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First Year Course Modules

UMass Dartmouth's commitment to student learning

A University of Massachusetts Dartmouth education is a foundation from which graduates continually engage and impact their community, both locally and globally. In all aspects of their lives, UMass Dartmouth graduates skillfully locate, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information and can communicate their knowledge effectively and creatively. They have depth in a field of study and broad knowledge across many areas of inquiry, and they continue after graduation to explore and to acquire understanding within and beyond their field of study. UMass Dartmouth graduates think critically and possess the confidence to integrate and apply their learning to solving complex problems. They have excellent interpersonal skills and a sense of purpose. Guided by empathy and integrity, UMass Dartmouth graduates respond constructively to changing personal, professional, and societal challenges in a diverse world.

Introduction: Promoting Student Success

Students experience significant transitions as they begin their undergraduate experience at UMass Dartmouth. In the first year, they are confronted by substantial academic demands and social adjustments. In their initial semester, students need to understand the goals and demands of college-level education and learn to utilize the University’s diverse resources that support their learning and success. In addition, they must also work to set goals to ensure their success and make independent decisions that support their goals.

In academic year 2010-2011, the Academic Affairs/Student Affairs First-Year Experience Committee met to identify resources that would assist students in their first-year transition and improve first to second year retention. Based on national best practices, the group identified five transition topics that freshmen need to address in their first semester in order to ease their entry to the University and promote increased retention to the second year. These topics are: Transition, Navigating the System, Goal Setting, Decision Making, and The Educated Person. To assist faculty who teach freshmen students—especially those in the college first-year courses—the committee members also developed First-Year Experience Learning modules that provide faculty with resource information and teaching materials to address each topic. The learning objectives for each module are listed on this website and teaching materials are available as downloadable documents and PowerPoint presentations.

Learning Outcomes


  • Students demonstrate self-reliance and self-direction.
  • Students define the purpose of their university studies.
  • Students identify a change between high school and college in the academic, social and interpersonal realms.

Navigating the System

  • Students understand how to navigate academic and non-academic resources.
  • Students understand academic roles and relationships.

Goal Setting

  • Students demonstrate an awareness of goal setting processes by establishing a goal for the academic year.
  • Students: a) articulate a vision of their self-management behaviors and skills post freshman year; b) establish goals; c) plan objectives; d) implement action plans; and e) communicate the above to others.
  • Students assess their progress toward their stated goal and develop appropriate steps in order to achieve it.

Decision Making

  • Students identify and analyze the values that give meaning to their lives and the role those values play in establishing their behavior patterns.
  • Students recognize ethical dilemmas and demonstrate the capacity to analyze and resolve them effectively.
  • Students comprehend effective problem-solving strategies and resources and apply them to routine and unique situations.

The Educated Person

  • Students discuss how the concepts of knowledge and inquiry contribute to their becoming educated.
  • Students demonstrate an awareness of their interconnectedness with the community (including basic ethical considerations) through a written, oral, or visual presentation or project.
  • Students articulate their vision of their future selves through reflection on their academic and co-curricular experiences at UMass Dartmouth.
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