Grand Challenge Learning and General Education

Grand Challenge Learning was designed to rejuvenate General Education and inspire new investment for students in the value of broad knowledge and engaged citizenship. General Education at Illinois is organized around a set of distribution requirements that students may meet by choosing from among hundreds of courses. As students experience more pressure to professionalize their college experience and finish their degrees faster, they may be uncertain as to the importance of coursework outside their major program of study and may choose to pursue their General Education through dual credit and early college programs in high school; Advanced Placement offered at the conclusion of high school coursework; and transfer credits brought in from other two- and four-year institutions. While these opportunities may provide students a way to complete credit hours, they do not provide students with the type of experience that can be offered at a top research university. Grand Challenge Learning thus attempts to energize and integrate students' General Education experience, prompting students to envision General Education as a vital and transformative component of their degrees that can and should be completed on campus, in the company of fellow learners from across our many colleges and disciplines.
Grand Challenge Learning covers topics of interest to students that defy single-discipline thinking and conveys the material in a way that encourages students to be more active learners. While other General Education courses may include various strategies of experiential learning, our 100-level Grand Challenge Experience classes have experiential learning at the heart of every course. The 200-level Critical Frameworks courses also offer a less traditional structure that challenges and encourages students to understand the complexity of the Grand Challenge topics. We hope that these opportunities will allow students to engage with the material, the faculty, and their classmates in a deeper way and to make connections with the campus community that will promote increased retention and graduation rates.
We further hope that Grand Challenge Learning will inspire students to be critical thinkers and citizens, with both broad and deep interdisciplinary knowledge, and who are able to work with others on creative, flexible, and innovative solutions to today’s challenges. To do so, we have recruited a diverse group of faculty from across campus who recognize how early opportunities to work closely with a full time faculty member benefit students, and who are dedicated to creating a positive and stimulating learning environment welcoming to the diverse student body at Illinois.
In this way, Grand Challenge Learning improves our ability to meet campus student learning goals of building students' abilities to think critically, solve problems, generate new ideas and create knowledge, make connections between academic disciplines, respect and understand differences, and develop as citizens and leaders.