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2e. The institution evaluates all courses and programs through an ongoing systematic review of their relevance, appropriateness, achievement of learning outcomes, currency and future needs and plans.
The college has engaged in a comprehensive review of the following programs and services over the last several years. Although this list does not represent the entire college, it demonstrates a sincere effort by faculty and staff in both academic affairs and student services to systematically review their programs as part of the regular planning cycle (IIA-61).
- Automotive Technology
- Business Information Systems
- Career Center
- Construction Technology
- Criminal Justice
- Educational Assistance Center
- East Campus Center/Off Campus Programs
- Educational Opportunity Program and Services
- Foreign Language
- Geographical Sciences
- Student Health Center
- Machine Technology/Manufacturing
- Re-Entry and Women's Center
The Office of Institutional Research regularly obtains outcome data for the Gateway Courses specified in the Institutional Title 5 Grant. The Project Director reviews and disseminates these data to college administrators for further action (IIA-21).
Each year the CalWORKs Office collaborates with the County of Ventura to ascertain the number of job placements for CalWORKs students. These data are reported to the State Chancellor's Office.
In addition, faculty often administer year-end student surveys to determine students' perceptions about the relevance, appropriateness and currency of their courses (IIA-62).
2f. The institution engages in ongoing, systematic evaluation and integrated planning to assure currency and measure achievement of its stated student learning outcomes for courses, certificates, programs, including general and vocational education, and degrees. The institution systematically strives to improve those outcomes and makes the results available to appropriate constituencies.
Several departments engage in ongoing, systematic evaluation to assure currency and to measure student achievement. The following programs and departments use systematic evaluations to measure student learning outcomes and as a catalyst for continuous program improvement: English, English as a Second Language, Sociology, Mathematics, Political Science, all the pure sciences, vocational training, and contract education programs. Student Services also conduct regular evaluations of their programs to meet the changing needs of the student body.
Beginning in the 2002 fall semester and concluding in April, 2003, Ventura College developed a comprehensive Educational Master Plan. This plan updated its College Plan 2000-2003, a document that resulted from a process that began in 1996. The Educational Master Plan would "guide the future direction of the College and be the basis for unit planning" (April, 2003 Educational Master Plan, pg. vii).
The following passages are from the 2003 Educational Master Plan, p. 2:
In 2002-03, the College began an ongoing cycle of unit reviews, completing 23 in the initial year. The cycle is continuing in 2003-04. The unit reviews serve as the foundation for formulating unit plans and measurable objectives that are consistent with the Values, Practices, Mission, Goals and Strategies in the Educational Master Plan
In 2002-03 the College also developed a technology planning framework which includes the formation of a Technology Committee. Its work will result in a comprehensive, multi-year technology plan that aligns with the Educational Master Plan.
Other ongoing planning will follow, in accordance with the Values, Practices, Vision, Mission, Goals and Strategies of the Educational Master Plan. They include an enrollment management plan, with the guidance of an Enrollment Management Team, and a staffing plan, which will include a long-range staff development plan that builds on the considerable work done by the college on this subject in recent years.
Finally, the college is committed to maintaining a plan-driven resource allocation model, a task made difficult by the fiscal crisis at the time the Educational Master Plan has been developed (see general bin).
The Council for Institutional Development (CID) acted as a planning committee for the Educational Master Plan. CID is a representative body of 38 faculty, staff, students and administrators whose work illustrates all of the following themes: institutional commitment; evaluation, planning and improvement; organization; student learning outcomes; and dialogue (IIA-63).
2g. If an institution uses departmental course and/or program examinations, it validates their effectiveness in measuring student learning and minimizes test biases.
In the past year, the English and Math Departments have taken the lead in validating their assessment tests (IIA-64).
2h. The institution awards credit based on student achievement of the course's stated learning outcomes. Units of credit awarded are consistent with institutional policies that reflect generally accepted norms or equivalencies in higher education.
Student learning outcomes are the basis for awarding college credit. The 2003 Curriculum Handbook clearly explains the Title 5 requirements for awarding grades and units: "The course must have a grading policy that is clearly based on course objectives in the course outline. The grade must be based on demonstrated proficiency at least part of which is either in the form of written essays or, if the curriculum committee deems it more appropriate, problem solving ability may be added to or substituted for essay writing" (Curriculum Handbook, p. 22, General Reference Bin).
