Curriculum Streamlining

ASCCC 2016-17 Curriculum Chair
ASCCC 2017-18 Curriculum Chair

The last three years have been a whirlwind in the curriculum world, culminating with the 2017 Curriculum Institute, which included multiple presentations about the streamlining changes occurring in curriculum.  In collaboration with the divisions of Academic Affairs, Student Services, and Workforce and Economic Development at the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO), the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges and the Chief Instructional Officers (CIO) Board began implementing changes to curriculum processes to make them more efficient and effective at the state and local levels. 

In August 2016, Vice Chancellor of Educational Services Pamela Walker requested the creation of a workgroup to streamline curriculum processes. The workgroup identified three major areas that impact curriculum processes:  local approval including local governing boards and regional consortia, the work done at the Chancellor’s Office, and external processes such as financial aid, accreditation, and veterans services. The workgroup recommended further study into possible changes at the Chancellor’s Office as well as a series of regional workshops targeting specific local processes that could be streamlined.  At the Chancellor’s Office level, much of this work was passed to the California Community Colleges Curriculum Committee (5C), the successor to the System Advisory Committee on Curriculum (SACC).  5C’s charter was reworked to increase the faculty membership, clearly define the roles of the Chancellor’s Office, and make the group a recommending body rather than an advising one.  With this charter in place, 5C and the workgroup undertook or continued a variety of projects to aid in the streamlining processes.

Both the workgroup and the ASCCC provided colleges with recommendations to improve local processes, including the adopted ASCCC paper Ensuring Effective Curriculum Approval Processes: A Guide for Local Senates (Spring 2016).  The workgroup also met with regional consortia to discuss the recommending role of the consortia under Title 5. The Chancellor’s Office reorganized several of its areas and gave those areas specific assignments regarding their roles in curriculum processes.  In addition, 5C initiated discussions with external bodies regarding catalog rights, accrediting processes, and financial aid implications for changes to curriculum processes in order to ensure that no unintended consequences would harm students.  Ultimately, the mantra of the work being done became “curriculum is curriculum is curriculum,” reinforcing the fact that all curriculum, regardless of modality, discipline, or field, should go through the same processes at both the state and local levels.

In terms of the statewide work with the Chancellor’s Office, a number of projects were completed in the past year.  The 6th edition of the Program and Course Approval Handbook (PCAH) was released and is now available on the Chancellor’s Office website under the Academic Affairs Division.  This updated PCAH is the work of numerous teams who spent more than two years revising and updating the document to reflect the current state of curriculum.  However, as the streamlining efforts continue to move forward, a 7th edition of the PCAH will likely be needed in the next eighteen months to two years.  The new PCAH, coupled with the documents for calculation of units and hours that were released in 2015, has provided colleges with the documentation necessary to implement streamlining at the local level.

The new Chancellor’s Office Curriculum Inventory was created and deployed to colleges in Summer 2017.  This new software, which replaces the previous software that had been developed by Governet, streamlines the submission of curriculum to the Chancellor’s Office.  In time, the system will become more intuitive and more streamlined, providing colleges with a nearly seamless submission process for all curriculum.

In Spring 2017 the Chancellor’s Office issued a memorandum returning some local authority to colleges regarding the approval of curriculum and introducing a new certification process.  Colleges had previously been allowed to locally approve stand alone courses and submit those courses to the Chancellor’s Office and receive a control number without any further review.  When that authority sunset in 2012, there were concerns that the processes for many of these courses would become unwieldy.  After lengthy research and analysis, the Chancellor’s Office determined that stand alone course approval should be returned to the colleges, and the Board of Governors approved that change in July 2016.  When the Curriculum Workgroup began meeting, discussions centered on allowing other forms of curriculum, including courses and programs, to be locally approved.  Ultimately, the workgroup determined that four types of courses should be shifted to colleges’ control:  stand alone credit courses, program applicable credit courses with substantial changes, program applicable credit courses with non-substantial changes, and new credit courses added to existing programs.  These types of courses were chosen because the changes to Title 5 would be fairly limited and these changes would impact all colleges in the system.  The new certification process, which was announced in October 2016, allowed colleges to locally approve these four types of courses provided that the curriculum chair and the chief instructional officer certified that local processes were followed and that the appropriate materials, such as the PCAH and Title 5, were used and adhered to.  The Board of Governors approved Title 5 changes related to these changes in July 2017, and the second certification will be due in October 2017.   As streamlining continues, this certification may come to include other types of courses, including noncredit, as well as programs, with continued education and assistance from the Academic Senate, the CIO Board, and the Chancellor’s Office.

Ultimately, the goal of the streamlining efforts is to allow colleges to approve and offer curriculum more rapidly than in the past.  Already, the queue at the Chancellor’s Office has dropped from over 1,500 pieces of curriculum to less than 200, with no piece of curriculum remaining in the queue longer than a few months.  As streamlining continues, the Curriculum Workgroup hopes that the queue will disappear entirely, allowing the Chancellor’s Office to provide further training and assistance to the colleges as needed, with the ultimate result being a system that is more responsive and therefore more beneficial to our students.