2009: A Year of Curricular Changes for California Community Colleges

Chair, Curriculum Committee

Curriculum is the hub of our academic activities, the learning center from which the many important spokes emanate creating the learning environment for our students. For the last decade we have been catching up to the massive changes affecting the world of curriculum-changes in Instructional Technology, Distance Education, Title 5, as well as green and global curriculum issues and many others.

This year there are many things that will facilitate our work in curriculum. First, the long awaited Program and Course Approval Handbook (affectionately known as the PCAH) will be completed and available. This important document translates legal and mandatory regulations into everyday language that we can use to develop and approve our curriculum locally prior to sending it for System Office approval. The effort to update and improve the PCAH, with all the Title 5 changes, new and improved forms and many frequently asked questions about curriculum, was a joint effort between the Chancellor's Office, the Academic Senate, CIOs, credit and non-credit constituents, and other stakeholders. The final version of this document is being submitted through the approval processes in February and will be available this Spring. The PCAH will act as a textbook for this year's Curriculum Institute, July 9-11, at the Sheraton Park Resort in Anaheim. Thanks to the collaborative work of the System Advisory Curriculum Committee (SACC), and particularly the hard work of Stephanie Low at the Chancellor's Office, this handbook will make your important work on curriculum easier.

Another major change that will affect curriculum statewide is the implementation of CurricUNET for statewide submission of courses and programs for approval at the state Chancellor's Office. This plan has been discussed and coordinated for over four years. What does it mean? All curriculum and programs submitted to the Chancellor's Office will be submitted electronically, rather than on paper. This is going to revolutionize curriculum in many ways for our state. The electronic submission process will not require local colleges to purchase CurricUNET; access to the Internet is all that is needed.
We will find that:

  • Electronic submission will require that the application is complete. The use of fields and prompts will ensure that colleges double check and thoroughly complete the process before sending the application off, a problem with paper copies that often arrive without all the required components. Hard copies mailed with missing components used to take a long time to correct, so this issue will be corrected.
  • Some components of the submission will use drop down menus limiting the responses to the correct ones aligned with Title 5. (This includes those typical problem areas such as units and hours, outside of class hours, TOP code, etc.)
  • The approval process will be electronically advanced through the system making the process more efficient and providing real time updates on where the curriculum is in the approval process. While the Chancellor's Office timeline from submission to approval of degrees and courses has been greatly reduced in the last two years, the electronic process will make that even more efficient.
  • An exciting feature will be the ability to do research on curriculum by employing the statewide and nationwide search. As professionals, this provides an opportunity to learn from our colleagues and to get a better understanding of what we do with our curriculum. This feature will be available to the Chancellor's Office and colleges that own CurricUNET, but we want to emphasize that you do not need to own the product to submit programs and curriculum for approval. (In case you were wondering, presently 52 California community colleges do own it and already have this search capability.)

Training on the new CurricUNET process associated with electronic submission will occur at the July Curriculum Institute.

Another important change to curriculum as a result of the Basic Skills Initiative is the correction of curriculum coding in basic skills, also known as the CB 21 coding. Because of the increased requirements to report curricular and program success and the intimate connection between this accountability and the funding our system receives, there has been an emphasis on data based upon curriculum. Analysis of that data revealed errors in coding of the courses because they were coded without faculty input and without a basic understanding of the curriculum. In July, an Academic Senate and Chancellor's Office approved process for correcting that coding and creating the necessary integrity within our curriculum data will be introduced, with training for correcting that coding based on good curricular practices developed by faculty. (If you need more information on this review see the December Rostrum article, "What the Heck is Basic Skills Coding About Anyway?" This process has involved 150 faculty discussing discipline issues regarding basic skills courses and hundreds more vetting the rubrics created by these faculty. If you have not had a chance to review and comment on these yet, email Janet Fulks, Curriculum Chair, at jfulks [at] asccc.org to get the information and survey link. On May 9 and 10 the System Office and the Academic Senate will host a noncredit regional meeting to discuss the noncredit discipline courses.

Lastly, statewide discussions about pre-collegiate assessment and prerequisites have occurred as a result of the Basic Skills Initiative and several papers created by external partners. This topic can be found at each of our statewide institutes in the spring as well as at our colleagues professional conferences. These discussions by students, faculty, CEOs, CIOs, CSSOs, deans and others are identifying important issues and developing concepts that may change the way we look at prerequisites and pre-collegiate assessment.

Stay tuned to these important curricular issues and participate in the discussions and resolutions that are sure to be part of the Spring Session in April, June Leadership Institute, and July SLO and Curriculum Institutes.