A key element of the equity agenda for Linked Learning is to expand access to high quality, integrated programs of study that include both core academic courses and a sequence of career-technical courses and that also meet eligibility requirements for public university systems (in California, this includes the ‘a-g’ subject requirements). Completion of these courses serves as a critical gatekeeper to the full range of post-secondary options for students. For schools and districts working to develop Linked Learning pathways that effectively prepare students for college and career success, providing access to college preparatory courses and course sequences that fully integrate challenging academic and technical skill development is imperative. Nevertheless, the number of students who complete these requirements varies widely.
In response to this need and opportunity, the Linked Learning Alliance and the College and Career Academy Support Network (CCASN) at the University of California – Berkeley have worked with several trailblazer districts to develop two initial Linked Learning course descriptions that integrate college preparatory academics, career technical skills, and work-based learning in a manner consistent with the Linked Learning approach. Together with partner school districts and county offices of education, we have articulated a vision for the quality of Linked Learning courses aligned to several ‘signature elements’ (see below).
UC Program Status
The University of California Office of the President (UCOP) approved program status for Linked Learning in Spring 2017. Obtaining program status will allow the Alliance to offer a Linked Learning ‘a-g’ course list (applicable to schools in California) with a range of quality pathway courses and pathway course sequences, and will enable Linked Learning districts and pathways to readily adopt previously approved ‘a-g’ courses.
Information Technology Courses
- Introduction to Information and Communication Technologies (UC/CSU ‘g’ College Preparatory Elective)
- Cybersecurity (UC/CSU ‘g’ College Preparatory Elective)
Manufacturing & Product Development Courses
- Introduction to Manufacturing and Product Development (UC/CSU ‘g’ College Preparatory Elective)
- Intermediate Product Innovation and Design (UC/CSU ‘g’ College Preparatory Elective)
- Manufacturing and Prototyping(UC/CSU ‘g’ College Preparatory Elective)
The selection of these courses was based on sector priorities identified through a survey of dozens of school district and county office partners across California, examinations of WIOA/CCCCO California regional sector priorities, and analyzing needs for course sequences in Linked Learning pathways.
Accessing the Courses
Signature Elements of Linked Learning Courses
High quality courses provide a teaching and learning experience that effectively prepares students with the knowledge, skills, and habits that are vital to their success in college, career, and life. In a Linked Learning context, courses reflect the following signature elements:
Rigor: A rigorous Linked Learning course integrates relevant academic, career-technical, and industry standards. It involves learning experiences that are personally and intellectually challenging, and enable students to acquire skills that can be applied in different education, career, civic, and life contexts. Rigorous learning experiences encourage students to think critically and creatively through research, analysis, and problem solving. They also stimulate students, motivate them to learn more, and prepare them for post-secondary options without need for remediation. When appropriate, rigorous courses should enable students to earn post-secondary credit.
Relevance: Relevant learning experiences involve connections to student interests, aspirations, life experiences, and cultures. They also involve skill acquisition, the application of knowledge in practical contexts, and community and career connections. Relevant learning experiences often have value beyond the classroom, and frequently mirror post-secondary and professional work. A course may use a variety of educational strategies to increase relevance, including an emphasis on 21st century skills, community and work-based learning, personalized learning, project-based learning, and cultural competency. Relevant course descriptions are also closely aligned to the pathway theme and often include demonstrations of technical mastery and professional skills (through preparation for industry-recognized certifications, where relevant).
Authentic Assessment: Linked Learning courses include performance and/or portfolio assessments, in addition to more traditional formative and summative assessments. As part of the assessment of learning, students often engage in complex tasks similar to those encountered by practitioners in the discipline or career field. Linked Learning students are expected to defend their attainment of standards, demonstrate growth and mastery, and reflect on themselves as learners. Where feasible and appropriate, these assessments should include genuine roles for industry professionals and community partners, whether as mentors, supervisors, clients, or evaluators.
Interdisciplinary Learning: According to the National Council for Teachers of English “educational experiences are more authentic and of greater value to students when the curricula reflects real life, which is multi-faceted rather than being compartmentalized into neat subject-matter packages.” Linked Learning courses use project-based and/or inquiry-based approaches to integrate academic content and methodologies from multiple subjects with technical content and methodologies from industry sectors. Linked learning courses help students make connections between disciplines and between school, work, and community.
Integrated Work-Based Learning: Work-based learning plays an essential role in supporting pathway student learning outcomes and the attainment of 21st century skills. As appropriate, a sequence of work-based learning opportunities is embedded in Linked Learning courses. Ideally, these experiences build awareness of career options, enable exploration of careers of interest, and provide practical experience that links classroom learning to workplace applications. Integrated work-based learning also involves student interaction with industry professionals who support and enhance learning experiences in both classrooms and at work sites.
Student Agency: Student ownership of the learning experience is important for academic engagement, social-emotional and 21st century skill development, and content mastery. Learning experiences should be designed to promote agency, efficacy, entrepreneurship, and a sense of purpose among students. Linked Learning courses include student-directed learning that empowers students to take initiative and responsibility as they explore interests, set goals, and make informed decisions.
Preparation for College and Career: Linked Learning courses include opportunities for students to advance their college and career knowledge, develop evidence of college and career readiness, and publicly defend their mastery of content and skills critical to college and career success. As appropriate, learning experiences integrate college and career exploration, planning, and portfolio development to prepare students for college and job application processes (ex. resume writing, labor market research, mock interviews, personal statements, etc.). These experiences include the active involvement of counselors, alumni, and post-secondary or employer partners, as appropriate, to provide guidance, feedback, and support.
Equity and Access: Pre-requisites included in course descriptions exist to ensure student success, rather than unnecessarily restrict student access to high-quality instruction. Linked Learning students are encouraged to pursue challenging courses, and teaching supports the success of all students towards skill and content mastery.
Adding to the Linked Learning Course List
The graphic below provides a general timeline of Linked Learning Alliance field activity in relation to the development, review, and submission of courses. We encourage Linked Learning schools and districts to contact us with courses that contain the Linked Learning signature elements, or could be amended to do so. By submitting your course to the Linked Learning Course List, the course could be utilized to enhance Linked Learning implementation across the state.