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At U. of Maryland, an Effort to Make Introductory Courses Extraordinary (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Required introductory courses are as important as they are unloved.

They are a key part of the general-education curriculum, which makes up as much as one-third of the typical baccalaureate student's education, and they are the subject of seemingly never-ending revitalization efforts.

Many senior faculty members avoid teaching such courses because they see them as being filled with callow students with little interest in the subject. Students often see them as the curricular equivalent of eating their vegetables, the unappetizing fare they must endure before they get to the interesting parts of their educations.

Critics argue that such distaste is well founded. These courses typically take the form of a slog through a discipline's "greatest hits," can prove to be deadly to students' curiosity, and often serve as gatekeepers that keep them from advancing.

The University of Maryland at College Park thinks it may have found a way to make these courses more engaging and rigorous. New and retooled introductory courses, called the "I-Series," have spread campuswide after a two-year pilot. This fall, all incoming freshmen must take at least two I-Series courses as part of a new set of core requirements.

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