Canyons Hall at College of the Canyons (Source: COC)
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College of the Canyons (COC) was one of 20 community colleges chosen to participate in a project designed to help students stay on track and complete their degree programs and certificates on time.

The California Guided Pathways Project is a student-centered, institution-wide approach to increasing the number of students earning credentials at community colleges while closing colleges’ equity gaps.

“We look forward to supporting the 20 colleges participating in the project,” Project Director Rob Johnstone said in a statement. “We hope that by developing an expanded network of practitioners developing guided pathways, we can support other colleges and partners interested in adopting the student-centered approach to education planning.”

The pathway project creates initiatives and develops programs with specific course sequences, progress milestones and program learning outcomes that also align with requirements of four-year institutions.

“The goal is to create pathways so when students enter the college they have direction,” said Audrey Green, COC’s associate vice president of academic affairs.  “They know from the day they enter that they have the path to follow and it helps them stay focused to keep their eye on the end, which is completion.”

As a participant in the Guided Pathway Project, COC will send a team of five to six institutes from 2017 to 2019.  These institutes will provide guidance for creating pathways and developing change management strategies, in addition to providing support from a team of pathway coaches.

“Being a part of this program will give us a connection to a network of other folks who are trying to do the same thing,” Green said.  “It’s really about doing the right thing for the students.”

Green said the pathway program will help students stay on track with course offerings, while still allowing students to explore other degree programs and classes.

“One of the things that people worry about is that it will squelch exploration, but our systems are such that we have accountability metrics and pressure for students to complete in a timely way,” she said.  “With pathways it doesn’t eliminate the ability for exploration, but it gives the students the right to choose.”

To participate in the program, COC had to submit an application to the project directors and organizers in late-February 2017.

In its application, COC noted that it began to develop a two-year guided pathway program and recommended GE Patterns for students in spring 2015.

On March 6, 2015 the college hosted a “Supporting Student Completion” workshop with 26 department chairs and faculty leads and six counseling faculty to begin developing these pathways.  By fall 2015, 25 departments had created two-year pathways for certificates, associates degrees and associate degrees for transfer.

However, COC said it was unable to determine the effectiveness of these pathways or analyze the number of course offerings available to students in order to determine the “essential course offerings needed for completion of degree and certificate programs.”

“A couple years ago we brought our faculties together to create those pathways,” Green said.  “It’s time to look at those again and make as many majors have those pathways and make it accessible to students.”

The project will also help the college make these established pathways easily accessible for students in all degree programs.

“They’re kind of hidden, you have difficulty finding them on our website,” Green said.  “Our goal is to make them visible and to help students make important choices.”

Through the Guided Pathways Project, COC will be able to advance its “Canyon Completes” initiative, advance degree completion, create skills building courses for students and improve instruction, programs, processes and services.

Green said the college’s involvement with the project will begin this Friday when COC’s Instructional Advisor Counsel meets and begins to have a dialogue about the pathways’ framework.

“The whole benefit of guided pathways is that the discipline faculty within the major will work with the GE faculty to best select the classes to support that major,” she said.

The guided pathways are expected to be in full-effect at the 20 chosen California community colleges by fall 2019.

ccox@signalscv.com
661-287-5575
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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Christina Cox
Christina Cox is a multimedia journalist covering education, community and breaking news in the Santa Clarita Valley. She joined The Signal as a staff writer in August 2016.
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