Program Mapping: Who, what, when, and why?

During Opening Week you hopefully heard the phrase “program mapping” several times. What is this? Guided Pathways has four “pillars” for its work: getting students on a path, clarifying the path, keeping students on a path, and ensuring learning. Program mapping as we are implementing it relates to the second and last pillars.

We serve a large number of first generation college students. Our current “cafeteria model” of college, where myriad choices are presented as equal, may be more of a detriment than a benefit. Data shared by Sean Gehrke from IR showed that the average student at EvCC is taking about 29 credits more than the 90 needed to finish an associates degree; that’s two full-time quarters. One hypothesis of the Guided Pathways model is that we can reduce this number by making clear to students at the beginning what the path to completion looks like, reducing the number of extraneous courses taken.

Another key idea behind program mapping is to take a step back and do what Peg taught us to do in our courses: design with the end in mind. The majority of our students come here with the goal of a certificate or degree that leads to a career. If the students’ goal is a career then we can help by creating a pathway for them that includes knowledge, skills, and abilities that would contribute to success in that career. For example, Brett Kuwada has pointed out that because Engineering companies place great importance on group work, we might point those students towards CMST& 230 – Small Group Communication to fulfill one of their Humanities requirements. I frequently try to steer ELL students to Beth Peterson’s DRMA 130 class – Improv and Sketch Comedy because I know it will help them feel comfortable with speaking conversationally and with understanding idioms and nuances of American culture. I don’t know if any of them take me up on that suggestion, but I suggest it because I think it will help them in many ways, including applying for a job. These kinds of things wouldn’t be requirements but rather default suggestions we could give students in the pathways we advise.

This work will contribute to future revisions to curriculum guides and to the logic we will build into the advising software we implement in the next couple years. Program mapping is a key step in a process to take some of the planning burden out of the advisor role and make room for one-on-one connections regarding personal, academic, and career goals.

The process of program mapping will look something like this:

Phase 1 (started during Tuesday of Opening Week): 

Phase 2 (choose one: Oct 9, 10, 11, 12 @ 2:30-4:30pm or Oct 13 @ 10am-12pm and 1-3pm):

  • Work as a program mapping team through a learning inventory packet, finishing by end of fall quarter
    • Build foundation elements for mapping: identify knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for careers
    • Identify high impact practices and other instructional elements that benefit students
    • Review program outcomes as it relates to what we expect our students to do “out there” that we are responsible for “in here”

Phase 3 (winter quarter)

  • Work across departments to figure out how we can leverage the core distribution requirements to meet our program outcomes
  • Complete program maps by April 30, 2018 in time to report to College Spark

If you haven’t already, sign up for a program mapping team. Staff and administrators are welcome to sign up, too. While it will be critical to have at least one pathway expert in each team, mixing of perspectives will yield some great insights. That also gives us a chance to work more with folks in different parts of campus. The time commitment here will be two hours at a workshop you attend with your team in October, a couple hours after that to finish any work that wasn’t completed there, and another two hour workshop in the winter quarter that involves heavy cross-campus discussion about course recommendations for distribution requirements.

Our Institutional Capacity for Change

Friday you got an email from President Beyer asking you to take the Institutional Capacity Assessment Tool questionnaire. Having useful results from this survey will require the participation of as many of us as possible. I’d like to explain more about what this tool is, why we are using it, what we plan to do with the results, and… fabulous prizes!

When changes are needed to promote student success, what’s EvCC’s capacity for change?

That’s a big question. The Achieving the Dream folks have put together a framework for thinking about this. They look at 7 “capacities”: Equity, Teaching & Learning, Engagement & Communication, Strategy & Planning, Policies & Practices, Leadership & Vision, Data & Technology. If a college is strong in all of these areas then it’s ready to embrace the changes needed to build a student-focused culture.


This framework fits beautifully with our Guided Pathways work and our larger Achieving the Dream efforts. The goal here is to find out areas in which we’re strong and areas in which we need to improve. To have effective change at an institution-wide level we need to be strong in all seven of these capacities.

The ICAT itself is two demographic questions about your role at the college and then seven pages with questions about each of the capacities. If you don’t know the answers to a question, there’s an “I don’t know” option.

What will we do with the results? The ICAT is a conversation starter. Our intention is to collect people’s ICAT responses through Finals Week (Dec 12) and then compile results and share out with the campus via this blog. Then, we will organize forums to discuss the results. We want to know what people know and don’t know about current efforts. In capacities in which EvCC scores low, we’ll have a great place to start a campus wide conversation about what the source might be. We want to hear from as broad a community as possible. So please encourage everyone on campus to participate (staff, faculty — tenured and associate).

