Massachusetts Change Agent Team

Catherine Etter
Audrey Russano
Cape Cod Community College

Initial Publication Date: September 25, 2017


We are working to strengthen the geoscience program by increasing student engagement, reaching more students through online technologies, and reducing barriers to learning. We have reviewed our institution's geoscience courses, certificates, and degreesto align better with current student interests and demographics, funding, and institutional priorities. Too many courses on our books led to frequent cancellations in recent years, frustrating students and instructors. 

In the process of overhauling our program, we have revised or retired 20 different courses; most of these were retired. We also cut six of seven certificate programs, leaving the Coastal Zone Management certificate program in place. Our course catalog is greatly reduced and more realistic, with an institutional commitment to offering the remaining courses on a regular schedule. Classes are now filling with a waitlist and we are adding more sections. In addition, we are incorporating active learning methods, information on careers, and academic support into all of our remaining courses. 


Over the past ten years our institution has offered 29 different geoscience courses, with 26 of them still listed in the 2018-2019 catalog. However, only six courses were offered this Spring (2019). Since 2014-2015, the enrollment for geoscience programs and courses has decreased by more than 50%. We are striving for the courses listed in the catalog to be offered and filled. We want the courses and programs we offer to support our current and future students' needs.

Aligning with Institutional Priorities

Our institution has identified the following four goals, with which our work is well-aligned:

  • Goal 1 is to empower student success by providing opportunities and pathways to achieve their goals with a focus on improving student outcomes of retention, graduation and transfer. Our efforts are completely aligned with this goal. In particular, we have incorporated student-centered learning strategies and provided more resources about careers to increase student engagement in lectures and labs. We also use supplemental peer instructors to increase one-on-one assistance. We are building an emphasis on the connections between course topics, personal relationships, and global issues within our remaining courses.
  • Goal 2 is to integrate the College and Community through partnerships that achieve shared objectives. Through our work we are building collaborations within our department, with local geoscience professionals, and with neighboring educational institutions. We have documented the changes we are making in our institution's tracking system and shared our revised curriculum and labs with other instructors.
  • Goal 3 is to create operational and academic excellence through continuous improvement. Our efforts to revise and update courses and programs are directly aligned with continuous improvement.
  • Goal 4 is to ensure the financial stability and long-term sustainability of the institution through a culture of innovation. By making the relevance of our courses and programs clear to our students, we are contributing to the institution's long-term stability.

This project description is part of a collection documenting work by teams of two-year college faculty to implement high-impact, evidence-based instructional and co-curricular practices at their own institutions in pursuit of improved STEM learning, broadened participation, and a more robust STEM workforce.

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