Chapter 5: Certificates
Chapter 5: Certificates
- 5.1 Overview
- 5.2 Creating a New Certificate
- 5.3 Revising a Certificate
- 5.4 Deleting a Certificate
Certificates are a way to recognize student achievement for students who are not pursuing an Associate Degree or who are taking noncredit coursework. Credit certificate programs can be oriented towards either career or general education. Noncredit certificate programs generally can be designed to prepare students to progress in a career path or to prepare for degree-applicable or nondegree-applicable coursework.
A Certificate of Achievement is a sequence of courses consisting of 18 or more units of degree-applicable coursework. Certificates of Achievement must be approved by the Curriculum Committee and the State Chancellor’s Office. Students who successfully petition for a Certificate of Achievement will have the name of the certificate appear on their transcript.
A Certificate of Accomplishment is a sequence of courses consisting of fewer than 18 units of degree-applicable coursework. Certificates of Accomplishment must be approved by the Curriculum Committee but do not need State Chancellor Office’s approval. Students who successfully petition for a Certificate of Accomplishment will not have the name of the certificate appear on their transcript.
Note: it is possible to submit certificates of 12-18 units to the State Chancellor’s Office for approval as a Certificate of Achievement. Contact the Associate Vice Chancellor of Instruction for details.
A Certificate of Completion is a sequence of courses designed to prepare students to progress in a career path or to undertake degree-applicable or non-degree applicable credit courses.
A Certificate of Competency is a sequence of courses preparing students to demonstrate achievement in a set of competencies that prepares the student to progress in a career path or to undertake degree-applicable or non-degree applicable credit courses.
Both types of noncredit certificates require approval by the Curriculum Committee and the State Chancellor’s Office. Contact the Associate Vice Chancellor of Instruction for details.
Students pursuing a credit certificate of 16 or more units, or a noncredit certificate of 600 or more total hours, may be able to receive financial aid while they are pursuing the certificate. Contact the Dean of Financial Aid for details.
An important initial step in creating a new certificate is to identify the student learning outcomes for that certificate. The student learning outcomes should be broad and should drive the decision as to which courses to include in the certificate.
Consider the following when creating learning outcomes:
- Learning outcomes should be assessable. As part of the student learning outcome process you will need to assess these learning outcomes, evaluate the results, and plan and implement changes to the program as a result of this assessment.
- Learning outcomes should be level-appropriate. Credit certificates should use primarily Cognitive Verbs from Bloom’s Taxonomy. Noncredit certificates can use Affective and Psychomotor verbs. (See SLO Handbook.)
- Learning outcomes should be outcomes. Avoid phrases like “develop” or “learn”; use verbs from Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Once you have developed the overall learning outcomes for the certificate, the next step is to map the individual learning outcomes down to the Course Student Learning Outcomes and up to the Institutional Learning Outcomes level. The goal is to demonstrate alignment in both directions. For mapping instructions, refer to help provided in the Program Module of CurricUNET.
As you do this mapping process you may find that certain learning outcomes you think are important are not directly covered in any of your courses or are only covered in an optional elective. You may decide that it is necessary to adjust the outlines of some of your courses so that the proposed courses fully address your desired learning outcomes.
Finally, remember that the assessment of program-level learning outcomes will be an ongoing effort in your department. Once you have created the program, received approval, had students enroll and complete the program, assessed your learning outcomes, and analyzed the results, you may find that changes to the courses in your program, or changes to the structure of the program itself, are necessary.
There is no Title 5 requirement or City College policy on minimum grades for courses taken towards a certificate program. Absent a departmental requirement, it is possible for students to apply towards a certificate courses in which they received a final grade of D.
Departments creating or revising a certificate are encouraged to establish a requirement of a grade of C or higher for each course in a certificate program, noting that requirement in the catalog description of the certificate. Using an overall GPA requirement of 2.0 instead of a grade requirement can be problematic, since a student could still apply courses in which they received a D if there were other courses that raised the overall GPA. Using an overall GPA requirement above 2.0 is also problematic, since student are normally prevented from repeating courses in which they received a satisfactory grade, so that a student who received a C in a course would not be able to improve his/her grade to qualify for the certificate.
Pass/No Pass Grades
Courses that can be taken on a Pass/No Pass basis may be included in a certificate program. Departments may wish to consider whether they want to allow students to use grades of Pass, or if they want to limit how many courses can be taken Pass/No Pass. Any such limitation should be noted in the catalog description when the certificate is created or revised.