Fabulous Prizes!

Classified staff can put the ICAT down as an hour of work. All faculty and staff who complete the ICAT can email Sharon Ralston to be entered into a raffle. The prize will be a reserved parking spot (location TBD by Facilities and Security) for the month of February

Please help us collect data so we can assess where we are as a college and where we need to put our efforts!

Here’s the link from Pres. Beyer’s email to get to the ICAT:

You will need the authentication code for EvCC: Ua07PdGX.


Let’s not call them Meta-majors anymore

I’m at the College Spark Metamajors workshop in Vancouver, WA with many of he Guided Pathways Steering Committee members. We are learning about some great work other colleges are doing which I would like to share with you.

But before I do that, I want to make it publicly known that we’re officially going to change from using the phrase “metamajors” at EvCC. Nina Benedetti is heading the metamajors subcommittee and the first thing that committee did was vote to no longer call them metamajors. Henceforth, we will call them “Pathways”. Why relabel? First, we have a lot of certificates and programs that are not the same as “majors” and second, using a phrase students aren’t familiar with does not make anything more easy to understand. So think PATHWAYS.

Pathways are program groupings, like Health Sciences, Business, etc. The idea is to put similar programs together with a label students pick correctly when they start college. Once we have these groups we can work on developing how students will interact with them and what kind of supports are needed for students within them. Some of the cool things we’re hearing that other colleges are doing:

  • Changing from course catalogs to program maps. Instead of an alphabetical list of courses, students see a 2 or 3 year map of what to take and when to choose a pre-req stacked right when appropriate.
  • Contextualized Math. When a Pathway involves a specific college-level math course, we can design a Pathway that will get students to that specific class as soon as possible, in hopes of ending the current need for students to take up to five quarters of pre-college math before taking that Math 107 or Math 146 course.
  • Pathway-specific College 101 courses. This could be a powerful tool in getting our students on the right pathway and headed to a career. For example, there are so many Health Science careers that our students don’t know about. If we’re going to put potential Health Science students into a College 101 course, why not have that course discuss material about the career options so students can make a more informed decision?

Can you tell we’re eager to get Pathways pinned down so we can start on all the other good stuff we can do within them?

We floated our current draft of Pathways at the Department Chairs meeting last week. The Chairs agreed on the number of Pathways with mild suggestions on renaming of those Pathways, and a possibility to have Humanities separate from Art. There is still work to be done to gain consensus. Our goal is to have the Pathways groupings of programs finalized this quarter.  Much work was completed last spring and we have recent  input to help us finalize this. We will continue to review and assess so think of this as the starting point. Consider these groups as organizational architecture which will help us to move to the next stage of designing how students will interact with them on our website, what they’ll be labeled, how to provide advising and/or counseling support, etc.

Please use the comments space here to give your feedback on the Pathways. Everyone on campus is committed to student success. Please contribute your voice so we can all do this redesign work together.

If you’re interested in working with one of the sub-committees and adding your voice to the discussion in a more regular way, here are the sub-committee meeting dates and times:

: Nov 14 from 2-3pm in Nippon Business Institute
Equity Gap Research: Oct 31 from 2-4pm in WHI 228
Pathways: Nov 2 from 3-4pm in Rainier 227
Technology: Nov 2 from 3-4pm in Rainier 227

Meta-majors: what is this even about?

Last spring a group of cross campus faculty met regularly and developed a draft of seven different meta-majors. Meta-majors are groupings of programs to help students simplify the complex choice of what to study to gain the skills they need for the career they want. At the All-Instruction and Students Services meeting during Opening Week we shared this first draft of the meta-major groupings and asked for feedback. The wordle below captures the themes which emerged from your comments:


The first thing I noticed while reading people’s comments was that it was not clear to many what a meta-major is and how it is different than our current divisions. Let’s consider this from a student perspective.

A brand new student comes to EvCC. They encounter the “Wall of Curriculum Guides” and are asked to pick a program. That’s terrifying. There are over 100 curriculum guides to choose from. Psychology research tells us that when the number of choices is that large and overwhelming people either turn away or they use something arbitrary to decide (eg, “that’s what my cousin is majoring in so I’ll major in it, too”).

