Too few California community college students transfer into Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering (STEM) programs at the University of California. The transfer process and coursework requirements are confusing to students. It is imperative that more California Community College students complete STEM programs and successfully transfer to the UC for California and the United States to remain globally competitive.
Students accumulating too many units has historically been a widespread problem among community college transfer students, particularly those pursuing STEM programs of study. Course catalogs contain all of the necessary information for students to successfully navigate a program pathway—in theory. In reality, the lists of possible options as well as prerequisites and antirequisites can be very intimidating and difficult,
particularly for first generation students. Additionally, even though some course selections may be technically correct, they may be poor choices for a variety of practical reasons that most students would have little insight into.
STEM fields, with their long sequences of requisite sequences, are often particularly problematic for college students. Simple missteps in sequencing often add additional semesters or even years to a student’s time to completion resulting in wasted time, unnecessary unit accumulation, and increased risk for changing majors or simply dropping out. Additionally, research has shown that when students are able to perceive a clear pathway to and through college, including transfer, degree completion, and future employment, they experience increased program retention, completion, and long-term success.
This project aims to expand the existing Program Pathways Mapper (PPM) system in order to facilitate transfer between community colleges and UC campuses. PPM provides an interactive, pathway-based visualization of the course catalog paired with brief, easy-to understand career data as well as videos illustrating the nature of degree programs. The Program Pathways Mapper visually clarifies student pathways through college, facilitating transfer and degree completion, particularly for students who are first-generation college students with little social capital or “college knowledge.” Additionally, these clarified STEM program pathways help college and university personnel be more effective, consistent, and intentional in their support of student completion goals. The project will connect UC and community college faculty members together to create vetted and effective program maps that ensure that the lower division coursework and learning outcomes of transfer programs are in close alignment with the subsequent two years of upper-division work at the university.
For this project, the team will develop a prototype of PPM for UC transfer. The work will include: 1) developing clear, aligned lower-division and upper-division program maps between the partner institutions; 2) developing a personalized online course (“UC Transfer Experience”) in the Canvas LMS that adapts to students’ program of study and helps students learn how to navigate STEM programs from beginning to completion; and 3) undertaking the technical work to extract, clean, and load curricular data so that program maps are represented in a clear visual style that enhances confidence and persistence among transfer students.
The prototype PPM for UC Transfer is likely to have over 30,000 student users by the end of the project period.