How One Community College is Building Academic Pathways with CourseLeaf
Cuyahoga Community College’s (Tri-C) mission includes bringing high-quality and affordable higher education opportunities to the greater Cleveland area. They currently serve over 23,500 credit students annually. Tri-C, like many other community colleges, is committed to improving the student experience through access, success and equity initiatives that support completion of certificates and degrees.
“As we explored options to improve completion, one important project that become apparent was the need to strengthen our academic pathways,” said Dr. Lindsay English, Vice President for Learning & Engagement.
Based on this need, Tri-C began discussing improvements to their academic catalog, which, at that time, only displayed one-to-one relationships rather than a solution that fully mapped the complex relationships of academic pathways.
In alignment with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Pathways initiative, Tri-C launched a catalog redesign project focused on devising and implementing structured academic and career pathways at scale, for all of their students.
“We realized we could do a better job helping students understand their academic path to completion. The first step was to narrow the options, not the opportunities. We did this by creating meta-majors and moving away from the cafeteria model of offering courses and programs,” said English.
Tri-C began the process of replacing their static PDF catalog with CourseLeaf CAT, a dynamic online catalog that presents credit and noncredit programs within their respective meta-majors. Tri-C worked closely with CourseLeaf to build a catalog designed to present recommended course sequences, course descriptions and employment and transfer outcomes.
Moreover, CAT’s Degree Comparison Tool allows students to explore and compare courses they could take to obtain parallel certificates or related degrees
“[CourseLeaf staff] understood our student success goals and worked with us to create a beautiful online and mobile friendly catalog,” said Kris Walz, Assistant Dean, Student Affairs.
This allowed Tri-C to simplify the student decision-making process and provide predictable schedules and targeted support to help students stay on track and complete their programs more efficiently.
“CourseLeaf helped us bridge the gap between information and informed student decision-making,” said English.
"CourseLeaf helped us bridge the gap between information and informed student decision-making." – Dr. Lindsay English, Vice President for Learning & Engagement
CAT made it possible for Tri-C to utilize their complex structure requirements and the integration capabilities meant their learning management system (LMS) and student information system (SIS) could seamlessly communicate without risking data integrity.
When reviewing a professional pathway in the Tri-C catalog, students are also presented with additional pathways that are similar to their current choice. This CAT customization recognizes overlapped courses with a given program and presents other programs the student may be interested in based on the program course list.
“It is enlightening for students using the pathways model to better understand how their courses scaffold from certificates to degrees to a live-able wage opportunity,” said English.
After launching, Tri-C’s online catalog visits skyrocketed; more than doubling in the first two months. The catalog became the most viewed site college-wide with 2.2 million views in the first year. Within the catalog, students can navigate more efficiently to necessary courses, and see that the entire degree pathway is leading to more informed decisions.
“CourseLeaf helped us move our equity, success and completion mission forward through CAT’s integrated tool. Using pathways is not optional and is key to our student success and completion agenda. CAT has provided an integrated tool and worked,” said English.