Lincoln University is adding two new academic minors and implementing revamped policies surrounding online instruction and academic probation.
The historically Black university will begin offering 18-hour minors in communications and project management next spring semester.
The LU Board of Curators approved the two minors Thursday during its first meeting since the start of the fall semester. It also approved new language to scale back the university's academic probation policy and add new requirements for faculty conducting online classes.
The minors don't require any additional faculty, and the project management minor will be offered through the Project Management Institute, an online professional development not-for-profit.
"It gives our students more marketable skills," said Curator Stacia Bradley Brown, chair of the board's academic affairs committee. "This is also an opportunity for students and non-traditional students to attend Lincoln University to acquire those 18 hours and then go into the workforce because you can work in the field of project management without a degree."
As the university looks to expand its online offerings, it's adding a policy to ensure faculty are prepared.
Effective fall 2023, faculty teaching hybrid or fully online courses are required to complete professional development training on how to teach synchronous and asynchronous virtual classes.
The training is provided through Quality Matters, an online learning training nonprofit Lincoln has used for at least the past eight years.
Faculty are required to complete the training every seven years, and the vice president of academic affairs will maintain a list of approved professional development programs. No faculty already teaching online courses will be grandfathered in, Brown said.
"With the advent of COVID and more courses being taught online, then it kind of made this policy necessary so everyone is teaching with the same level of expertise," she said.
"It's also important as we move to build a greater online presence over the next year," University President John Moseley added.
The board approved another policy change to reduce the university's academic suspension period for students with poor academic performance from three years to one year, effective immediately.
Lincoln previously suspended students for a semester when their GPA fell below a certain threshold the first time, then three years the second time.
"The advantage of a uniform, one-year suspension policy is that it is more punitive initially, when the student may well need more time for reflection and reform, yet more forgiving subsequently when a student may well still be inclined to finish," Bryan Salmons, who chairs the faculty committee the policy came from, wrote in a recommendation provided to the board.
Lincoln's new policy is to notify students they are on academic probation if their cumulative GPA falls below a 2.0, which limits the number of credit hours the student can take to 13.
Students on academic probation are also given extra academic advising and counseling in an effort to raise their GPA to at least a 2.0, which brings them out of probation.
Students who don't raise their GPA are suspended for a year and given specific guidelines for readmittance.
Readmitted students who again fall below a 2.0 GPA are again suspended for a year.
The university plans to notify students who are currently on a three-year suspension about the change of policy as long as they've been away for a year, said Micheal Self, vice president of academic affairs.
Lincoln University moving campus projects forward with federal money