Curriculum Development, Submission and Quality: It's About to Get a Little Easier

Curriculum Chair 2008-2009

Curriculum is the heart and soul of what we do in academia. The complexity of curriculum in California community colleges is unlike that in any other higher education system, 110 individual colleges with up to 110 viewpoints and diverse practices all directed by Title 5, local board policy, and individual departmental requirements. Beyond this our curriculum must meet transfer institution expectations, satisfy accreditation requirements, and, in Career Technical Education (CTE) areas, industry standards. How do we know that this curriculum is doing its job, meeting those standards and serving our students? How do we navigate the pathway from discipline development to state approval? Perhaps more than any area of our work as faculty, curriculum development and approval is the core of our institution. Staying updated on changes, educating discipline faculty at your college, and maintaining curricular quality are essential. The Academic Senate takes professional development for curriculum very seriously, orchestrating the annual Curriculum Institute among many other training opportunities and resources to help to maintain healthy curricular practices.

For those of you who were unable to attend our 2009 Curriculum Institute and have not had an update from your curriculum chair, this article is designed to entice you to visit the archived Curriculum Institute breakouts on these important curricular issues. As always, the Academic Senate website ( and our various publications offer a wealth of information and vital resources for your curricular work. Some of the major issues covered at the institute included: the latest and greatest Program and Course Approval Handbook; implementation of the new graduation requirements; completion of the California Community College Chancellor's Office (CCCCO) CurricUNET project as the statewide electronic submission platform; effects of compliant degree reviews; and curricular shifts subsequent to the Basic Skills Initiative addressing prerequisites and course CB 21 coding.

Program and Course Approval Handbook Version 3

This year the new Program and Course Approval Handbook 3rd edition (affectionately called the PCAH) was distributed at the Leadership conference and at the Curriculum Institute in hard copy and on flash drives to attendees. This important handbook can be downloaded at The PCAH is a comprehensive document, updated with the latest Title 5 changes, submission forms, and relevant examples that will make your curriculum work easier, only to be upstaged by the ease of submission when the CCCCO CurricUNET comes online in the spring. Chancellor's Office CurricUNET Submission Process Implementation

After years of dealing with paper processes for course and program approval, the Systemwide Advisory Committee on Curriculum (SACC) is finally seeing the implementation of CurricUNET as a submission platform for the CCCCO. CurricUNET submission will be possible whether you have CurricUNET as your curriculum management system, use paper processes, or have another curriculum management system. One major advantage CurricUNET will provide is automated checking for submission completeness and appropriate field information to avoid typical errors in the submission process. Each area of the submission process will include help menus derived from the PCAH. Another advantage will be the ability to search programs and courses within the system. This will allow colleges to find similar courses and create new programs without reinventing the wheel.

Compliant Degrees

Has your curriculum committee been working to bring your degrees into compliance with Title 5 section 55061 Philosophy and Criteria for Associate Degree and General Education? This Title 5 section has always indicated the need for an Associate Degree to represent more than just an accumulation of courses or units. Rather it should be developed through a calculated philosophy that leads students through patterns of learning experiences designed to develop certain capabilities and insights with sufficient depth in a field of knowledge. The outcome of this compliance work is something none of us anticipated. As displayed in the table below and shared at the breakout on compliant degrees, this Title 5 change initiated robust curricular discussions regarding degrees. Old degrees were reviewed for content. New student pathways and updated high quality degrees were created. The result was a wide variety of newly constructed student-learning centered degrees and pathways for our students. In addition, the Chancellor's Office reviewed and approved degrees within remarkably short periods of time providing good feedback for degrees that still needed some attention. These are new and exciting processes that have been developed through the collegial work done primarily in SACC. For background, also see the May 2008 Rostrum "As the Degree Turns-Notes to Minimize the Drama of getting your Compliant Degrees Approved".

In addition to considering the requirements for compliant degrees, Fall 2009 is the deadline for meeting the new graduation requirements. This means that all AA and AS degrees must require transfer-level English and Intermediate Algebra to complete the degree. Does that mean that English one level below transfer can no longer be degree applicable? No! Title 5 allows colleges to choose (or not) to include one level below transfer as degree applicable; however, students must also successfully complete transferable English to obtain a degree. The same is true of mathematics. Colleges may choose (or not) to include Elementary Algebra as degree applicable, but students must complete Intermediate Algebra or an equivalent course, to obtain a degree.

On the horizon is another change to degrees generated by Resolution Fall 08 9.03 stating that the Academic Senate should support defining the Associate of Science degree in Title 5 Regulation as an associate degree in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or in the area of career technical education, with all other associate degrees given the title of Associate of Arts and ensure that new Title 5 language explicitly state that the AA and AS degrees have the same minimum general education requirements. Keep your antenna up as the specifications for these changes become available. Spinoffs from the Basic Skills Initiative-Prerequisites and CB 21 Recoding

Finally, all of the research and discussion surrounding the Basic Skills Initiative have stimulated statewide action and collaboration regarding the issue of student success and progress in both general education courses and basic skills courses. One hot topic is the issue of statistical validation of prerequisites for courses in writing, reading and mathematics outside of those disciplines. The statistical validation piece has been contested through resolutions since it was instituted in 1994. The requirement has been so onerous requiring researchers, adequate sample populations and course by course, program by program analysis, that the California community colleges have reduced most prerequisites to advisories. The students have been very honest in our discussions with them-advisories are basically never followed. (For more information on this topic please see the May 2009 Rostrum article What Do Students Think About Prerequisites? Give a Listen to Their Views!) So how do we address the prerequisite issues and create pathways that contribute to student success? The Academic Senate proposes collaborationwith our partners to review data, examine pedagogy, course alignment and equity issues in repairing our curricular pathways. One example that will contribute to this work is a better understanding of our basic skills pathways and how students progress through the basic skills courses using CB 21 coding.

Work on the CB 21 rubrics to help recode course levels with relation to student progress through basic skills has been vetted and approved. (For more information on this work and the outcomes please look at The breakout at the Curriculum Institute used current CB 21 coding to examine the coding anomalies that exist and will be improved through the CB 21 recoding project. Every college requesting a look at their data has been surprised with the inaccuracies and the ultimate resulting data when reporting curricular success based on the current coding. More about the coding issues and timeline are covered in another article in this Rostrum.

This represents only a small portion of the essential information at the Curriculum Institute, our key professional development opportunity in curriculum as California community college faculty. If your faculty working with curriculum have not signed up for the 2010 institute, go to the Academic Senate website and sign up early. The Curriculum Institute usually fills up by winter or early spring and it is at the core of all we do. Don't miss out on this important professional development opportunity.