The Phases of Silver Core Implementation

Implementing the new Silver Core Curriculum is a process requires many moving parts. Making sure that the number of Core courses we provide is adequate to the needs of departments, majors, and students is somewhat like trying to create a decentralized market without the benefit of a functioning market price.

Background and Objectives

This implementation is ultimately the responsibility of the faculty. The faculty voted for the original Silver Plan, and faculty committees drafted the new Core standards. Faculty must decide which of their courses fit, or could be changed to fit, these new standards, and faculty committees review these proposals against the written standards. The Core Curriculum Board itself was even restructured to make sure it was representative of all major units in the university. The Provost's Office has tried to provide the structure for a successful implementation, but faculty drive the process and make the key decisions. It might have been easier and faster if this implementation was driven by the top down, but we believe that in the long run we will have a better Core Curriculum under shared governance.

Faculty are very busy people, especially at a research university where good teaching is also considered a crucial skill. It is natural for them to wonder why they have to put all this work into the implementation of a new Core Curriculum. Not all of them voted for the Silver Plan, and we can't assume that all of those who did fully agreed on what the Silver Plan meant.

The Silver Core Curriculum is a hybrid curriculum that combines our current credit-based general education requirements with more discipline-specific competencies. It incorporates both indirect and direct assessment of measurable Student Learning Outcomes, but it is not intended to replace faculty judgment with central oversight. It is designed to be an evolving curriculum driven by better information and regular faculty review. While the Silver Core will not be all that different from the current Core at first, it is intended to become very different over time.

It is also a necessary change, to improve our accountability to the Board of Regents, our legislators, our accreditors, our students, and the people of Nevada.

Once the university faculty voted for the Silver Plan in Spring 2013, the Core Curriculum Board was given three years to implement it. The Core Board first had to figure out how to take the conceptual plan that faculty voted for and put it into actual policy. By the end of our first semester, we finalized an Implementation Plan, which we shared with the university faculty. By the end of our second semester, we published new Core Objective (CO) standards. We also asked all majors to complete a Silver Core map to jump-start the process of department faculty coming together to figure out how their programs would need to change.

Implementation Phases

With those standards published, we then began the process of creating the Silver Core Curriculum in three phases. In Phase I, those who wished to supply courses for the Silver Core were encouraged to submit them for review, and only then could those who demanded those courses for their students submit new course requirements and program descriptions for the 2016-17 Catalog that freshmen would use in choosing their majors and enrolling in their courses.

The first phases of the implementation process focus on those courses which fulfill general education requirements or satisfy other COs, as all majors must ensure that their students have at least one of these courses for each of their students. These courses require the verification of the Core Board to check that enough student effort is being devoted in each course to each CO.

The Phase I deadline for offering to supply courses for the Silver Core was Feb. 6, 2015, though this was extended several times. By the first week of March, there were 450 distinct courses submitted, for a total of 629 course-CO combinations (or more, if we count cross-listed courses separately). These courses are now proceeding through the review process, and our goal is to have most of them verified by the Core Board before the end of the Spring 2015 semester.

Phase II, to identify demand for Silver Core courses and to prepare the 2016-17 Catalog, is perhaps the most crucial. All undergraduate majors must submit new catalog descriptions for the Silver Core by April 17, 2015, and extensions of the deadline will be extremely limited. To help them meet this deadline, departments may wait until Phase III to submit revisions to their recommended four-year schedules. These new catalog descriptions must be reviewed by department and college faculty committees, and should come to the University Courses & Curricula Committee (UCCC) by the end of the Spring 2015 semester.

In Summer 2015, after Phase I and II are nearing completion, we can analyze supply and demand for overall COs as well as for specific courses and majors, to identify where coverage is likely to be inadequate. The Provost will use this information in the allocation of new faculty positions and other resources.

The results of Phase II are not final. Some course proposals will be rejected in the verification process. Some majors will not have offered to supply the specific courses in Phase I that they or other majors need in Phase II. Because the 2016-17 Catalog will be published by January, however, Phase III for additions and corrections will have an even tighter set of deadlines.

Phase III will open up for the supply side on April 3. Additional courses may be submitted to Curriculog after that date, and if the department and college committees have time to review them once they have finished with those submitted in Phase I, they may do so. The primary advantage of early course submission in Phase III is that majors submitting their catalog descriptions in April may refer to these specific courses as long as they are in their own major. Otherwise, all majors may only make specific reference to courses that were submitted by February.