Consider the same scenario from the student’s perspective, only now, instead of the “Wall of curriculum guides” there are six pathways (meta-major groupings) to choose from.  This is a much simpler choiceThe pathways are consciously organized by general student interests: STEM for those that say “I want to do something technical”, Arts and Humanities for those that say “I want to do something creative”, Health Sciences for those with an interest in the many areas of medicine, Social Sciences & Human Services for those that say “I want to help people”, etc. These are meant to be big broad buckets based on general interests instead of the narrow ones we have now (eg, “do you want to earn a degree in Early Childhood Education or Education?”).

There are some great things that can happen with meta-majors. For example, we could offer meta-major specific College 101 courses. If they’re interested in Health Science, that College 101 class might go into what all the different career choices are within Health Sciences, many of which the student may not have heard. The student can get advising from an advisor within that meta-major who knows all of those programs very well, getting them started on the right courses in their first quarter, not their third.

If we offer an “Exploratory” meta-major option, the truly Undecided students could be funneled into a College 101 course that is connected to an HDEV course to do more extensive career exploration. The idea behind an “Exploratory” meta-major would be to have students start there and transition to a different one within one to two quarters. The goal is to get the student to the path they want to be on faster, earning credits that will count towards their degree while they narrow down career choices.

These meta-major buckets should be designed with STUDENTS and their career goals in mind, not academic traditions or our own opinions about where we think our disciplines should be or with whom we like to work. The idea here is that we collect up all of the similar programs into a group so that students who only have a vague general sense at first can immediately start to funnel into the places they can start working on achieving their goals. This way a future graphic designer can start in ART 110 during their first quarter instead of realizing it later and making their whole degree plan longer. I think Engineering is a great field for helping people, but most of the students who come here saying they want to help people are generally more interested in Social Sciences and Human Services than Engineering (which I’m a little sad about). So I don’t expect Engineering to get cross-listed with Social Sciences.

Meta-majors will not necessarily disrupt divisions. But they might require some people to cross train in advising and they will need cross division conversation to help meet the needs of our students effectively. For example, someone who says they’re pre-med would likely choose Health Sciences. Traditionally, pre-meds have always been STEM students so in this case we would want to make sure Health Science advisors and College 101 faculty were able to advise the pre-med student accurately, which means regular conversation between biology, chemistry, and allied health faculty about the full spectrum of career options available to students in the field of healthcare and the coursework needed to get the necessary degree or certificate.

There were some great comments made during the All Instruction and Student Services meeting that will prompt good conversations moving forward. There are a lot of programs that don’t fit neatly into one bucket (eg, Fire Science) that would benefit from being crosslisted in more than one meta-major so that students who have a particular career goal in mind end up able to take the classes they need for the job they want.

With this understanding of meta-majors in mind, I’d love to hear more of your comments about this topic. Here is a link to the current draft of the meta-majors. Ask yourself this: If a student wants to go into career X or to earn a degree in field Z, what meta-major might they pick? Give your general thoughts, specific thoughts, and ideas you have about how we can use meta-majors to help students get where they want to go without spending extra money on classes that don’t fit their end goals.  I’ll send an announcement out next week calling for volunteers for the meta-majors subcommittee. If you are passionate about this please join that committee!

Notes from Guided Pathways Book Club meetings

There were several book club meetings around campus this quarter to discuss Redesigning America’s Community Colleges, the book full of research behind the Guided Pathways initiative. Book clubs were attended by faculty and staff from across campus. Facilitators asked participants what themes they noticed in the book and what solutions they saw as interesting ideas for EvCC.

I facilitated four of these book clubs. Anne facilitated another four, Gary Newlin did a couple as did Andrew Wahl. I wrote down all the notes participants in my book clubs made on giant post-its and the notes I took of people’s discussions and made a “wordle” (see below).

Guided Pathways wordle

As you can see, the focus of conversations was STUDENTS. Many different topics came up, including ADVISING, METAMAJORS, ORIENTATION, and UNDECIDED.