Note that limiting the number of Pass/No Pass grades allowed may make it difficult for some students to earn the certificate: a grade of Pass is a satisfactory grade, equivalent to a C, and students are limited in their ability to retake course in which they received a satisfactory grade. Furthermore, once a student has elected to take a course on a Pass/No Pass basis and the deadline for this election has passed, s/he cannot revert back to a letter grade.
Many of our students take courses on a part-time basis, and so it is conceivable that it will take several years for a student to complete the requirements of a certificate program. Departments may find that a student is able to use a course they took many years ago towards the completion of a certificate program. Depending on the nature of the course, this may or may not be reasonable. Departments may wish to consider recency requirements for their certificates. Any such limitation should be noted in the catalog description of the certificate when the certificate is created or revised.
While there are limits on students retaking courses in which they have received a passing grade, both Title 5 regulation and City College policy allow for students to retake courses when a “significant lapse of time” has elapsed. City College policy allows departments to determine what constitutes a “significant lapse of time.”
Departments should also consider recency and certificate requirements when revising courses. For example, consider a course in which there has been a significant shift in the underlying technology used in the course. If the department revised the course outline to reflect this shift, it is conceivable for students who took an older version of the course to use it towards the requirement of the certificate. Alternatively, departments may wish to create a new course, phase out the old course, and revise the certificate requirements so that the nature of the certificate that a student is receiving is clear.
Limitations on Outside Coursework
The Associate Degree has a residency requirement:
The student may satisfy the residence requirement for graduation
- by completing at City College of San Francisco the last 12 of the 60 degree applicable semester units required for graduation, or
- by completing a minimum of 45 degree applicable semester units at City College of San Francisco.
No such residency requirement exists for certificate programs. Departments creating or revising certificate programs may wish to make clear in their catalog description how many non-CCSF courses students can use towards a certificate.
As noted above, creating a new certificate may require approval at several levels. Departments should be aware of the entire process before starting to minimize the complexity of this process.
Approval by the Curriculum Committee is just the first step in this process. Once approved by the Curriculum Committee, a new certificate must then be approved by the Board of Trustees. For Certificates of Accomplishment, approval by the Board of Trustees is the final level of approval. For all others, further approval is required.
For Certificates of Achievement, the certificate must be approved by the regional consortium (if CTE in nature), and then finally by the State Chancellor’s Office. The paperwork required varies based on whether a department already has a similar approved program, and also on the size of the program. Departments are encouraged to meet with the Associate Vice Chancellor of Instruction early in the process to review the components of this application. Completed applications that have been accepted at the State Chancellor’s office are available in the Curriculum Office for reference.
As noted above, credit certificates under 18 units can be approved locally as Certificates of Accomplishment, without approval by the State Chancellor’s Office. However, optional state approval is available for credit certificates between 12-18 units. Certificates between 12-18 units that are state approved are then designated as Certificates of Achievement and can be posted on transcripts. The approval for low-unit certificates requires many of the same elements as higher-unit certificates, although the application is somewhat truncated. Contact the Associate Vice Chancellor of Instruction for more information about this process.
For Certificates of Completion or Competency, the final level of approval is at the State Chancellor’s Office. Unlike credit certificates, the application for approval of noncredit certificates is much less complex and can typically be done by Curriculum Office staff in consultation with the originating department
Catalog Description of the Certificate
- Name of the Certificate
- Description of the Certificate, including Learning Outcomes
- Required and optional courses, with units (credit courses) or hours (noncredit courses)
- Total number of units (credit courses) or hours (noncredit courses)
The following examples demonstrate different ways in which you can choose to group program requirements (courses and non-course requirements or electives):
Consider the following when preparing this document:
The description should include general information about the program of study and the transfer and/or occupational prospects of students who complete the program.
- Clearly define the student learning outcomes with active verbs. Ensure they are assessable and map to Institutional and Course Student Learning Outcomes.
- Clearly define the required and optional courses for the certificate. Do not use phrases like “or equivalent course.” Instead, list any course equivalencies explicitly.
- In general, the courses listed in a certificate must include any prerequisite courses. In some instances it is possible to create program prerequisites. Departments considering program prerequisites should consult with the Matriculation Office before proceeding.
- If a proposed major includes coursework from another department or could overlap the programmatic offerings of another department, departments should engage in conversations with that department, get agreement that the course is acceptable, and describe the conversation in CurricUNET.
