Introduction to University Core A and this Handbook

This Handbook is designed to be used throughout a four-course sequence. These four courses, which most students take in their freshman and sophomore years, are

  • CORE 101—Essentials of Written and Oral Communication,
  • CORE 102—Advanced Written and Oral Communication,
  • CORE 201—Topics in Critical Inquiry, and
  • CORE 202—Topics in Ethical Inquiry.

Together, these courses make up a part of your education known as University Core A: Core Foundations. University Core A is itself part of a larger component of a university education: the Core Curriculum, a concept you may recall hearing about during New Student Orientation.

What is University Core A?

University Core A is a series of four courses that develop skills that cut across disciplines. The central focus of the University Core A sequence is how to think critically, to write and speak clearly, and to conduct research carefully. University Core A courses will help you enhance your ability to be self-reflective and will allow you to ponder modern issues—for example, the impact of technology and the rise of social media—that affect you. You will also have the opportunity to explore ethical issues that are important in your life.

Why are you required to take Core Curriculum courses, including those in University Core A?

You may consider University Core A courses to be ‘outside’ your major. It is therefore reasonable for you to ask why you are being required to take these courses. The answer has to do with ideas about the goal of a university education. The phrase “Core Curriculum” is associated with the belief that a university education is most effective if it requires students to take courses not only ‘within’ but ‘without’ a major. The Core Curriculum is meant to help all students acquire certain university-level knowledge, skills, and perspectives regardless of major.

People sometimes have the notion that universities exist in order to prepare each person to enter a particular profession. Certainly professional preparation is one of the purposes for pursuing a degree in higher education, but it has never been the only reason. The goal of a university is to create mature, responsible, well-educated students who are in command of a diverse body of knowledge and who possess a love of learning and the intellectual skills to meet the challenges of a complex, multi-cultural, and ever-changing world. With these skills not only will you be able to succeed in any number of professions, but you will also have the skills to be an informed citizen and a contributing member of your community. After all, the university’s mission is to not merely educate students but to provide undergraduates with a solid foundation for lifelong learning. University Core A courses are the beginning of this process of lifelong learning.

What additional courses am I required to take as part of the Core Curriculum?

The Core Curriculum requirements consist of courses in four categories. The courses presented in this e-textbook — Core 101, 102, 201, and 202 — form University Core A. However, you are also required to take additional general education courses. Depending on your major, you may be required to take specific courses in the following categories.

You are required to take courses in University Core B – Core Skills and Knowledge. These courses introduce you to the primary branches of knowledge:

  • One Math course
  • One Natural Science course
  • One Humanities course
  • One Visual and Performing Arts course
  • One Social or Behavioral Science course

You are also required to take two courses in College Core A – National and International Perspectives. These courses develop your roles as citizens not only of the nation, but also the world:

  • One course in U. S. Perspectives
  • One course in Global Perspectives

The last category of Core Curriculum Courses is College Core B – Supporting Skills and Knowledge. This category is aimed at expanding your knowledge in areas related to your major. Depending on your major, you may be directed to choose particular courses in the following:

  • An additional course in Math or Natural Science
  • An additional course in Humanities, Visual & Performing Arts, or Foreign Languages
  • An additional course in Social & Behavioral Sciences or Health & Wellness

Why is the University Core A Handbook so important to my education at Radford University?

This Handbook provides you with the advice and information that will help you master skills that you will be developing throughout the entire University Core A sequence. You will use this textbook in each of these four courses to learn how to think critically, to conduct research, and to communicate both orally and in writing.

This Handbook will not only be helpful in helping you succeed in University Core A. You will also find this textbook helpful throughout your academic career. For example, if you take UNIV 100, you will be asked to do projects that draw on skills covered in the University Core A textbook. In fact, most courses you take at Radford University will require the use of these skills in one form or another, and each major requires the use of these skills. Ask your adviser or one of your instructors what role oral and written communication, research skills, and critical thinking play in your particular major. You may be surprised to see just how integral these skills are to your major courses.

What is the relationship between University Core A and academic integrity?

Your instructors will expect you to think critically, to conduct research, and to communicate both orally and in writing. In addition, they will expect you to be familiar with the concept of academic integrity and to behave in ways consistent with that concept. In Core A you will be introduced to that concept.

You already may have noticed that the Radford University Honor Code Pledge is posted in every classroom and included in every course syllabus:

I shall uphold the values and ideals of Radford University by engaging in responsible behavior and striving always to be accountable for my actions while holding myself and others to the highest moral and ethical standards of academic integrity and good citizenship as defined in the Standards of Student Conduct.

