About NSC Programs
In 2011 the National STEM Consortium (NSC), a collaborative of ten leading community colleges in nine states, received a U.S. Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training grant to develop nationally portable, certificate-level college programs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and to build a national model of multi-college cooperation in the design and delivery of high quality, labor market-driven occupational certificate programs.
Ten colleges from across the United States participated in this project: Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland, Clover Park Technical College and South Seattle College in Washington, the College of Lake County in Illinois, Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, Macomb Community College in Michigan, Northwest Arkansas Community College, and Roane State Community College in Tennessee.
The project's results are impressive. The ten colleges achieved the goals of the grant through an exceptional collaborative effort. Multi-college teams together with industry experts created new technical curricula in five high-wage, high-skill STEM fields:Open Learning Initiative and California State University's MERLOT/Skills Commons.
Simply creating new content was not enough. The consortium was committed to developing a model to increase student success. The NSC “completion model” combined high-quality curriculum with embedded, contextualized remediation (the “STEM Bridge”), industry-recognized credentials, and evidence-based strategies - cohort enrollment, block scheduling, whole program design, employer linkages, and the concierge-style assistance of a student navigator. The model worked: the 1400 students enrolled in NSC programs during the grant period achieved a 69% on-time completion rate (over three times the typical completion rate for certificates or degrees in public community colleges) – and secured good jobs! Partner colleges report that over 80% of NSC program completers found employment in their chosen industries earning family-sustaining wages.
The “STEM Bridge”
An innovative educational strategy the NSC developed to improve completion and success rates of students was the creation of a two-part STEM Bridge Program.
The first STEM Bridge strategy embedded competency development into the technical curriculum instead of using a traditional pre-program approach to developmental education. This was accomplished through an innovative STEM Readiness course which integrates basic skills, workforce skills, computer skills and job readiness training contextualized within the STEM pathways.
The STEM Readiness course was built in an online format with assistance from Carnegie Melon University’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI) and the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). It focuses on refreshing critical key skills identified by employers and educators as critical in the five NSC pathways:
- Math: Arithmetic, Measuring systems, Charts and Graphs, Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Triangles, and the Cartesian Plane.
- Workplace Communication and Critical Thinking: Written Communication, Oral Communication, Summarizing, Teamwork/Conflict Resolution, Problem Solving, After-Action Reporting, Troubleshooting.
- Professional Skills: Customer Service, Confidentiality, Organizational Skills, Time Management, Teamwork, the Job Search Process (Interviewing, Resumes), Professional Image.
The second STEM Bridge strategy provides an accelerated pathway into the newly designed programs of study for students who require more intensive, up-front development of the basic skills required for access to the technically demanding educational pathways. The STEM Foundations course helps students bring their math, reading/writing, computer and critical thinking skills to the level necessary to take full advance of the technical curriculum. The course is a modularized set of curriculum “bundles” that can be adapted and inserted by colleges wherever needed to provide support for lower level learners who need to build foundational skills before entering the credit certificate programs. The STEM Foundations course contains 22 interactive online modules in Math and workplace communication.
- Math: The Number Line and Integers, Multiplying and Dividing Integers, Order of Operations (MDAS), Fractions, Conceptual Equality, Signed/Negative Value
- Workplace Communications: Reading Strategies for Comprehension, Writing Skills, Writing Structure, Listening and Speaking Skills, Time Management
The STEM Readiness and STEM Foundations courses are accessible at Carnegie Mellon University's Open Learning Initiative.