Funded by the Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer (ONCAT), this work aims to examine the viability of degree-level learning outcome mapping as a normative approach in post secondary articulation agreements. Towards this aim, the project team achieved its primary goal of producing and formalizing an articulation and pathway agreement (Appendix A) from Mohawk's three-year Advanced Diploma in Music to McMaster’s Honours Bachelor of Music degree program based on degree-level learning outcome mapping. This pathway is one of the first of its kind in Southern Ontario and took effect September 1, 2018.
Mohawk College and McMaster University partners believe that this innovative postsecondary transfer process and our collaboration are informative referents for future use in terms of student mobility, opportunity, outcomes, and progress in Ontario. We have included findings on the efficiency and flexibility that a degree-level outcome agreement process may provide in terms of enhancing pathways and reducing barriers for students looking to transfer from college to university. We have also included recommendations to ONCAT for improving the navigation of articulation agreement projects by post-secondary institutions.
First, we recommend addressing literature, language, and content used in degree level outcomes based approach. The disparity between the literature, language, and content used in colleges and that used in universities resulted in a certain vagueness, which made the process confusing and laborious at points. Until this is resolved, we recommend equal emphasis on a course-level outcome mapping approach, as the degree-level outcome alone cannot account for specific types of knowledge and skills acquired by students, nor do they accurately express the level of acquired skill, which must be clear if educators and students are to make informed decisions about transferability. Otherwise, faculty and administrators must interpret or assume what students know or do not know in a degree-level outcomes process. Finally, degree-level outcomes provide little information or clarity for students considering or experiencing articulation.
Nonetheless, there were benefits to be found in a degree-level outcome approach. This approach allowed us to locate gaps and potential pathways that course-to-course level outcomes approach would have made more difficult. Where degree-level outcomes were similar, we could then identify where we needed to drill down into more specific course-level outcomes to determine parity in level, skills, etc. Additionally, significant pathways appeared that would not have existed without a degree-level outcome approach. Finally, certain Mohawk courses contributed to a given degree-level outcome, so they were considered to be part of that outcome’s pathway. Had a course-to-course process been used, no pathway would have resulted. This could be considered both a benefit and a drawback.
This process was also valuable in revealing gaps between Mohawk College’s Essential Employability Skills (EESs), which focus primarily on a student’s economic capacity, and McMaster University’s Diploma Level Outcomes (DLEs), which focus more broadly on economic, social, and environmental capacity of students. Gaps in critical research were also found between institutions. As a result, we recommend provincial revisions to college EESs that reflect a more balanced cultivation of economic, social, and environmental capacity in college students and that increase pathways. We also recommend increasing space for fostering, facilitating, and assessing critical research in colleges in order to decrease barriers to articulation.
Finally, we recommend that admissions departments in Ontario teacher’s colleges be made aware of the implications of articulation agreements for applicants. Currently, students must complete two years of university in order to apply. That is, McMaster students normally apply in their 3rd year. However, transfer students from Mohawk, also in 3rd year at McMaster, are denied entry and must wait an extra year to apply for teacher’s college. This is a significant economic and mobility barrier for students.
This work included related goals, such as increasing the visibility of this pathway opportunity. Towards this end, Mohawk has leveraged communication strategies via the College's Pathways Office and Student Recruitment in order to raise awareness of the credit transfer opportunity for its students. In addition, Mohawk and McMaster are working together in order to continually enhance program compatibility so students experience more choice and fewer barriers. Recommendations include agreements between the partners to maintain transparency, align communication, and align program reviews so that future revisions to the articulation agreement can be coordinated, visible, clear, timely and accurate.
This project has brought Mohawk and McMaster closer together through increased and improved collaboration and access, which will have a positive effect on students through an integrated approach to mobility. Our Mohawk and McMaster team thanks ONCAT for their generous support of this project. Finally, our project team deserves many thanks for all their hard work, dedication and commitment to serving student needs throughout this project.