SVCC HLC Self-Study Document

Sauk Valley Community College
HLC Self-Study Document

September 19-21, 2011

4C: Assesses Usefulness of its Curricula

Sauk Valley Community College assesses the usefulness of its curricula to students who will live and work in a global, diverse, and technological society.

In order to maintain and provide for the currency and relevance of its courses and programs, Sauk has systems in place that provide the college community an opportunity to regularly evaluate its efficacy and to benefit from the input of the stakeholders of its Mission, both the students themselves and the communities in which they will study, live, and work. Sauk is committed to providing students with an education which prepares them not only to acquire content knowledge, but to bring appropriate life and work skills into modern society where workplace demands are in constant change. This emphasis is apparent through the Strategic Directions and general education curriculum described above. Specifically, this focus is detailed in the general education competencies: “General Education at Sauk Valley Community College prepares its graduates for the increasing demands of the workplace and the expanding responsibilities of the diverse local and global communities in which they will live and work. Required courses . . . provide students with knowledge, competencies, and habits of mind conducive to living responsible, productive, and joyful lives.”

4C.1: Relevance of Courses and Programs

In accordance with ICCB regulations, Sauk has developed a program review process to "promote continuous improvement and to link those improvements to other internal processes, including curriculum development." This process ensures that a comprehensive evaluation of the college operations and programs occurs on an established 5-year schedule. The process is overseen by the Program Review Committee, which has developed standard guidelines and templates to guide the process (link to an appendixAppendix). Among these templates are three which specifically address the currency and relevance of courses and programs:

  • FY10 Academic Disciplines Five Year Program Review covers the A.S. degrees that are considered “transfer” degrees, discipline by discipline (link to an appendixAppendix).
  • FY10 Career and Technical Education (CTE) Five Year Program Review covers the A.A.S. and certificate programs.
  • FY10 Cross-Disciplinary Five Year Program Review covers ICCB mandated cross-institutional areas, including developmental education and general education.

The instructions provided recommend that each program review team be constituted in such a way as to provide broad-based participation, not only of department staff and administration, but including employees from outside the unit, students, and community members when possible. In addition, the Program Review Template asks specific questions regarding stakeholder input and current need for the program. These questions include the following:

  • Student input, including formal and informal efforts aimed at obtaining student opinions and suggestions for improving the program.
  • Non-Student input, including efforts aimed at obtaining information regarding program content and improvement from informed sources other than students, for the purpose of keeping the program current and relevant.
  • Need and Growth Potential, including projected status and priorities for strengthening the program during the next five years.

Drawing as it does from various streams of external and internal, direct and indirect data; the program review process has been fine-tuned by the Program Review Committee over the last ten years to make it a useful tool that serves continuous improvement efforts. Feeding as it does into operational planning, the program review process also allows what is learned from stakeholders about the need for revisions and improvements in college programs to move forward into the annual planning process.

4C.2: External Confirmation of Efficacy

In addition to the program review process, Sauk routinely seeks input from alumni, employers, and other external constituents in a variety of contexts to ensure that coursework meets the needs of the workforce.

  • Work Force Council: The Work Force Councils, consisting of representatives from local employers who meet regularly with career program faculty and administrators, provide input relevant to current practice in the workplace. All career programs are included in the Councils, but break out as necessary to address discipline-specific issues (Link to another section of Self-Study 5B.2).
    • A new course for Safety and Troubleshooting in the Technology area is directly due to workplace concerns expressed by the community members of the Business and Technology Work Force Council, which were directed to a subcommittee and ultimately resulted in a Curriculum proposal.
    • The Nursing Work Force Council includes employers from acute and long term care facilities, clinics, and county health departments as well as graduates. The agenda for each meeting includes program developments, program improvements, and employer needs. These meetings allow the members to make needs known, but also provide feedback to them regarding modifications to the curriculum based on previous suggestions. Recent graduates who are members of the council share their experiences of transition from student to employee.
  • Internship programs in the areas of business, accounting, computer information systems, and office and administrative services provide students learning experiences which prepare them for employment. The allied health programs each have a strong clinical component that provides similar opportunities. At the end of the internship or clinical, both students and participating employers are given the opportunity to communicate about the experience in ways that inform faculty about the student’s preparedness for the workplace setting encountered. Information from this contact may be directed into the operational planning process or course outlines may then be updated with changes designed to improve students' abilities to be successful in the workplace.
  • College representation on the IAI committees (currently four faculty and one administrator) provides a link from Sauk into the statewide system for assuring relevance of the general education core curriculum. All transferrable course outlines that are submitted for any revisions are evaluated against IAI standards in the approval process in order to make sure outcomes and expectations are in line with those current at other institutions.