Friday is the deadline to apply for an EvCC Guided Pathways Jump Start Grant. These are small projects that can be completed by June 30 of this year. Funds from this are leftover from the college’s Instruction budget and must be spent, with 800 faculty hours total available. If you have an idea of work that will fit in with Guided Pathways and help us mobilize please consider applying for a Grant. Feel free to use the above Wordle for inspiration! The application was emailed to all-faculty last week. It’s also available online at

Some ideas that have been circulating are

  • Develop a Canvas shell for the advisees of a particular type of major (pre-med, photography, business, etc.) to act as a central resource for students.  The course can contain curriculum guides, transfer information, a calendar for meeting with advisors, and would generally serve as a contact point for students to program faculty.
  • For a DTA degree in your department, research the EvCC course transfer-ability for each local institution and create an up-to-date list.
  • Meet with your department to create a default 1st, 2nd, and 3rd quarter list of classes for students who enter your discipline.  Create one scenario for full time students and one for part-time students.
  • Host a Guided Pathways work day for your division to focus on doing any of the above 3 ideas as a larger group.

If you have more ideas and want to discuss whether or not this grant is a good fit, leave a comment below or contact Kristine Washburn or Anne Brackett. We’re here to encourage faculty participation in this faculty-driven process.

Guided Pathways mini grants for Spring 2016

At the Department Chairs meeting earlier this week, Alison Stevens announced the college has money left over in the Instruction budget to jumpstart the work on Guided Pathways. Specifically, there is enough money for 800 faculty hours of work to be completed by June 30. Guided Pathways work is interwoven with what we already do to help students succeed, and this money offers us a chance to do some initial work targeting areas in which we believe students would benefit from changes.  The department chairs who were present had a discussion on how to use this money and three ideas emerged: 1) Form a committee of interested faculty to create a curriculum guide template. 2) Form a committee of interested faculty to research meta majors at other institutions, decide on meta major categories which are a good fit for EvCC, and seek input from all departments on which degrees fit into which category. 3) Ask for grant applications from individuals, departments, and/or other faculty groups of interest for how they would use the funds to accomplish Guided Pathways work at EvCC prior to June 30.

The last one is particularly exciting. This is the beginning of a new era where faculty identify things that need to change and change them. Whenever I’m talking with colleagues we’re never at a loss when it comes to identifying problems and how we think they should be fixed. I think the thing that’s kept most of us from fixing them is time and money. Though this go around doesn’t provide the former it at least provides the latter. The college isn’t always able to find money for the things we need to get done so we need to take advantage of this.

Start thinking about what we can do in the next two months. You don’t need to propose something grandiose. If you have a small project in mind that can be finished by June 30 that’s great. If you want to spend time doing serious planning and starting something bigger that’s great, too. You can see the book Redesigning America’s Community Colleges for ideas on things that various other colleges have been doing. Common themes are

  • Mapping pathways to student end goals
  • Helping students enter a path
  • Keeping students on the path
  • Ensuring that students are learning.

And while you are planning, keep in mind the main point from Achieving the Dream: using data to make informed decisions and to test whether changes have had an effect.

Please use the Comments section of this blog to vet ideas you might have for projects.

What is Guided Pathways?

The other day a student asked me to explain Guided Pathways to him. I used the following severely outdated analogy: Remember when it was really hard to buy airplane tickets? It used to be so complicated with all the different class options and connection possibilities that you had to hire a travel agent to do it for you. Then airlines figured out how to present the options more clearly. Now we all buy tickets online and it’s easy. College should be the same way. The actual classes should stay rigorous but the process for figuring out where you are going and how you plan to get there should be easier.

I asked the guy how he got started here. He said he and a friend were thinking of coming to school here so they drove to the college to check it out. They walked around campus for three hours before they figured out where to start the application process. He said every part of the process was complicated: financial aid, placement testing, figuring out what classes to take, starting in pre-college math, what books to buy, choosing a major, etc. He said this whole Guided Pathways thing sounded like a good idea.

Guided Pathways is very simply the idea that we ought to make the path through college from start to finish clear to students. That’s it. College is not a well-designed system. It’s evolved into an overly complicated system that dissuades people who don’t already know how to navigate it or who lack the confidence needed to weather all the little roadblocks and confusions. Our mission is to make higher ed accessible to the whole community. It’s time we re-evaluated what we’re doing to make sure it actually is accessible.