"A credit course is required to incorporate critical thinking along with learning skills and a vocabulary that is definitely at the college level. It is through the course outline that these skills are demonstrated to be at a college level and an integral component of the course" (Curriculum Handbook, p. 22, General Reference Bin).
Credits based on student achievement are accepted as accurate by baccalaureate institutions that receive transfer students. The credits awarded are consistent with accepted norms in higher education, as evidenced by numerous articulation agreements with both pubic and private baccalaureate institutions, as well as by numerous accreditations-both regional and specialized. This illustrates the theme of institutional commitment to providing the highest quality college education for the community.
2i. The institution awards degrees and certificates based on student achievement of a program's stated learning outcomes.
The institutional dialogue regarding student learning outcomes occurs at several levels: at department meetings, at the Council for Institutional Development, in the Academic Senate and at Curriculum Committee meetings. Course outlines contain objectives, or student learning outcomes, consistent with the mission of the California Community Colleges and with the Institution's Educational Master Plan. Course outlines must demonstrate that the courses are rigorous and effective in integrating throughout the outline the required components of critical thinking, essay writing/problem solving, and college level skills and vocabulary.
As the self study dialogues progressed, participants discussed the extent to which the college meets the standard and what needs to be done to improve. As noted throughout the Descriptive Summary, evidence clearly suggests that Ventura College is demonstrating the six themes and meeting the standard.
The evidence suggests that an outstanding strength of the instructional program lies in the area of collaboration with community partners to achieve desired student learning outcomes. Part of the college's mission statement reads:
As one of the oldest community colleges in California, Ventura College has a strong and deep connection to the community. It fulfills its long-standing responsibility for enhancing the quality of life of Ventura County by aligning its programs and services to the regional needs, being receptive to requests from the community and forming unique partnerships.
The self study and corresponding evidence demonstrate that Ventura College is a dynamic, integral part of the community a number of ways: through outreach to young people and their families in the Santa Clara River Valley; through partnerships for training with the County of Ventura, Casa Pacifica, Toyota, HAAS Automation, and many other public and privates sector enterprises; and through its celebration of diversity through the federal Title 5 Program, the CalWORKs Grant, the Assistive Technology Center, and the Alternative Text Production Center.
This evidence illustrates another strength of the college: the responsiveness of the faculty in developing and modifying curricula to meet the changing needs of both students and the community. Evidence includes new curricula in biotechnology and global information systems; new, short-term business and computer classes; a renovated Community Education program; revised curricula in algebra and composition; and new programs to train paramedics, certified nursing assistants and pubic safety officers.
Finally, the self study reveals the concerted effort by administration, faculty and staff to "clear the path" for students pursuing higher education. Evidence points to the Learning Skills programs, designed to address the needs of individuals with learning and other types of disabilities; the study skills workshops conducted through the Nursing Program; the Student Success Team meetings; the CalWORKs program; the MESA program; the mentoring program sponsored through EOPS; the Learning Resource/Tutor Centers at both the main campus and at the East Campus Center in Santa Paula; the Symposia on Teaching and Learning; the Vincent Tinto presentation, and other events and activities designed to meet the needs of the "whole student." Clearly, the college abides by its Vision Statement: "Ventura College is an educational leader providing a positive and accessible learning environment that is responsive to the needs of students, promotes success, develops students to their full potential, creates lifelong learners and fosters positive human values for successful living and membership in a global environment."
While the self study demonstrates these areas of institutional effectiveness, it also reveals a number of areas needing further study and improvement.
First, the college needs to conduct ongoing research to determine the effectiveness of the different delivery modes of instruction that have proliferated over the last several years. Although we can infer from "best practices" literature that online learning, for instance, may be as effective as classroom learning, we do not systematically study our own modes of instruction to determine their effectiveness in helping students achieve successful learning outcomes.