Phase III will continue into the early Fall 2015 semester. The Core committees will begin their review of Phase III course proposals in early September. Recommended four-year schedules must be submitted. Any changes or corrections to the catalog descriptions must be completed.

Phase III needs to be completed before mid-Fall 2015. All revisions to the Silver Core catalog descriptions must be reviewed by departments and colleges and received by the UCCC by October 16, 2015. All courses which are specifically listed in these catalog descriptions must be verified by the Core Board by November 6. These catalog descriptions will be then used to print a draft of the 2016-17 Catalog by January, 2016, so that it can be used for freshman advising and enrollment.

Silver Core Implementation Targets and Deadlines

    • January, 2014: Completion of the Silver Core Implementation Plan.
    • April, 2014: Completion of Silver Core Objective Standards, along with suggested SLOs and assessment methods.
    • October, 2014: Phase I begins. Curriculog opens up for submission of Silver Core course proposals, beginning with courses already in the current Core.
    • February 1, 2015: Phase II begins. Catalog descriptions for six early adopters are submitted to Curriculog, to serve as models for other majors.
    • Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015: Phase I submission deadline for Silver Core course proposals that can be specifically listed in catalog descriptions. As much as possible, we should try to complete the review and Core Board verification of these proposals by end of the Spring 2015 semester.
    • Friday, April 3, 2015: Phase III begins. Curriculog will re-open for new Core course proposals that majors will need for their catalog descriptions. Proposals may be reviewed by departments and college, but will not proceed to the Core committees for review and Core Board verification until Monday, August 31, 2015.
    • Friday, April 17, 2015: Phase II submission deadline for catalog descriptions that meet the Silver Core requirements. This is required for all undergraduate majors. As much as possible, these catalog descriptions should be reviewed by departments and colleges before the end of the Spring 2015 semester.
    • Monday, August 31, 2015: Phase III submission deadline for Silver Core course proposals that majors need for their catalog descriptions.
    • Monday, September 14, 2015: Suggested Phase III submission deadline for revisions to the catalog descriptions. These need time for department and college review.
    • Tuesday, October 16, 2015: Phase III deadline for receipt by the UCCC of final catalog descriptions. All specific references to Silver Core courses must be verified by the Core Board. Recommended four-year schedules must be included.
    • January, 2016: The 2016-17 Catalog is printed, and made available for entering freshmen and their advisors.
    • August, 2016: The Silver Core is effective for all entering freshmen, and available to other students who choose to graduate under the new catalog.

Related Targets and Deadlines

There are, of course, other moving parts in the process. We have created the process for directly assessing Student Learning Outcomes for Core courses and reviewing those assessments. To help with the indirect assessment of Core courses, we implemented a campus-wide student evaluation system. The university will also require that all courses have Student Learning Outcomes submitted for the catalog by Spring 2016.

In Spring 2016, we will also be asking all majors for more information about their curriculum. Most COs will be satisfied by a single course that has been verified by the Core Board, but there are some exceptions. The COs in Silver Vein I (CO1-CO3) follow the three-step B-D-I model, where a foundation is built in Core Writing and Core Math, competency is developed in both general education courses and major requirements, and the CO is then integrated into the Core Capstone course. Particular attention will be paid to CO1 (Effective Composition & Communication), as this is required to be integrated into the Core Capstone and assessed.

Majors will be asked to identify which courses develop and integrate these COs, but these courses will not require Core Board verification, nor review by colleges or Core committees. For at least this cycle, this information will be only be collected and reported for each major. Majors will also be asked to identify which of their courses develop and integrate other COs, and the Core Capstone must at least integrate CO1, either CO2 or CO3, and one of the other COs (CO9-CO12) in Silver Vein III.

The Core Re-verification process begins in 2015-16, for Core Writing, Core Humanities, and the Core Capstone courses. Courses in these parts of the Core need to be assessing student learning now so that reports can be prepared for review. Core courses that do not meet expectations for satisfying COs will be given notice that they must address areas of concern or be removed from the Silver Core Curriculum. The Core Re-verification process is a five-year cycle, culminating in the review of the Silver Core itself before beginning again.

By Spring 2016, the process of submitting new and current courses for Silver Core verification should become normalized, rather than being driven by the implementation schedule, and majors can submit changes to their catalog descriptions as usual. What will be different is that assessment information will be used to also decide what courses should be removed from the Core, and those Core requirements will likely change over time as we gather more information on what works for our students and what does not.