General Education for Adult Learners in the Twenty-First Century

Thomas Edison State University is focused on meeting the educational needs of the self-directed adult learner. Students come to the University with a wealth of experience from academic work at other institutions, from the workplace and from military service. Thomas Edison State University is committed to education as a transformative process that broadens perspectives in a global, technologically sophisticated and diverse society. Our vision for general education at the University is that it be threaded throughout the curriculum, across all schools and at all levels of study.

Undergraduate degrees offered through Thomas Edison State University are designed around three constructs:

  1. General Education: an integrated foundation based on the liberal arts with a focus on core skills and competencies
  2. Area of Study: in-depth work in a specific discipline
  3. Elective Courses: a flexible elective component to meet personal and intellectual interests complementary to, but distinct from, the selected field of study.

All three pillars of our undergraduate degree programs are designed so that our graduates meet Institutional General Education Outcomes that document student competencies.

Assuring quality is at the core of Thomas Edison State University?s mission and its commitment to students. The Thomas Edison State University academic model, in place since the University?s inception in 1972, is centered on the assessment of student learning. This approach is based on the belief that what students know should supersede how they came to know it. Authentication of student learning provides the University with important information for academic decision making and institutional improvement. The Academic Council has approved 11 institutional learning outcomes for all undergraduates and six institutional learning outcomes for all graduate students.

Outcomes-Based General Education

top of page

Thomas Edison State University?s institutional outcomes are closely mapped to the Essential Learning Outcomes (LEAP Outcomes) as documented by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (

All Thomas Edison State University students who graduate from bachelor?s degree programs will complete 60 semester hour credits of general education, by demonstrating general education competencies and completing general education courses, taken directly from the LEAP Outcomes ( Some of these credits must fulfill specific category requirements and others allow students to tailor their general education experience to your their own needs and interests.

All Thomas Edison State University students who graduate from bachelor?s degree programs will have the following competencies:

Intellectual and Practical Skills

top of page

Intellectual and communicative skills necessary for success in the academic environment and for addressing globally complex challenges.

Written Communication:
Communicate their ideas effectively in writing using text, data and images as appropriate and in different genres and styles.

Oral Communication:
Communicate their ideas effectively orally using multiple modes of communication, as appropriate.

Information Literacy:
Identify, locate, evaluate and effectively and responsibly use and share information for the problem at hand.

Quantitative Literacy:
Demonstrate competency and comfort in working with numerical data, create complex and refined arguments supported by quantitative evidence and clearly communicate those arguments in a variety of formats (suing words, tables, graphs, mathematical equations, etc.), as appropriate.

Civic and Global Leadership

top of page


Knowledge required for responsible global citizenship and effective engagement in a dynamic environment.

Diversity/Intercultural Literacy:
Recognize that they are members of diverse communities, both local and global, and demonstrate intercultural knowledge, skills and attitudes that support effective and appropriate interaction in a variety of cultural contexts and social categories, such as, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, religion and age.

Ethical Leadership:
Assess their own ethical values and the social context of a given situation, recognize ethical issues in a variety of settings, apply ethical principles to ethical dilemmas and consider the ramification of alternative actions.

Civic Engagement:
Demonstrate effective, responsible, and meaningful skills while engaged in the political life of a community.

Knowledge of Human Cultures

top of page

Knowledge from the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, which develop an understanding of humanity.

Understanding of the Physical and Natural World

top of page

Knowledge from the Natural Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science and Physics) in order to develop an appreciation of the order, diversity and beauty of the natural environment and an understanding of scientific reasoning.

Student?s Role in Outcomes Assessment

top of page

In keeping with its mission, Thomas Edison State University is committed to maintaining high standards of academic integrity and of quality service to its students. To achieve this goal, the University engages in outcomes assessment, a process through which the effectiveness of the University and its programs is evaluated against institutionally determined standards.

Students are an important and necessary source of information about Thomas Edison State University?s effectiveness. By surveying students and graduates, and administering certain kinds of assessments that gauge the level of students? skills and learning, the University gains valuable information, which is used to assess its effectiveness and to guide the development of curriculum.

Although these surveys and assessments, as well as other information-gathering instruments, are not typically part of a student?s degree program, Thomas Edison State University students are required to participate in such activities when selected. All students who take part in outcomes assessment activities contribute to the continued excellence of Thomas Edison State University and to the reputation of the degrees awarded by the institution.