4C.3: Graduate Success Outside the Institution

The Assessment Plan establishes the institution-wide learning goals upon which the outcomes for graduates are based. Goal 2 speaks directly to the faculty expectation of graduates for the habits of mind expected of a college graduate: “ Students will develop and apply various general education competencies through the study of the discipline.” Although each competency has relevance to developing students as life-long learners, two in particular address the preparation for life in a global and fast-changing technical society:

1) Technology

The objectives related to technology ask that students be able to “demonstrate general computer literacy” and to “demonstrate the selection and use of appropriate technologies for the specific discipline.” Sauk has provided extensive access to technology-supported learning: 38 of 44 (86%) lecture rooms are technology-enhanced; three computer labs (averaging 20 computers each) and ten classrooms with a total of 375 computers are available for student use. This support enables the wide use of technology in teaching and a curricular imperative for computer skills: A.A.S. degrees require a computer course; all composition classes are taught in computer labs; and about 150 courses per semester use course management software for on-campus sections.

The computer literacy objective was the subject of an institution-wide assessment project in fall 2009, which sought to determine the skill level of the incoming student population for basic file management and in Microsoft Word™. A computer skill exercise was voluntarily administered by faculty in classes taught in computer classrooms. The results indicated that of 799 students sampled, 16% of students could not perform the set of tasks at the expected level; of the 169 developmental students in the sample, 40% failed the assessment. The results were presented to the full-time faculty at a Faculty Forum, with several results:

  • The Developmental Education Committee arranged a comprehensive assessment event in all developmental-level reading, composition, and math sections in spring 2010, the results of which were presented to full-time faculty at a subsequent meeting.
  • The faculty discussed the possibility of establishing the assessment as a placement tool for incoming students, with various ramifications on course enrollment as a result. The issue was delegated to individual areas to be included as action items on Operational Plans as the needs of the area dictated.
  • Introduction to Microsoft Windows (CIS 105) was revised based on the findings and reactivated to be available as an alternative for students.

2) Problem-Solving

The faculty has chosen to value problem-solving as a competency which expresses critical thinking skills in a practical application. The competency stems from the faculty’s efforts to reflect career as well as transfer degree priorities as it developed the competencies. Faculty professional development related to this competency is sometimes directed toward critical thinking. The Problem Solving objectives expect that students will be able to “Identify problems and the desired outcomes”; “Recognize and evaluate available resources”; and “Adapt, organize, and implement solutions or plans of action.” Students, particularly those in career programs at Sauk, demonstrate mastery of independent problem-solving skills in a variety of ways:

  • Assessment data: Classroom projects from a variety of college-level courses assess student mastery of faculty-selected objectives. These data are aggregated over a three-year cycle and then used as the basis for discussion and action by the faculty. Figure 4vi below shows the aggregation for the period 2008-2010, which will form the basis for faculty discussions in FY12.  The following outcomes were assessed:
    • Outcome 1: Identify the problem and desired outcome(s).
    • Outcome 2: Recognize and evaluate available resources.
    • Outcome 3: Establish a process or plan of action by which the outcome may be achieved.
    • Outcome 4: Implement solution(s) and apply knowledge.
    Figure 4vi: General Education Competency Aggregation Report
     Outcome 1
    Outcome 2
    Outcome 3
    Outcome 4
    Number 401 384 170 22 141 25 174 18 277 27
    Percentage   95.76% 88.54% 11.46% 84.94% 15.06% 90.63% 9.38% 91.12% 8.88%
    Term: Fall 2008 - Spring 2011
    Source: Assessment System database
  • Clinicals: Students in the health careers programs are evaluated twice during their required clinical experiences, once at mid-term and once at the end of the semester. The evaluations, completed by the supervising faculty, address the objectives stated in both the course outlines and course syllabi.
  • Internships: Accounting, Business, and Office and Administrative Services use comprehensive questionnaires to evaluate student internships.
  • Case studies: "Hands on" projects are a significant component in selected 200-level career program courses. Projects like the examples below require the student to demonstrate independent problem-solving skills and the application of a variety of program-specific and academic knowledge:
    • In ECE 275, for example, students create a multicultural lesson plan unit for implementing social studies in the early childhood classroom.
    • In ELT 262, students construct and connect an assigned circuit in a lab setting.
    • In HRS 220, students assemble and disassemble a washer and dryer.

