The California Community College system plays an important role in providing affordable and accessible education to diverse student populations by allowing them to complete all of their lower-division course work and then transfer to a four-year institution to complete a bachelor’s degree. However, the increasing divergence of the lower-division requirements among different four-year institutions and among the different fields of engineering, coupled with decreasing enrollments and resources, has forced many community colleges to cancel low-enrollment classes and high-cost programs including those in engineering.
To address this issue, four community colleges in the San Francisco Bay Area developed an innovative program titled Creating Alternative Learning Strategies for Transfer Engineering Programs (CALSTEP). Funded by the National Science Foundation through the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) program, CALSTEP aims to enable small-to-medium community college engineering programs to support a comprehensive set of lower-division engineering courses that are delivered either completely online, or with limited face-to-face interactions. In addition to developing and implementing curriculum materials and resources for the core lower-division engineering courses, one of the main components of CALSTEP is disseminating the curriculum widely in California community college engineering programs. This is done through the Summer Engineering Teaching Institute, which is a two-day teaching workshop that introduces community college engineering faculty to the CALSTEP curriculum, and assists faculty in implementing the curriculum and developing alternative teaching and learning strategies to increase enrollment and improve teaching effectiveness. Results of curriculum development and the implementation of the Summer Engineering Teaching Institute will be highlighted in this paper, as well as future plans to maximize the impact of the program in increasing access to engineering education among thousands of community college engineering students and strengthening engineering transfer programs in the state.
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