Guidance for Faculty

Course Approval

  • Courses by the same instructor: An instructor may not offer more than two courses (either as the sole instructor or as part of a teaching team) in the Gen Ed program at any given time. Instructors teaching two Gen Ed courses are encouraged to offer them in different years, with no more than one course per instructor each semester.
  • Team teaching: Recognizing that Gen Ed courses are not moored in any specific scholarly discipline, we anticipate that Gen Ed will offer a unique opportunity for cross-divisional and cross-school collaborations in developing and implementing courses. Such interactions are encouraged and can be facilitated by the Gen Ed program; however, we must emphasize that it is essential that co-teaching situations include clear rationale for the joint efforts and that all faculty instructors are engaged in all aspects of the course.
  • Frequency of offering: To ensure that students have access to a broad range of Gen Ed offerings, courses are approved with the expectation that they should ordinarily be taught at least every other year. Courses that are not offered at least once in four years must be reproposed for continued inclusion in the program.
  • Review and reapproval: Ordinarily, courses are reviewed after their initial offering and considered for reapproval after three more offerings. These reviews are based on their fit with the mission and goals of the Program, as well as rigor in workload and grading.  Learn more about the review and reapproval process.

Course Design

  • Undergraduate focus: Harvard College students should make up the vast majority of students enrolled in any Gen Ed course, and the content and priorities of the course must be primarily for undergraduates. Gen Ed courses cannot be jointly offered at other schools, although students from other schools may enroll in Gen Ed courses. Gen Ed sections may only include Harvard College students; faculty who allow graduate enrollees are responsible for teaching their sections and completing their grading.
  • Prerequisites: Faculty are encouraged to design Gen Ed courses that are accessible to the widest audience possible; however, we recognize that in the same way that we assume a certain degree of literacy for students, some endeavors may require a certain degree of numeracy or other knowledge in order to achieve the course goals. In such cases, prerequisites may be unavoidable; however, they should be kept to the absolute minimum needed and must be limited to courses that are commonly taken by a large fraction of the student population and early in the student’s time at Harvard.
  • Class time: Attendance is required (in lecture, section, lab, etc.) with no online substitutes for class time. This promotes the formation of a classroom community as well as meaningful interaction among students and between students and faculty. Gen Ed lectures are usually 75 minutes twice a week. Once-weekly lecture courses are strongly discouraged in Gen Ed, but if approved, once-weekly lectures must be a minimum of 120 minutes. In addition, TF-led sections or labs ordinarily meet at least 60 minutes once a week.
  • Assessment: Gen Ed courses are meant to be as rigorous as any other in the college, with commensurate expectations for student workload, class time, and grading. Most Gen Ed courses will include synthetic final exams or other cumulative assessments of the assigned materials (this should be in addition to assignments that ask students to take course materials as a point of departure for independent research or creative projects).

Course Logistics

  • Course scheduling: All Gen Ed courses must be offered on the FAS schedule
  • Class size: Most Gen Ed courses are expected to enroll between 50 and 250 students. The Gen Ed office will work with you to set an enrollment limit that is appropriate for your course. It could be for pedagogical reasons or for practical reasons (including the availability of an appropriate classroom, the recruitment of qualified teaching fellows, limited lab or library space, etc.). Sections generally range between 12 and 15 students, with necessary variations to ensure a robust discussion in each section.
  • Teaching fellows: We are happy to aid faculty in identifying and recruiting appropriate teaching fellows from across the university. We are not able to support undergraduate course assistants for Gen Ed courses.
  • Requirements: Departments may elect to count Gen Ed courses for credit in concentrations and secondary fields. Gen Ed courses do not satisfy College requirements in expository writing, language, quantitative reasoning, or the divisional distribution requirement.
  • Similar courses: If a course approved for Gen Ed grew out of a departmental course or Freshman Seminar, the two courses should not be offered in the same academic year.
  • Simultaneous enrollment: Gen Ed courses are not eligible for course-wide simultaneous enrollment waivers. Students pursuing simultaneous enrollment in a Gen Ed course and a non-Gen Ed course must attend the Gen Ed course.