The purpose of this study was to explore the phenomenon of community colleges creating pathways to degree completion in professional-technical programs by breaking degree programs into smaller portions, referred to as "chunks." The purpose or possible advantage of chunking was that it would improve the rate of degree completion among community college students by allowing students to complete a degree non-sequentially and non-continually, leading to better wages and career advancement. The research design included a qualitative instrumental case study methodology with three community colleges selected using reputational-case selection. The following questions guided the research: (1) What issues need to be anticipated when chunking professional-technical programs? (2) How can those issues be resolved? (3) What guidelines should be used when implementing chunking?
The issues that arose when chunking to create pathways fell primarily into three areas: student issues; institutional issues; and external issues. Each of the
colleges included in this study developed multiple strategies to address these issues.
Preliminary guidelines, based on interview data, were organized into four overarching
themes: 1) guidelines to promote participation in chunking by faculty and staff; 2) guidelines for selection and design of chunked programs; 3) guidelines to support students; and 4) guidelines to ensure connections to the labor market. A fact sheet of guidelines, based on the study and relevant literature, was developed to advise community colleges considering the implementation of chunking.
Chunking curriculum to create pathways was seen as an effective way to increase student success and program completion in community college professional-technical programs. Chunking was also seen as a way to reinvigorate the curriculum and to reenergize the faculty by creating an atmosphere that encouraged flexibility and
creativity, as well as building better relationships with and between students and
employers. Thus, it was especially critical that faculty assumed leadership over the
changes to the curriculum, and thereby, fully owned the redesigned program. In the
colleges studied, there was a synergy evident among enthusiastic faculty, dedicated advisory boards, and students - all committed to their profession and their community, resulting in flexibility and innovation in program design.
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