Related to this area is the need for a full-time Institutional Researcher, also noted in the Planning Agenda of Section I of the Standard. The current staff researcher is categorically funded and works part-time. As the breadth and scope of the instructional programs continue to expand, faculty and administration must understand best practices to achieve student learning outcomes. The current data is collected only periodically and is descriptive in nature. As part of the planning cycle, a full-time staff researcher will provide the college with data to make informed decisions regarding delivery strategies and other vital areas.
Further, although program review is on a five-year cycle, it receives relatively low priority in the day-to-day operations of a comprehensive college program. The self study dialogues suggest that the faculty and staff feel that regular, systematic program review needs to be a higher priority in the ongoing evaluation of the instructional programs.
Instructor assessment is another area that needs improvement. Although the peer review form has been revised numerous times, the self study reveals that it is still an ineffective tool for meaningful evaluation.
The college needs to assess for student learning styles on a regular basis throughout the campus. While the Nursing Department and some political science and reading classes routinely assess for learning styles, other courses may or may not attend to this area of pedagogy. Dialogues indicated that faculty generally understand the importance of attending to students' learning styles but do not have the capacity to assess and then address those needs.
With regard to faculty, the self study notes that although many faculty continue their education during sabbatical leaves, no process for sharing their knowledge with other college staff is in place. The same is true for faculty who attend professional conferences and conduct research for advanced degrees. The college must develop a user-friendly system for faculty to share their knowledge with colleagues so that the campus community, including students, will benefit from their experiences. In addition, the self study suggests the need for more structured communication and sharing among the diverse departments throughout the college. For example, a comprehensive, structured Center for Teaching and Learning would provide a centralized location for faculty to meet, study, and exchange teaching strategies.
In addition, a more consistent program review to assist in planning, adding, revising, and deleting courses must be established.
Finally, with regard to the newly-revised Community Education Program, student satisfaction data must be collected on a regular basis in order to better evaluate programs and services. Further, the program must make better use of technology for more efficient enrollment management.
As part of its planning cycle, the Ventura College Council for Institutional Development spearheaded the development of an Educational Master Plan which was published in April 2003. Recognizing the college's strength as a dynamic, responsive member of the community, the first goal in the Educational Master Plan reads as follows:
Develop and maintain educational programs and services in a unique learning environment where individuals can fulfill their personal and professional dreams (p. 3).
To reach this goal, the plan recommends that the college "focus all the college's efforts, e.g., programs, scheduling and services, on student and regional needs" (p. 3). The college plans to meet student and regional needs through the "use of new technologies to increase access to College programs and services" (p. 6). Specific actions include the following:
- Increase the number and variety of online academic programs.
- Explore partnerships with producers of online educational courses and programs that meet the needs of the students and the standards of the Ventura College faculty.
- Augment the traditional method of delivering student support with online student services and learning resources, e.g., counseling and tutoring.
The Educational Master Plan continues to describe other ways the college plans to reach this goal, such as: expanding the number of dual enrollment offerings for high school students; reorganizing portions of the curriculum around an "occupational career ladder" concept; developing accelerated degree and certificate programs; developing one-stop centers at the Main and East Campus where students can develop educational plans to help them achieve their goals; and expanding the Emeritus Institute to accommodate growing numbers of citizens participating in lifelong learning.
Thus, the Ventura College Master Plan, along with the Accreditation Self Study, both recognize the college's unique role in the community as an educational leader, business trainer, and center of innovation where people fulfill their personal and professional goals and dreams.
The self study also suggests the need for systematic, ongoing institutional research-scanning both internal and external environments. In recognition of this need, the Educational Master Plan (April, 2003, p. 3) recommends the following strategy:
Develop a systematic method for assessing and evaluating the following on a regular basis:
- Student interests and regional needs so that the College maintains responsive programs and services.
- Academic programs and learning resources to be certain that course content is current, that the latest and most successful pedagogical techniques are used and that the desired learning outcomes are achieved.
- Student services to determine which are of the most value to students in achieving their goals and when the services are most needed.
- Desired evaluation methodologies and student competencies through appropriate advisory committees.
Systematic, ongoing analysis-both quantitative and qualitative-will yield process and outcome data to drive the planning process, ensuring continuous institutional improvement with the ultimate goal of improving student learning outcomes.