In terms of academic integrity, the Standards of Student Conduct lists the following violations:

  • cheating,
  • fabrication and falsification,
  • multiple submission,
  • abuse of academic materials,
  • complicity in academic dishonesty,
  • and plagiarism.

(Standards of Student Conduct, n.d., pp. 7-8)

Take the time now to find out what is meant by each item on the list. For example, do you know all the forms that “plagiarism” can take? You must document ideas and information borrowed from sources even if you put the ideas and information into your own words. Many students who fail to familiarize themselves with the concept of plagiarism assume that they only need to document direct quotations. But think a minute: if you borrow another person’s argument without documenting it, aren’t you creating the misleading impression that you came up with the idea—a violation of the Standards of Student Conduct?

Radford University Office of University Relations

What resources are available to help me meet the Standards of Student Conduct?

You will find information on plagiarism in several places in the Core A Handbook. Look for answers to What is plagiarism? and How can I avoid plagiarism? under the Opposing Viewpoints assignment in CORE 101. You also will find information in the section Cite sources correctly, both via in-text citations and a list of sources. In the Research Narrative assignment under CORE 102,  look for answers to What is common knowledge? and How does good note-taking help me avoid plagiarizing? and related questions.

In addition to this Handbook and the Standards of Student Conduct, you will find a page on Academic Integrity at the Dean of Students’ website that includes “Tips for Avoiding Academic Integrity Violations.” Advice also is available at Avoiding Plagiarism, a McConnell Library site. The Handbook includes some but not all of the information at the McConnell site, but you can additionally access an online D2L module, as well as examples of how plagiarism affects people in the real world.

What do I do if I need help with my University Core A courses?

If you have questions about University Core A courses, the first person to talk to is your instructor. But there are additional resources available to you. Two of those resources are the Learning Assistance and Resource Center (LARC) and McConnell Library.

What is the Learning Assistance and Resource Center (LARC) and how can I get help there?

The Learning Assistance and Resource Center (LARC) provides individual and group tutoring sessions in many subject areas, including those addressed in University Core A courses. The LARC is located on the first floor of Walker Hall. For individual tutoring, you must make an appointment, either by calling 540-831-7704 or by going in person to Walker 126. During the fall and spring semesters, the LARC is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Time slots for tutoring fill quickly, so if you think you may benefit from tutoring, call early in the semester.

In one-on-one sessions, tutors focus on many skills areas. For example, they may help you address basic writing issues, such as strong thesis development, organization, and supporting documentation, as well as sentence structure and grammar.

In addition to one-on-one sessions the LARC offers themed workshops throughout the semester that address common student challenges identified by instructors. The LARC also offers online Learning Guides, including Writing Tips and Reading Tips.

How do I get help at McConnell Library?

The reference librarians at McConnell Library are very happy to help you with your research questions. During fall and spring semesters, reference librarians are available during these hours: Monday-Wednesday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Thursday-Friday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; and Sunday, 2-10 p.m.

There are several ways you can get rapid assistance from a reference librarian during the above hours.

  • Talk with a librarian on a drop-in basis at the reference desk (located on the Main Level of the library).
  • Call the reference desk at 540-831-5696 (from Roanoke, call 857-8920 and ask for x5696).
  • E-mail refdesk@radford.edu.
  • SMS/text 5403182235.
  • IM via chat box embedded on the library website or through instant messaging RULibSpot:

AIM: RULibSpot
Yahoo: RULibSpot
MSN: RULibSpot@hotmail.com

You may also want to schedule a reference consultation by calling the reference desk.

In addition to providing assistance to individual students, McConnell Library offers workshops on such issues as documentation and plagiarism. Be on the lookout for announcements of these workshops on the library portal and in your email box.

How is University Core A evaluated?

Core 101, 102, 201, 202 and Honors 103, 201, and 202 are assessed using student work. The 100-level courses are assessed in the first year of the assessment cycle, and the 200-level courses are assessed in the second year. We assess these courses using embedded assessment, which means that we collect and rate student essays and presentations. When you turn in your major assignments to Desire2Learn, those assignments are collected and submitted to the Office of Academic Assessment, where 10 percent of the assignments from your section will be chosen randomly for rating. Student and instructor information are removed from the assignments, and then the selected projects are given to external raters, who use rubrics to evaluate the assignments. The results are then used to make changes in this handbook, the official course descriptions, or in the outcomes the courses are designed to meet.

 

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