Technology and Society theme proposals

Course proposals for the Technology and Society theme should describe how your course fits within the theme, and how this theme is situated within the purpose and values of liberal education.

Components of your proposal

Your proposal will include both a narrative description and a syllabus.

As you develop your proposal, you should not assume that the goals of your courses are obvious. It may be helpful to remember that the members of the Council on Liberal Education, like students in liberal education courses, come from units across the University. The council's aim is to ensure that liberal education courses meet the University's goals and that these goals are clear to students and to faculty members.

Narrative proposal

Your narrative proposal should explain how the course meets:

  1. The general requirements of liberal education.
  2. The common goals for all theme courses.
  3. The specific goals for the Technology and Society theme.

Effective proposals will provide concrete examples from the course that illustrate how the course meets these goals, e.g., from the course syllabus, detailed outlines, course assignments, laboratory material, student projects, or other instructional materials or methods.

Your proposal should also include two brief statements that address:

  1. How your course addresses one or more of the University's Student Learning Outcomes.
  2. How the learning associated with this outcome will be assessed.


Because it is written for students, your syllabus should contain the following elements.

Language to help students understand what liberal education is and how this course fulfills its mission as a liberal education course. A course description at the head of the syllabus followed by a paragraph describing the precise aims according to the guidelines is one efficient way of doing this.

A clear explanation of how the particular course fulfills the Technology and Society theme, so that students are aware of how and why the course meets LE requirements. This can be done through the stated course objectives, course topics, writing assignments, and required readings. You may also include supporting materials, such as lab manuals, sample assignments, or handouts, or descriptions of small group discussions, debates, revision workshops, and so on, that will be employed in the course.

A brief paragraph describing the Student Learning Outcome(s) the course addresses, how it addresses these outcomes, and how the learning that is associated with the outcome will be assessed.

Additional syllabus guidelines:

  • For existing courses, the syllabus must be for a term within the past two years.
  • For courses under development, the syllabus may be provisional but still must document how the course will meet the LE requirement(s), as indicated above. A list of lecture topics or discussion topics should be included, with the understanding that dates, schedules, and readings may be tentative.
  • The syllabus needs to conform to the University Senate Syllabi Policy, approved December 6, 2001. It should be in English, or with an English translation provided.
  • Formatting is often lost when material is copied and pasted into the system. Try to keep formatting simple.


All liberal education courses must:

  • Explicitly help students understand what liberal education is, how the content and the substance of this course enhance a liberal education, and what this means for them as students and as citizens.
  • Meet one or more of the Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs). In the syllabus you submit, specify which of the SLO(s) that the course meets, how it addresses the outcome(s), and how the learning that is associated with the outcome(s) will be assessed.
  • Be offered on a regular schedule.
  • Be taught by regular faculty or under exceptional circumstances by instructors on continuing appointments. Departments proposing instructors other than regular faculty must provide documentation of how such instructors will be trained and supervised to ensure consistency and continuity in courses.
  • Be at least 3 credits (or at least 4 credits for biological or physical sciences, which must include a lab or field experience component).

Guidelines for all theme courses

All theme courses have the common goal of cultivating in students a number of habits of mind:

  • Thinking ethically about important challenges facing our society and world.
  • Reflecting on the shared sense of responsibility required to build and maintain community.
  • Connecting knowledge and practice.
  • Fostering a stronger sense of our roles as historical agents.

With their emphasis on compelling contemporary issues, the themes offer opportunities for students to consider timely and engaging questions in all of their complexity; to reflect on ethical implications; to discuss and to debate; to formulate opinions; to have their opinions respectfully challenged and to respectfully challenge the opinions of others; and to connect what they are learning to their own lives and to the world around them. Courses in these areas offer students a sustained opportunity to engage in difficult debates around moral, legal, and ethical issues that require critical inquiry from a variety of perspectives and the cultivation of independent thinking.

To meet more than one requirement:

  • A course may be approved to meet one core or one theme or both a core and a theme. In the latter case, the theme must be fully and meaningfully infused into the course (the old standard of "one-third of the course" will no longer be sufficient).
  • Courses may be submitted for both LE and WI designation.

Technology and Society theme objectives and criteria

Advances in science and engineering produce technologies that have a profound impact on society. Informed and engaged citizens must be thoughtful rather than passive consumers of new technology. Because developing innovative technologies is essential to the University's mission, it is crucial that students and faculty reflect upon the complex and compelling ethical issues raised by technological change and its effects on society. Society, explicitly or indirectly, defines the context in which new technologies are developed, the ways in which they are adopted and implemented, and the rules by which they are used. Students need to be prepared to make sense of, evaluate, and respond to present and future technological changes that will shape their workplaces and their personal and public lives.

Technology and Society theme courses consider the impact of technology on society as well as how society has shaped, used, and responded to new technology. The rapid pace of technological advancement requires thoughtful and meaningful consideration so that the use of technology reflects the shared needs and values of society. Technology and Society Theme courses should introduce students to a broad range of perspectives on the adoption and use of certain technologies.

Courses that fulfill the Technology and Society theme requirement will come from a wide range of colleges and units across the University. The emphasis on both the underlying science and the societal context may require current courses that are primarily science and/or engineering oriented to enhance social science aspects of the course. Likewise, courses that focus primarily on the societal context of technology will need to address the underlying science and engineering. 

Courses must meet these criteria:

  • The course examines one or more technologies that have had some measurable impact on contemporary society.
  • The course builds student understanding of the science and engineering behind the technology addressed.
  • Students discuss the role that society has played in fostering the development of technology as well as the response to the adoption and use of technology.
  • Students consider the impact of technology from multiple perspectives that include developers, users/consumers, as well as others in society affected by the technology.
  • Students develop skills in evaluating conflicting views on existing or emerging technology.
  • Students engage in a process of critical evaluation that provides a framework with which to evaluate new technology in the future.