Another portion of the Planning Agenda stems from the self study's analysis of the need for ongoing staff development and improved communication among faculty. This is emphasized in the Mission Statement: "The College community is made up of a dedicated, caring and diverse team of professionals who are committed to assisting all students achieve their personal and professional goals and developing their full potential in an ever-changing cultural, socioeconomic and technological world." A Staff Development Committee has devised a Staff Development Plan to address the ongoing training needs and communication issues among faculty (IIA-65).
3. The institution requires of all academic and vocational programs a component of general education based on a carefully considered philosophy that is clearly stated in its catalog. The institution, relying on the expertise of its faculty, determines the appropriateness of each course for inclusion in the general education curriculum by examining the stated learning outcomes for the course.
Ventura College offers high quality academic and vocational degree programs with a general education foundation that supports the college mission to "offer a comprehensive curriculum with a diverse selection of disciplines, learning approaches and teaching methods." The college offers 124 general and occupational programs leading to certificates of achievement or associate degrees. The general education philosophy and course requirements are clearly stated in the 2004-2005 Ventura College Catalog and in several other documents. This commitment to the College Mission speaks to the themes of institutional commitments and institutional integrity.
The college catalog contains the college mission, values and goals, as well as the general education philosophy and descriptions of the three types of Associate Degrees from which students may choose: Associate in Arts/Science, General Liberal Arts/Science, and Transfer Liberal Arts/Science (IIA-66). The degrees include the different categories and courses that constitute the degree programs and satisfy the general education requirements (IIA-67). Copies of the college catalog are available to students in the library, counseling office and bookstore.
Faculty submit courses to the Curriculum Committee for general education consideration. The Philosophy and General Education Committee, a subcommittee of the Curriculum Committee, reviews the proposals. In addition to faculty-initiated proposals, the articulation officer, who is a member of the Philosophy and General Education Committee, prompts faculty to consider courses for General Education status that were not initially submitted as such. In its review process, the Philosophy and General Education Committee is guided by the philosophy statement developed by the college for associate degrees, general education consideration, and by the philosophy statements prepared by the California State Universities and the University of California regarding General Education.
The college's general education requirements are defined by Title 5 and supported by the belief in development and maintenance of " excellent educational programs and services in a unique learning environment where individuals can fulfill their personal and professional dreams." Published in the faculty handbook, the general education philosophy gives faculty the opportunity to understand the criteria used to develop new courses or evaluate existing ones (IIA-68). The student learning outcomes for general education courses include "an understanding of the basic content and methodology of the major areas of knowledge, including humanities and fine arts, the natural sciences, and the social sciences," rounding out a liberal arts education.
In 1985, in response to the State mandate, the Ventura College Curriculum Committee (then known as the Academic Affairs Committee) adopted the criteria for approving courses and programs and assuring that courses complied with general education standards. The Ventura College Curriculum Committee approved the philosophy and criteria, which were reevaluated in 1995. The general education philosophy that governs the three colleges reads as follows:
General Education is designed to introduce students to the variety of means through which people comprehend the modern world. It reflects the conviction of college that those who receive our degrees must possess in common certain basic principles, concepts and methodologies both unique to and shared by the various disciplines. College educated persons should be able to use this knowledge when evaluating and appreciating the physical environment, the culture, and the society in which they live. Most importantly, General Education should lead to better self-understanding (IIA-69).
This understanding involves the ability to think and communicate clearly and effectively both orally and in writing; to use mathematics; to understand the modes of inquiry of the major disciplines; to be aware of other cultures and times; to achieve insights gained through experience in thinking about ethical problems; and to develop the capacity for self-understanding. In addition to these accomplishments, students should possess sufficient depth in some field of knowledge to contribute to lifetime interest.
To meet the objectives of general education:
Courses in the natural sciences are those that help students examine the physical universe, its life forms, and its natural phenomena; and develop an understanding and appreciation of the scientific method and of the relationships between science and other human activities.
Courses in the social and behavioral sciences help students develop an understanding of the method of scientific inquiry used in the social and behavioral sciences; stimulate in students critical thinking about human behavior; and promote an appreciation of how societies and social subgroups have operated in the past and function in the present.
