One of the most innovative educational strategies that the NSC used improve the completion and success rates of students is a two-part STEM Bridge program.
The first STEM Bridge strategy is to embed competency development into the technical curriculum instead of using a traditional pre-program approach to developmental education. This was accomplished through the development of an innovative STEM Readiness course which integrates basic skills, workforce skills, computer skills, and job readiness training contextualized within the STEM pathways.
STEM Readiness Scenarios and Learning Outcomes (PDF)
The STEM Readiness course is programmatically consistent across the five fields and transferable to other colleges and it focuses on the development of critical key skills identified by all of the technical teams.
- The STEM Readiness course was built in an online format with assistance from Carnegie Mellon's Open Learning Initiative (OLI) and Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) and focuses on refreshing critical key skills in the following areas:
- Math: Arithmetic, Measuring Systems, Quantifying Data, Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Triangles and Cartesian Plane.
- Workplace Communication and Critical Thinking: Written Communication, Oral Communication, Teamwork/Conflict Resolution and Critical Thinking/Problem Solving
- Professional Skills: Customer Service, Confidentiality, Organizational Skills and Time Management, Teamwork, The Job Search Process and Professional Image.
- The second STEM Bridge Strategy is a foundational component that provides an accelerated pathway into the newly designed programs of study. NSC needs assessment of working adults led to the conclusion that many students require more intensive, up-front development of the basic skills required for access to the technically demanding educational pathways into STEM occupations. The STEM Foundations course helps students bring their math, reading/writing, computer and critical thinking skills to the level necessary to take full advantage of the technical curriculum in one of the five programs. The STEM Bridge team developed 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 certificates. The innovative “STEM Foundations” course contains 22 interactive online modules in Math and workplace communication to support the FAST TRACKS program.
STEM Foundations Workplace Communication (PDF)
The NSC STEM Bridge courses are available as interactive open educational resources at oli.cmu.edu.
Other innovations designed to achieve high rates of completion, credential attainment, and employment include:
- Compressed schedule to enable students to finish and become reemployed sooner than with traditional college programs.
- Cohort enrollment — the same small group of students learn together throughout their one-year program.
- California State University's MERLOT/Skills Commons Site: The US Department of Labor's Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program has created a free and open online library containing free and open learning materials and program support materials for job-driven workforce development. The Open Educational Resources (OER) are produced by community colleges across the nation and can be found, reused, revised, retained, redistributed and remixed by individuals, institutions, and industry.
National STEM Consortium materials on Skills Commons include downloadable curricular documents and related materials such as comprehensive program guides, instructor toolkits, lesson plans, syllabi, etc.; supporting documents including outreach materials, informational videos, labor market information, and subject matter expert reviews of the curricula; and links to the OLI materials.
- Carnegie Mellon University's Open Learning Initiative: OLI is an online educational platform that enhances classroom learning through digital modules that provide feedback to instructors. Students use the modules to learn and engage with material in an interactive online environment, while activities examine each student's understanding of key concepts. The instructor uses the data from the platform to design the class and focus on important areas. National STEM Consortium pathways are available at OLI as downloadable documents with a limited number of interactive lessons – two per course – for difficult to learn/difficult to teach topics; the STEM Readiness and STEM Foundations courses are fully interactive on OLI.