If you read Redesigning America’s Community Colleges (available at the EvCC library!), the Community College Research Center (CCRC) folks recommend many ways we can make students’ paths through college clearer. You can think of it in terms of broad categories:

  • Getting students started on their path (enrolling, placement, developmental ed, etc)
  • Clarifying the path (advising, curriculum guides, restructuring majors into meta-majors to prevent lost credits as students choose a major, etc)
  • Keeping students on the path (program advising, academic warning, etc)
  • Aligning pathways with careers (program outcomes and assessment, transfer advising, etc)

Over the break, while you are hopefully lounging on a sunny beach sipping a margarita, give some thought as to how we can use this Guided Pathways philosophy to help students at EvCC. The Board of Trustees and administration are solidly behind this but they want the faculty to lead this change. This is not a quick fix thing like common course numbers. This is a rethinking of how we do things. The goal for spring quarter is to have lots of conversation all over campus about what areas need improving and then to collect ideas for what we might tackle first. The formal venues for this are the book clubs which you’ll be hearing about from Anne Brackett soon. Reading the book (Redesigning America’s Community Colleges) is good. Looking at what other colleges are doing is good. Reflecting on the experiences of your students is very good, especially those students you had that did not make it all the way down their college pathway.

Advising season mayhem: why we need a Guided Pathways approach

It’s Week 10 and I’m still getting students in for third quarter mandatory advising. Though it’s time consuming, advising students is one of the most satisfying parts of my job. This is the only time I talk with students one on one about their lives, their goals.

When I first started learning about Guided Pathways, I thought many of the suggestions were too simple to be useful. But this quarter’s advising has proven otherwise. There are some simple things we can do as a college to make things better for students.

For example, I had THREE students come in the week before graduation applications were due terrified that they weren’t going to graduate. “Degree Audit says I still need 40 credits!” Upon closer inspection I found that Degree Audit apparently didn’t get completely updated when we switched to common course numbering. So according to Degree Audit, the whole Engineering Physics series and two out of three Calculus classes weren’t counting towards their degrees. This has happened in the past and I took my usual approach which is to reassure the student that they really have met the degree requirements and that they really will be able to graduate. But after the third student in a row with this problem left, it occurred to me that if we just updated Degree Audit with current course numbers a whole lot of people wouldn’t get freaked out. This seems like a pretty easy thing to do, but I suspect no one has pushed it to happen because we’re all too busy.

Another example, a colleague who is new to advising messaged me to ask if we still offer Phys& 221. My knee-jerk reaction was to look down my nose at this person for not just knowing that it’s now called Phys& 241 (in case you don’t already know this, Physicists are self-righteous jerks). But then I looked through all the curriculum guides in the Math & Science Division and saw that there are several with at least one major course typo. Of course this colleague didn’t know the course number changed; that happened several years ago now. And it occurred to me that there is no way a student would know that either. Furthermore, students seem to need a translator for many curriculum guides. This is a good indicator that the student’s pathway is not clear to them.

In Redesigning America’s Community Colleges I read that the average associates degree holder earns 12% more credits than required by their program. I’ve never concerned myself with people taking extra classes before, but this quarter when I advised students I saw so many useless credits on people’s transcripts. “Why did you take this class?” I would ask. “Someone told me to take it” (Computer Science major taking Computer Literacy 101) or “I figured any Criminal Justice class would count for Social Science credit” (Computer Science major taking CJ 203, which by the way he said is an awesome class) or “I took Calculus in high school but the placement test said I should take this math class so I did” (Physics major taking Math 141). While all learning is good, none of these were cases where students were exploring career paths. None of these classes are going to count towards these students’ degrees at the associates or bachelors level aside from being miscellaneous electives. These students started with a clear goal but no one helped them figure out the pathway at EvCC for achieving that goal. If I had talked to these students two quarters ago they could’ve taken classes that go towards their degrees. The physics student in particular is gonna lose almost an entire year by starting in that math class. My experience during this quarter’s advising week definitely fit with that 12% statistic.

None of these observations were new. But it’s only now that I’m realizing that we don’t have to keep things this way. It’d be easy to change some of this stuff and it would mean a lot to the students.

The main idea behind Guided Pathways is to make the students’ pathway through college more easy to understand and follow. It’s not an initiative so much as a better philosophy to help us with what we already do. Our students are not getting lost because they are unintelligent or lazy. They’re getting lost because no one taught them “how to college”, or more specifically “how to EvCC”.

What can you do? Check the curriculum guides in your area of expertise for correct course numbers and change those which are out of date. Update the list of advisors to reflect current advisors. For two year degrees does the curriculum guide show a typical two year program with specific classes listed? This is a form of a pathway which can help students know what to take and when.
What will I be doing? Researching what it would take to update Degree Audit to reflect current course offerings, and possibly calling on you all later for errors you’ve caught. Figuring out how a calculus-ready student got redirected into algebra and how to prevent that in the future.

How has “advising season” gone for your students? Leave a comment below.