Program Learning Outcomes Mapping
In addition to the program description, the department must also map upwards and downwards showing alignment of Course Student Learning Outcomes to the Program-Level Student Learning Outcomes and Program-Level Student Learning Outcomes to Institutional Student Learning Outcomes. Help is provided through the Program Module of CurricuNET.
All new certificates will first go through Technical Review once a proposal has been submitted through CurricUNET.
Avoiding Common Errors
When preparing these documents, be sure to mind the following:
- Double-check the total units for the certificate, making sure they’ve been summed accurately.
Supplemental Approval Information
Departments proposing credit certificates requiring State Chancellor’s Office approval must also prepare a document with supplemental approval information. Developing this document is essential to smooth approval by the State Chancellor’s Office.
Career Technical Goal
Departments proposing a new certificate to support career technical goals have different amounts of documentation to complete based on whether they already have a State Chancellor’s Office-approved certificate or credit Certificate of Achievement in a similar area.
In general, “similar area” is defined as having an approved credit program with the same four-digit TOP code. For example, if the Business Department had an approved Certificate of Achievement in Accounting (TOP code 0502.00), and they wanted to develop a certificate in Tax Preparation (TOP Code 0502.10), that would be considered similar. Alternatively, if they wanted to develop a certificate in Business Administration (TOP code 0505.00), that would not be considered similar.
Departments proposing a new certificate that have a previously-approved certificate or certificate should develop documentation that addresses the following areas:
- Enrollment and Completer Projections
- Similar Programs at Other Community Colleges in the Area
- Labor Market Need
Departments proposing a new certificate that do not have a previously-approved certificate or certificate should include documentation that addresses the following areas:
- Enrollment and Completer Projections
- Similar Programs at Other Community Colleges in the Area
- Labor Market Need
- List of Members of Advisory Committee
- Recommendations of Advisory Committee
Templates for each of these are included in the Curriculum Committee web site. Departments should consult with the Associate Vice Chancellor for Instruction.
Departments proposing a new certificate to support student transfer should prepare a document showing how the required courses meet the transfer needs of students. This documentation should show that the courses fulfill lower-division requirements for a specific baccalaureate certificate or prepare students in an area of emphasis for a certificate field of study for baccalaureate institutions. Departments should work with the Articulation Officer in preparing this documentation.
For Certificates of Achievement, once Curriculum Committee approval has been obtained, the department needs to finish the paperwork for submission to the State Chancellor’s Office. Career technical programs also require approval of our regional consortium.
The Associate Vice Chancellor of Instruction is available for assistance with this process. More information about the process is available at the Office of Curriculum web site: http://www.ccsf.edu/curri
Noncredit Certificates also require approval by the State Chancellor’s Office. Paperwork for this approval is typically prepared by Office of Instruction staff, but may also require input from the department. Contact the Associate Vice Chancellor of Instruction for details.
Credit Certificates of Accomplishment submitted before the printed catalog deadline date will be published in the next version of the printed catalog.
Certificates requiring approval by the State Chancellor’s Office will initially have only their name published in the online catalog, and in the next printed version of the catalog, with a notation that the certificate is pending state approval. When the State Chancellor’s Office approval has been obtained, the Associate Vice Chancellor of Instruction will make appropriate announcements to the department, counselors, and Registration and Records staff, indicating the date of acceptance and the date which students will be able to petition for the certificate. Full details of the certificate will be published in the next print catalog and online.
Once a certificate has been approved, revisions generally require much less paperwork. If the revisions are keeping within the original scope of the certificate, departments should submit a Modify Program proposal through CurricUNET, after which it will go through Technical Review. Once passed through Technical Review, these proposals will continue on for approval and Curriculum Committee review.
Please note that if a department revises the course number or title of one or more courses in a certificate, that these changes will propagate automatically to the text in the certificate. If a course is revised and the number of units change, the total units for the certificate will be updated. No separate Curriculum Committee action is required for these changes to take place.
Departments should take care when deleting courses that are included in a certificate. The deleted course will be removed from the set of required courses and reduce the number of units in the major. Adding a replacement course requires submission of a revised copy of the certificate.
Departments wishing to make significant changes to a certificate – adding a new option, changing the focus of the certificate, splitting one certificate into two, merging two certificates into one, etc. – should consult with the Associate Vice Chancellor of Instruction before proceeding. If the certificate had required State Chancellor Office’s approval, additional paperwork will be required.
Departments wishing to delete a certificate can do so by submitting a Delete Program proposal through CurricUNET. Deletion of a certificate will be handled as an informational agenda item by the Curriculum Committee.