.h,i,j; B3)
Editorial modification, June 5, 1997 (pages 1, 2), August 7, 2007
Modified by Undergraduate Coordinating Council, November 7, 2002
Approved by Undergraduate Curriculum Committee and Graduate Curriculum Committee, (H) January 22, 2013
Approved by University Council (H), November 6, 2013 and APPM Advisory Committee on November 20, 2013.


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