4C.4: Service to a Diverse Community

Although the faculty has not articulated diversity as a general education competency, Sauk's Strategic Directions provide a clear mandate that the college community address diversity issues and suggests how this may be done in its statement of Shared Ethical Values. This directive is carried out in the curriculum in several ways:

  • Humanities core curriculum outcomes: One specific outcome articulated by the humanities assessment objectives is that “Students will demonstrate a familiarity with and appreciation of our diverse human heritage.” This outcome is carried out across the array of courses in humanities, literature, philosophy, and foreign language that qualify as meeting the humanities GECC requirement.
  • Education diversity requirements: Almost a dozen GECC courses are available that are specifically designed to expose students to non-Western culture and which have been approved to satisfy the University of Illinois’ diversity requirement for education majors.
  • Classroom activities: Most Sauk faculty (91% of respondents) strongly or moderately promote or discuss diversity within their classrooms, according to the fall 2009 survey. Cultural diversity is interjected into classroom activities in a number of ways. Faculty provided the following examples:
    • Students in Cultural Diversity in Criminal Justice (CJS 225) discuss racial profiling and its implications, importance of diversification of the police department, and the link with race and crime and poverty.
    • In Human Growth and Development (PSY 200) and Child Psychology (PSY 214), in-utero developmental problems are discussed along with their link to different racial/ethnic groups. Also, the connections with alcoholism and SES and different racial and ethnic groups are discussed.
    • A variety of Nursing classes present to students how different religions/cultures view medical interventions and treatment and how certain ethnic and cultural groups run an increased risk for diseases based on their dietary habits or genetics.

In addition to the general education competencies, which comprise the curriculum-delivered preparation for graduates to take their place in a global society as workers and citizens, Sauk has a long history of providing students an opportunity to serve others. This particular facet of social responsibility is modeled for students by the behaviors of the institution and its employees:

  • Institution-level participation in local public service: Sauk itself is a contributor to the district it serves (link to another section of the report5D.2):
    • The college has been a United Way participant for more than 25 years. In 2010, 23 employees gave a total of almost $3,000 to Whiteside County, Lee County, or Community Health Charities of Illinois.
    • The college promotes selected community projects. Opportunities for campus involvement in off-campus events are directed through the Director of Foundation and Grants to the President’s Cabinet for approval. For example, Sauk has annually provided a pie for the American Cancer Society pie auction, supported breast cancer research through Jeans Days, and the local Relay for Life event through sales of daffodils.
    • In addition to their site assignments, AmeriCorps members volunteer to assist at an estimated 80 community activities and events each year. Beginning in FY11, these opportunities have also been promoted to other students as well.
  • Modeled by faculty and staff: In the fall 2009 survey, Sauk employees listed about 280 separate community organizations in which they volunteer.
  • Clubs and organizations: One way that the college encourages public service by students in its co-curricular activities is by establishing a “Gold Wing” award that clubs and organization may earn. Under the terms of the program, Gold-wing status specifically requires a community service activity, thereby creating an incentive for clubs who do not otherwise have service or social responsibility built into a mission statement. Here is a sampling of service activities and projects undertaken by student clubs and organizations in recent years:
    • A.L.A.S. founded a Bilingual 4-H club in Rock Falls and hosted a Women’s Health Workshop
    • Campus Women’s Club held a “Walk a Mile in her Shoes” fundraiser for breast cancer research
    • Allied Health and Student Government cooperate to run regular blood drives
    • Student Government sponsored a Habitat for Humanity Trip to Texas in 2008
    • Phi Theta Kappa has regularly collected used textbooks to be sent to schools in foreign countries.