Courses in the humanities help students develop an awareness of how people of different cultures throughout the ages have responded to themselves, other people, and their environment in artistic and cultural creation; develop aesthetic understanding and the ability to make value judgments; and participate in creative experiences.
Courses in language and rationality help students develop principles and applications of language toward logical thought, clear and precise expression, and critical evaluation of communication in whatever symbol system the students use.
Courses in health and physical activity help students develop the understanding and skills necessary to maintain a healthful life.
Courses in ethnic and women's studies help students develop an awareness of their historical roots and an appreciation of the cultural contributions of diverse ethnic populations and women; lead to an understanding of the causes and consequences of socio-economic inequality based on race, sex, or ethnicity; and explore ways of eliminating such inequities.
The general education philosophy and accompanying objectives illustrate the thematic strands of student learning outcomes, organization, dialogue and institutional integrity.
Ventura College enjoys a rigorous process of course and program approval, ensuring that new and revised courses meet the college's general education philosophy. Faculty generally initiate new and revised courses. After discussion and approval at the department level, courses are placed on the Ventura College Course Outline of Record Form, as adopted by the Curriculum Committee in 2000 (IIA-70). The Course Outline Form, an eight to a thirteen-page document, contains the specifics for each course. Since 2001, the articulation officer, department chairs, and deans have been working diligently to transfer all Ventura College courses to the new form. Currently, the college has approximately 1,400 courses. Of these, 70 percent are transferable to a university. So far about 80 percent of the transfer courses have been documented on the new form. Of the 420 non-transferable, 20 percent have been put onto the new course outline. The document includes the following:
- The description of the course
- Entry skills
- Objectives-student learning outcomes
- Assignments and course work
- Evaluation: based on student learning outcomes
- Critical thinking skills
After review and approval by the department, the articulation officer evaluates courses and ensures that they are in compliance with Ventura College's general education requirements for the AA/AS degree and those determined by transfer institutions.
New course proposals are submitted to the Curriculum Committee for further discussion and potential approval. The committee, made up of faculty representing the seven divisions of the college, is appointed by the Academic Senate president and co-chaired by the executive vice-president and a faculty senate appointee. The committee "provide[s] guidance, advocacy, and oversight for Ventura College's curriculum by ensuring that the curriculum is academically sound, comprehensive and responsible to the evolving needs of the community, so that the college mission goals, and educational delivery to the students are well preserved" (IIA-71). The committee's responsibilities are also set forth in the "Curriculum Committee Guidelines: Processes and Procedures," a section of the Curriculum Handbook.
Questions related to general education are deferred to the Philosophy and General Education Committee . This subcommittee reviews courses, making recommendations to the Curriculum Committee. The Philosophy and General Education Subcommittee of the Academic Senate provides "a forum for faculty and staff to discuss concerns and goals dealing with the philosophy of the college, general education requirements and general academic policies relating to the curriculum" (IIA-72).
The Philosophy and General Education Committee reviews a course and submits a General Education Course List Form that responds to five questions:
- Do the course description and outline relate to the general education category proposed?
- Is the course broad and comprehensive enough to provide an overview of the category proposed?
- Do a significant number of institutions in California designate this course as "lower division"?
- Is the course appropriately classified as a general course rather than an occupational one?
- Is the course offered at least once every two years? (Attachment: General Education Course List)
General Education for Transfer Courses and Associate Degrees
The receiving transfer institution determines the general education criteria for transfer courses. Executive Order 595 from the Office of the Chancellor of the California State University system empowers Ventura College to certify to all CSU campuses that a maximum of 39 of the 48 units required for general education for a B.A. or B.S. degree have been completed. The 39 semester units for lower division general education/breadth requirements are distributed according to the pattern listed in the CSU-GE Certification Plan. The Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC) works in a similar way. Ventura College transfer students can use the IGETC to fulfill lower division general education/breadth requirements for the California State University or the University of California systems (IIA-73).
To assure quality and to verify compliance with Ventura College's general education/breadth, courses are reviewed and updated every five years. Faculty, in collaboration with the articulation officer, revise courses and programs-some of which are reviewed more extensively by the Program Review process adopted by the college in 1997 and updated in 2002.