What Is EPIC?
As advancing technologies change the career landscape students enter upon graduation, universities continue to examine how best to provide a curriculum that prepares students to thrive. GSU, one of the largest and most diverse universities in the country, is nationally known for using big data and academic advising to improve student success measures for historically underserved students. The EPIC program (Experiential, Project-based and Interdisciplinary Curriculum) provides GSU students with opportunities to develop foundational skills to help them become adaptable problem-solvers, overcoming the academic challenges they face in their studies and creating solutions to the issues they will tackle as they graduate into their professions and lives.
The program combines the strengths of an enhanced interdisciplinary education (critical thinking, problem-solving, communication skills) with innovative research and project-based labs. Georgia State is piloting the EPIC program, with elements including integrated Freshman Learning Communities (FLCs) and Project Labs.
Course Pairings and Freshman Learning Communities
Almost all incoming freshmen at GSU join an FLC. These cohorts of 25 students take all of their classes together during the first semester. EPIC uses this model that has been successful with student success measures of improved retention and time to graduation to build a structured curriculum for students as they enter the university that intentionally promotes: 1.) Understanding ideas across classes; 2.) Applying knowledge and skills from core courses to the major; 3.) Learning by doing with in-class curriculum enhanced through games, outside speakers, and activities; 4.) Exploring course concepts on walking tours, at museums, and through events; and 5.) Visualizing the “big picture” of a college education. Our pilot FLCs are built around pairings, like American Government and American History, courses taken by large numbers of students as a part of their core and specifically chosen based on intersecting content, skills, and objectives. These pairings will anchor the pilot FLCs, providing a theme for other courses in the FLC, like English Composition or Intro to Statistics. After the first semester, students will be encouraged to take other intentional course pairings, like Intro Biology and Intro to Psychology, to help them better understand and benefit from their required core courses instead of feeling as if they are taking a random assortment of classes. Students participating in this pilot will also join a Project Lab.