SUBCATEGORY FOUR: ACADEMIC PROGRAM QUALITY
Determining and communicating the preparation required of students for the specific curricula, programs, courses, and learning they will pursue (4.A.4)
Due to the variety of student preparation levels at open-door institutions, the College employs multiple mechanisms to determine the most appropriate preparation and placement of students. These include placement testing in reading, writing, and math for degree-seeking students and established prerequisite and/or corequisite requirements for coursework within each discipline. Additional preparation options include traditional remedial classes as well as an academic achievement center, learning strategies, and other tutoring and resource centers (4.A.4).
All new courses and programs and all modifications to existing courses and programs are vetted in a series of steps before being added to the catalog of offerings. These steps include review by faculty from the proper discipline, by the department, and by division curriculum committees. Before submission to the Board of Trustees, curriculum changes are reviewed and approved by Educational Affairs, the campuswide curriculum committee. Guidelines, resources, and notifications are available to all faculty through a course shell within the College’s learning management system. Faculty proposers and curriculum committees work with the Curriculum Office and the Chief Academic Officer to ensure that the needs of the community and other constituents are at the forefront of all discussions (3.A.1). Once approved by the Board of Trustees, courses and programs are submitted to the Kansas Board of Regents for approval. The need for any new programs and the College's ability to support new curricula is established throughout the approval process. Review of continuing need and/or areas for potential enhancement are considered as part of the Program Review processes.
The online catalog and the class search function on the College's website serve as key communication strategies for course and program requirements. Through these avenues, students may find course descriptions, prerequisite and/or co-requisite course requirements, and specific course and program curricular requirements. A general course outline that applies to all sections of a course, including dual-credit sections, are available by clicking on a course number in the catalog or the outline button found in the class search. The general course outline is the foundation for the course syllabus, which is provided to every student in a given course through the learning management system. Many faculty also choose to provide information about their expectations and teaching and evaluation styles through course information guides found through the linked CRN assigned to each course or on a faculty profile, or through the faculty profile, which can be found by clicking on the assigned faculty name.
Evaluating and ensuring program rigor for all modalities, locations, consortia, and when offering dual-credit programs (3.A.1, 3.A.3, 4.A.4)
Faculty hold the primary responsibility for establishing and maintaining the high standards of quality and rigor of curricula at JCCC. Published and standardized course outlines identify course objectives, competencies, prerequisites and corequisites, and methods of evaluation that apply to all sections regardless of the mode of delivery or location (3.A.3, 4.A.4). Faculty members work collaboratively with each other and with chairs and deans to ensure consistency in offerings regardless of delivery modality, location, or dual-credit purpose. The Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) has also established alignment for many courses and programs to facilitate articulation across the state's public higher education institutions. This alignment provides opportunities for the College's faculty to collaborate with other faculty across the state in the same aligned curricula to discuss and determine common core competencies.
Engaging quality faculty is a key to ensuring program rigor. Minimum qualifications are specified for every faculty position and the same qualifications are required of full-time or part-time faculty and those teaching dual-credit offerings. As an education professional, all faculty are expected to maintain and demonstrate currency in their fields and educational deliveries. Faculty who teach online are required to complete an iTeach online course and are encouraged to continually enhance online courses by learning and applying new skills. Other professional development opportunities are made available by Staff and Organizational Development and through budget support of travel for professional development, professional memberships, sabbaticals, etc. (3.A.1, 3.A.3, 4.A.4).
The College maintains a large dual-credit enrollment, which is supported through the Office of Community Outreach. In Fall 2015, the three largest campus departments offered nearly 15,500 dual-credit hours. High school students enrolled in dual-credit courses use curricula that must follow the same course outlines as on-campus and online students. A copy of the course syllabus is provided to each dual-credit student at the beginning of each course. In addition, dual-credit courses use the same assessment methods and instruments as courses offered on campus or online. The College's dual-credit program is accredited by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP) (4.A.4).
Awarding prior learning and transfer credits (4.A.2, 4.A.3)
JCCC evaluates all prior academic or experiential learning of students who transfer to the College. The goal of this action is to award earned credits toward the students' declared academic goals. Undergraduate transfer credits are accepted from colleges and universities holding regional accreditation. The records office works with the associate vice president of instruction and departments to assess courses for which articulations have not previously been established and to make appropriate substitutions to degree requirements. Transfer Advising Program Guides and Transfer Equivalency resources are available to provide a crosswalk for potential course transfer (4.A.2, 4.A.3).
Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is a program that provides credit for knowledge acquired outside the traditional classroom. Students who demonstrate and/or document previous learning may be able to earn credit. The College uses a variety of tools and assessments to document skills and learning acquired through the workplace, military, and volunteer experiences. These tools and assessments include portfolio evaluations, certificate reviews, Armed Services experience evaluations, and standardized assessments such as CLEP, AP College Entrance, and International Baccalaureate exams (4.A.2, 4.A.3).
Students may also benefit from reverse transfer and the Degree Partnership Program (DPP). With reverse transfer, students who transfer to another college before completing their JCCC degree may transfer credits back to the College and apply for graduation from JCCC once all requirements have been satisfied. The DPP is a collaborative degree partnership between the College and the University of Kansas. This is a dual enrollment partnership in which students can enroll at JCCC and KU in the same semester and potentially earn two degrees in as few as four years, facilitated by a seamless transfer process.
Selecting, implementing, and maintaining specialized accreditation(s) (4.A.5)
As applicable, many career and technical programs receive specialized and/or program level accreditation or approval. The College supports specialized accreditation requirements for those programs and careers where specialized accreditation leads to appropriate licensure or nationally standardized tests for career requirements (4.A.5). The programs that are approved to seek specialized accreditation undergo a rigorous process that includes completion of a comprehensive self-evaluation report in accordance with the specific accrediting organization. Once accredited, annual reports and cyclical self-studies and site visits are required for continued accreditation consideration. As part of the Program Review processes, programs provide updates on specialized accreditation status, including letters, reports, self-studies, and other documents.
Assessing the level of outcomes attainment by graduates at all levels (3.A.2, 4.A.6)
The College monitors key performance indicators (KPIs) and compares institutional performance against peer institutions. This provides institutional focus and accountability and serves as the stimulus in the development of institutional strategies to help achieve established student success targets. The College's KPIs are: full-time and part-time graduation and transfer of first-time, degree-seeking students (Fall Cohorts); persistence; transfer performance GPA of JCCC students; student satisfaction; and student performance on general education learning outcomes (4.A.6).
Specific program outcomes, including the attainment of general education, are reported in the Program Review processes. Examples of the data provided to programs can be found in the Academic Program Review, Planning and Development Handbook and include the following elements for the three most recently completed academic years: number of faculty (full-time, part-time, total); student credit hours by faculty type; enrollment by faculty type; faculty name by type; average class size, completion, and attrition; course completion, success, and attrition by distance learning versus face-to-face learning; assessment of student learning; number of degrees/certificates awarded; number of graduates transferring; number of graduates working in a related field; and expenditures and revenues. The data establishes a foundation for reflecting on a program’s current status and program goals, and for creating anticipated action plans to maintain and enhance program vitality indicators of demand, quality, and resource utilization. This information is summarized in a program vitality assessment completed by the program and the respective dean; the assessment is used for discussions, decision-making, and prioritization of academic initiatives (4.A.6, 3.A.2).
Additionally, career and technical programs maintain strong ties with advisory committees. Advisory committees assist programs in understanding the changing nature of the workforce and its needs. Another way in which the College monitors graduate attainment of skills is through the employer survey conducted through the Office of Institutional Research (3.A.2, 4.A.6).
Selecting the tools/methods/instruments used to assess program rigor across all modalities
As noted in the narrative, the primary tool for assessing rigor at the program level is the Program Review process. Additionally, faculty from each discipline have tested learning outcomes with direct and indirect methods of assessment to determine student levels of performance. These results are aggregated by the program for campuswide reporting on the levels of mastery, progression, or little/no skill attainment. Sections 1P1 under Common Learning Outcomes and 1P2 under Program Learning Outcomes detail the assessment processes for learning outcomes at the College. The College has general course outlines for each course that contain categories of evaluation and the percentage range by which students are evaluated in the course. Many career and technical programs offer students the opportunity for internships, which are evaluated for academic credit and as a means of measuring the development of job skills.