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Last Updated: Oct 11, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Competencies Signpost

Graphic source: 
Innovator October 15, 1977 p. 12



"The New Student's Guide to GSU-isms" provides explanations for the following terms in use at GSU in 1977:

  • Competency
  • Area of Emphasis (AOE)
  • College
  • Self Instructional Materials (SIM)
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Intercollegial
  • Instructional System

Click on the attached PDF to read this article published in the Innovator August 29, 1977 on p. 5.


1st Grad from University Without Walls


Guide to University Without Walls


When did GSU start issuing grades?

When Governors State University first opened in 1971, students did not receive letter grades (A, B, C, etc...) for their coursework. This situation continued for eight years.

On April 16, 1979, the Standing Committee on Educational Policies and Procedures passed a policy on grades. The policy then went before the University Assembly and then to the Board of Governors. A copy of the official grading policy was published in the June 12, 1979 Innovator on page 1.

The rest of this page is devoted to describing GSU's innovative educational methods in the early days of the university.


GSU's Flexible Instruction - a description from 1977

A GSU student has the freedom to opt for any number of different learning experiences:

  • Since there are no departments at GSU, students and faculty may work together in an interdisciplinary fashion, sometimes involving others from all collegiate areas.

  • There are no grades at GSU, not even pass/fail; instead, students are expected to work according to a reasonable pace that suits their needs according to a reasonable pace that suits their needs until various instructional objectives are completed. These are combined to define competencies, which are then entered on transcripts only after they have been achieved - there is no transcript record of work attempted but not completed.

  • Faculty and students are encouraged to work together as colleagues.

  • When appropriate, independent work can be started and ended any time, if registered during the normal registration period.

  • Traditional classroom learning experiences are available as are modes of instruction which emphasize individualized and self-instructional learning settings such as audio-tutorial techniques, computer-assisted instruction, colloquia, seminars, cooperative education, and other laboratory and field projects.

  • Work that can be applied to community needs and is responsive to them is common.

  • There is a continuum of studies linking the undergraduate and graduate students.

  • Work may be carried out on campus, off campus, in laboratories, libraries, in field. Only part of the work is completed in classroom setting.

Text source: Innovator August 1, 1977 p. 9 [emphasis added]


GSU Terminology

GSU is another kind of university - so GSU uses another kind of terminology. The new terms create an environment that is individualized, has a dynamic and changing equality, and allows for maximum personal growth. We think our environment is responsive to the educational needs of the many publics that make up our community.

Learning Module - a set of experiences which bring the student to the achievement of one or more specific and discrete competencies. Ideally, it is the smallest "package" of instructional strategies and materials in which all aspects of an individualized, performance-based criterion referenced instructional model can be identified...Learning Modules may include Self-Instructional Materials.

Self - Instructional Materials (SIM) - a set of learning experiences designed to enable a specified population to attain stated competencies. They employ self-instructional strategies (under the guidance of a Coordinator) that enable students to learn through the use of pre-programmed materials and tests and that provides feedback as to whether or not the objectives are being met...These materials may be part of a Learning Module.

Read the complete definitions as well as more terminology in New Words published in the Innovator August 30, 1976 on p. 19.

Learn more about GSU's Learning Modules.


Competency Based Education Explained

A former visiting professor, Dr. K.S. Sitaram developed a specialty in intercultural communication within the College of Human Learning and Development's Communication Science program.

Dr. Sitaram wrote the attached article explaining what competency based education is. The article was published by the Innovator, GSU's student newspaper, in the February 2, 1977 issue on p.5. Printed on the same page was GSU's student in good standing policy.


Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities

The Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities, headquartered at Yellow Springs, Ohio, was established in 1964 as a research and experimentation group of small colleges. Governors State University became the 30th member of the Union in 1974. Both the Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities and GSU's University Without Walls program received national recognition and acceptance.

Text source: Innovator August 15, 1977 p.4


University Without Walls

The University Without Walls (UWW) program was designed to inividualize higher education and capitalize on learning which took place outside the confines of the university.

For older, mature adults who wanted to complete their degrees, and had already spent years in the work world learning through experience, the University Without Walls, was an opportunity to use learning and self-direction to gain recognition through a degree program.

Characterized by an individualized experiential approach, UWW combined a competency-based liberal arts core with a major area of specialization for a BA degree. Personal degree plans were developed and maintained through a unique learning system that included admissions and advising teams, graduation and advisory boards.

No courses were offered. Instead, access to multi-learning opportunities were provided, facilitating learning wherever, whenever, however it took place. This was accomplished through intensive personalized advising, resource identification, assessment of prior an current learning, evaluation and record-keeping.

Text adapted from: Innovator September 12, 1977 p. 1.


Board of Governors Degree Program

Celia Ann Toll

The Board of Governors degree program offered credit for evaluation of work-related life experience as well as individualized career planning and guidance. The primary intent of the program was to make college education available to adults in a way that is compatible with their lifestyle and responsibilities, and to recognize that college-equivalent learning and skills can be achieved in a great variety of ways. Source: Innovator July 17, 1978 p. 6

In 1978, the Illinois Board of Governors approved that 5% of the total undergraduate admissions at GSU may be applicants who are unable to meet formal requirements for admission. Source: Innovator August 14, 1978 p.5

Celia Ann Toll (pictured) was the first student admitted to the Board of Governors degree program. She received her BA in April 1974. She continued her education at GSU and received a master's degree in Human Relations Services in December 1975. Source: Faze 1 October 15, 1976 p. 3


Newspaper Courses

Courses were offered through the Chicago Tribune newspaper 1975-1977. The first newspaper course offered in partnership with City Colleges of Chicago was "American Issues Forum". This course was comprised of a series of 18 articles which had the Bicentennial as a focal point. Later courses included "Oceans: Our Continuting Frontier", "Moral Choices in Contemporary Society", and "Crime and Justice in America".

Learn more: 
Faze 1 September 29 1975 p. 3
Faze 1 August 27, 1976 p. 2
Innovator December 21, 1976 p. 6
Innovator August 15, 1977 p. 4

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