What the heck is C-ID?

What’s all this Course Descriptor/Course Identification business and why should I care?

Prediction:  Eventually every course that’s on a TMC will have C-ID numbering and descriptors

Summary:  Your courses have to be approved at the State level, in terms of meeting the C-ID descriptors, before your TMC can be used for transfer.

Well, if you aren’t part of the TMC (Transfer Model Curriculum) process you probably don’t care and even if you are, you might not care.  It was a mystery to me until I started working on the Anthro AA-T.

Simply put, the C-ID system is a set of common course “descriptors” that are supposed to guarantee that a student taking a particular class (given a common course identification number in the C-ID system) is getting the same basic curriculum everywhere in the state.  It’s the new CAAN system, but it has way more buy-in from the CSU’s and it’s here to stay.

Within our own district (which is not really a microcosm of the whole but is in some ways it’s own insular world), we have long pondered common course numbering.  The system that the new TMC process is using is called C-ID and it assigns 100- and 200-level numbers to lower division coursework, just as we do at OC.  Yay, OC.  But, other colleges throughout the state (and within our district) use the number 1 as the starting point for lower division courses – or even, oddly, sometimes the numbers 300 get in there (for lower division work!)  I can certainly understand why some committee, somewhere, decided to set forth a standard set of numbers, and that’s part of what the C-ID system is (it’s also much more).

The C-ID “descriptors” are actually statements about what should be in the course, its description, and its actual outline.  Learning outcomes are specified within the C-ID system.  Put in the most blunt manner possible, you can call your course “Intro to Whatever” but when it goes to articulate at the state level so that students can use it to transfer, it better look remarkably similar to the courses already in the C-ID system.

Yep, I mostly just used the C-ID descriptors and added to them for the Anthropology outlines and they seem to be doing fine.  I’ve done this since I came to the community college system, and it’s always worked.  No matter what you think you want to emphasize in a class, if you stick closely to what the C-ID descriptors say and use virtually the same language, your course will articulate.  You can add more content, but don’t take away content – cover all the described material.

Also, don’t bury the required content in a lot of other content or your course will look like a different course and won’t articulate.

Most of the time, most courses at OC articulate because we are all studying the C-ID rubrics and following them.  The courses also articulate because Shannon Davis does the same thing for us.  Curriculum Committee tries to be very helpful in this area too, but when you look at the sheer number of courses and how complex the system is, there’s no way that even the Curriculum Committee can be expert in your field.  You should really know the descriptors in your field.

Now, this is the dicey part.  Before a course can be part of a TMC, it must already be approved at the State level for its match with the descriptors.  Ouch.  When I learned this in August, I immediately went to work on the four courses in Anthropology that have descriptors.  If a course doesn’t have descriptors, you don’t have to submit it for approval to the State/CSU team, but if it has descriptors – as all of the core TMC courses do – you have to submit it for approval.

So, while my AA-T is done, it will only be when the State/CSU team of anthropologists reviews my descriptors for the four courses that my AA-T can be useful to a student.  Depending on the discipline, it’s taking 1-3 months for this to happen (and if my observations are correct, it’s taking longer and longer as the reviewers get more and more swamped with 116 community colleges submitting so much curriculum).

Upshot:  even if your TMC wasn’t approved yet, you should have heeded the announcement in August and gotten your courses updated.  Most of you did that or are doing it right now and hopefully that’s complete.  We’ll certainly be looking at such issues at PEPC and perhaps issuing advisories or something.  We have to do something to make sure we meet the TMC pattern goals.

In perusing what’s gotten approved at the State level, I can’t help but give a shout-out to Chris Horrock for being one of only two colleges in the system to get that Symbolic Logic class approved for Philosophy (so far).  Talk about a fast response!  If you’re not knowledgeable about symbolic logic, you should know that there are a lot of students who love, love this subject despite its grueling nature.  There are people who think that it’s as important as math in transfer, and it certainly leads to jobs in the computer field (I run into former students all the time who say that symbolic logic was the key to their current job success – although many of them ended up taking the course elsewhere, as OC hasn’t always had the right arguments to get Symbolic Logic into the schedule; the TMC process will change that).

I hope this tiny example helps you see how the TMC/C-ID process affects us.  And here’s a challenge to the historians:  take a look at what your discipline is up to, statewide.  History has 6 courses with descriptors – but only one course where I see finalized descriptors (the website is always a little behind reality – so let’s take that into account).  This struck me as interesting because philosophers have been busily making sure their courses articulate (even though their TMC was approved only 6 days ago).  The History TMC has been around for awhile.  What’s up with that, historians??

So, let’s issue a challenge to those disciplines who are behind in the C-ID process:  submit your curriculum and get it up to date!  Anthropology was so late in developing its descriptors that comparative data is not yet available (but should be in January or February, so we can play tag).  If your discipline was an early adopter, you’re already ahead of the game, so please, please take advantage of that (as Chris has done) and get your curriculum ready to go!

P.S.  I’m guessing that our historians are already busily at work getting this done, but from my side, I see the state approvals when they post – and I see what the Board approves.  I absolutely love hearing about your progress in this area (and there’s now a box on the Program Review form for you to say more – because every discipline has a slightly different story here).



    1. C-ID is a system that started in 2010, giving Common Course Identification numbers to California college curriculum. Right now, it’s aimed at lower division work, and at the “most popular” courses. One by one, though, each discipline is creating common course descriptions and objectives, so that if the course is approved for inclusion in the C-ID system, it transfers no problem as that same course to all community colleges and all CSU’s. This stops the wasting of units by our very mobile student population and makes transfer easier. It’s replacing what used to be called CAN system. But this time, it’s taking hold.

      This is just the kind of lingo that faculty who are involved in Curriculum probably know, students are just barely learning (it’s in our catalog for each course that has a C-ID number), and that almost nobody has been informed about, very much.

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