Academic Programs without Homes

Executive Committee Member

Many colleges have certificate and degree programs that may be parentless in that they belong to no one department or division because they span a diverse organized range of courses across many disciplines. Some of these are: general education certificate patterns designed to fulfill transfer-institution general education (GE) requirements, interdisciplinary studies, areas of emphasis, and customizable certificates or degrees designed around a group of multiple discipline course offerings that meet community or industry needs. The purpose of this article is to initiate some local conversations to help colleges ensure all of their programs fulfill students' needs with the highest of standards.

Here are some questions to consider as you engage in these conversations about "homeless" academic programs.

  • Have you thought about how to take care of them?
  • Who is their faculty advocate-their champion through times good and bad?
  • Who is responsible for conducting the program reviews for these programs?
  • Who is responsible for developing and assessing the achievement of program goals and outcomes?
  • Who is responsible for implementing prerequisite, corequisite and advisory processes?
  • Who is responsible for ensuring the appropriate scheduling of these courses in a manner that logically provides students access to a viable sequence of courses?
  • Who is responsible for ensuring the appropriate college catalog information is maintained and updated each year?
  • If assigned to a department what influence do other departments (housing the other disciplines/courses) have over these matters?
  • How do you resolve course changes that impact the multiple-discipline program?
  • What influence or roles should Student Services and the Articulation Officer have in these matters?
  • How does the college have the broader academic conversations about these and other programs that may fall outside of the scope of the Curriculum Committee's charge?
  • How are discipline faculty engaged into these processes both formally and informally?
  • How are the duties and load shared among the disciplines participating in these options?
  • If the program elects to have distance education options, who ensures the additional parameters specific to distance education are met? (e.g. proper notification of accreditation entities, ensuring distance education support services are adequate to this program, which in some cases may need specialized counseling for most students)
  • If the program suffers cutbacks or enrollment declines in one or more areas who is responsible for assessing and improving the program's viability? (e.g. one of the participant discipline's courses are challenged)

Here are some values we all agree on for all programs

  • Academically appropriate sequences or compilations of courses must exist in every program, and these must logically lead to an end goal of a certificate or degree that is demonstrated as both useful and meaningful for the intended students. Program and Course Approval Handbook, Criteria A and C pg. 3 (CCCCO 2009)
  • Program development includes discipline faculty involvement (Title 5 53200(c)) and in fact should be driven by faculty with external influences being limited to providing support and ensuring compliance if appropriate (e.g. external accrediting requirements, articulation needs, etc.)
  • Programs are reviewed regularly in periods not to exceed two years for CTE courses (CEC 78016) while all courses must have "an ongoing systematic review" which means at least once in every six year accreditation cycle (ACCJC 2004 Accreditation Standard IIA.2(e). However many colleges operate with shorter cycles, ones that may coordinate with other college planning and differing levels of review (e.g. updates versus full review)
  • Program and course curriculum are recommended by Curriculum Committees and approved by Boards, and ultimately the Chancellor's Office in the case of programs. (Title 5 55002) But faculty must have primacy in the planning, development and assessment of all curriculum be they courses or programs. (Title 5 53200(c))
  • Programs meet valid student and community needs per the Program and Course Approval Handbook Criteria B pg. 3 (2009, CCCCO)
  • The college must have the resources and means to adequately offer and maintain the program. (Program and Course Approval Handbook Criteria D pg. 5 (2009, CCCCO))
  • Our programs remain compliant with all laws, regulations and other obligations. (Program and Course Approval Handbook Criteria E pg. 5 (2009, CCCCO))

Some Options to Consider

  • Host program in existing committee or department-If the program is primarily composed of courses from one discipline, or related disciplines within one department this is a logical option in terms of functionality.
  • Create new specialized committee/group - This might be a logical option for a widely diverse pattern such as a GE pattern, or variable GE pattern certificate designed to meet a variety of transfer options by allowing some selectable choices based upon the student's intended transfer choices.
  • Articulation Officer and Student Services are critical players in sustaining these-For a variety of reasons far too numerous to fully elucidate in this short article, these players must be included in the development and sustainment of all programs; but in particular, these homeless programs tend to be used widely by a large cohort of students be they transfer, career or self fulfillment bound.

In summary, for a variety of recent and long-standing reasons we now have a growing sector of educational options that do not necessarily easily fit into the traditional (department = discipline = related-programs) model. But these options must be sustained to the same exact high standards that we expect of all our programs, they must remain flexible and responsive, and they must consistently and demonstrably meet our student's needs. Therefore colleges must engage in and evolve processes that will promote these goals while upholding the underlying principles inherent to all our programs.

Some references:

Program and Course Approval Handbook (2009, CCCCO)…

The Course Outline of Record: A Curriculum Reference Guide (2008, ASCCC)

Program Review: A Faculty Driven Process (1995, ASCCC)