Academic Program Design and Assessment to Support Semester Conversion:  A Guide for Faculty

Key Program Design Considerations

What is the role of our Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs)?

The California State University, East Bay Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs) are a shared, campus-wide articulation of expectations for all degree recipients.

Institutional Learning Outcomes serve to:

  • orient students to their learning process,
  • guide faculty, staff and administrators as they design, develop, and update educational programs,
  • provide a foundation for meaningful assessment and improvement, and
  • represent CSUEB’s commitments to students and the greater community.

Both the broader Institutional Learning Outcomes and the more discipline specific Program Learning Outcomes should be considered as you revise and transform programs to semesters.

What is a bachelor's program?

An academic program is comprised of the core, required, and elective courses that lead to a degree. Unless an exception has already been approved by the CSU Chancellor’s Office, the bachelor’s degree will be 120 semester units (note the BFA must be between 120 and 132 semester units). A typical baccalaureate program will have the following features:

  • Major units
    • at least 24 semester units for the Bachelor of Arts
    • at least 36 semester units for the Bachelor of Science
    • no more than 70 semester units for the Bachelor of Fine Arts
    • General Education units (at least 48 semester units)
    • Other requirements (may include extra units for American Institutions, etc., to be determined by CSUEB Academic Senate committees)

To ensure the integrity of degree programs, each approved degree title is to be associated with only one set of curricular requirements. The program core requirements within the major units should represent a sufficient number of required units so that the program’s student learning outcomes can be achieved by all enrolled students, regardless of concentration. Further, the requirements in the concentration should be minimal relative to the major core requirements. (CSU Source: Adding Options, Concentrations, Special Emphases and Minors).

How does Transfer Model Curriculum impact program design?

Through Senate Bill 1440 (also known as the Star Act), students are given guaranteed admission into the California State University (CSU) system, and further are given priority consideration when applying to a particular program that is similar to the student’s community college major. The law prohibits the CSU from requiring a transferring student to repeat courses similar to those taken at the community college that counted toward their associate degree for transfer. Starting from the Fall 2011-12 academic year, it has been expected that community college students are able to declare an interest in pursuing specific transfer AA-T/AS-T degrees which match certain CSU BA/BS degrees. The curriculum pathway for these students is called a Transfer Model Curriculum (TMC).

Prior to conducting a curriculum review, please check and see if your department has a Transfer Model Curriculum (TMC). If your program currently has an approved TMC, please contact Kyle Burch, University Articulation Officer, at to ensure that your revised curriculum meets the regulation and is compliant with SB1440. 

The majors/options that currently have approved TMCs at CSUEB are listed in Appendix 2 of this guide and on the CSUEB Associate for Transfer webpage.

An excellent resource for curriculum planning is the Course Identification Numbering System (C-ID). C-ID is a supra-numbering system being developed to ease the transfer and articulation burdens in California’s higher educational institutions. Currently, C-ID has 280 approved descriptors and 21 draft descriptors from over 31 different disciplines.

Two additional website resources for general information on SB 1440 are SB 1440—Associate Degrees for Transfer and Associate Degree for Transfer: a Degree with a Guarantee.

Graduate Programs

What is a Master's program?

A master’s program is comprised of the core, required and elective courses that lead to a degree including a capstone experience - a thesis, project or comprehensive exam. The program has a minimum of 30 semester units. Additionally, a minimum of 50 percent of all of the units required for the master’s degree must be in stand-alone graduate level courses. Further information regarding semester conversion for master’s programs will be forthcoming from the CIC Graduate Subcommittee. However, the general conversion principles that follow in this guide apply to both undergraduate and graduate programs.

For more information, visit: -14-15/14-15-docs/14-15-cic-35-master-prog-guidelines-and-q2s.pdf

What is the definition of graduate level instruction in the CSU?

“The graduate course deals with more complex ideas, materials, techniques, or problems than the undergraduate course and demands searching and exhaustive analysis.”

 Graduate Students Possess:

  • Maturity, responsibility, and scholarly integrity appropriate to study beyond the baccalaureate level.
  • A broad base of knowledge, usually represented by the possession of the bachelor’s degree.
  • Competence in the specified field, usually represented by a substantial body of upper division study in the field or in a closely related field.
  • A command of basic techniques and skills essential for independent, self- directed study in the field.

 A Graduate Course Requires:

  • The identification and investigation of theory or principle.
  • The application of theory to new ideas, problems, and materials.
  • Extensive use of bibliographic and other resource materials with emphasis on primary sources of data.
  • Demonstration of competence in the scholarly presentation of the results of independent study.
  • More creative thinking than an upper division course.

 CSU Office of the Chancellor. (2014) Program Planning Resource Guide. Pages 89–97.

Questions to ask for program design: What does a graduate of our Master’s or Doctoral program look like?

  • How will our graduating graduate student be different from the undergraduate?
  • How will our graduate be able to think, behave, and contribute to our diverse society?
  • What theories, concepts, systems and techniques will he/she be able to apply?
  • What skills, attitudes, and beliefs should our graduate students practice?

 Adapted from:

Sample Graduate Program Curriculum Map


Program Learning Outcomes


PLO #1

PLO #2

PLO #3

PLO #4







I, D



I, D





















**689, 691,692, or 699

M (A)

M (A)

M (A)

M (A)

* Required course for major
**All graduate programs must include one of the following: 689: Project; 691: University Thesis; 692: Comprehensive Exam Review; 699: Department Thesis

What constitutes an online program?

Programs that are comprised of 50% or more online and/or hybrid coursework (a hybrid course counts as .50 online) are considered “online programs” by WASC so must get WASC approval.  If your program revision contains any pathway that is 50% or more online and is not already approved as an online program, please consult with your Dean’s office and APGS as soon as possible.

What are the options for elevating a concentration to a degree or making a change in degree type? 

If your program is considering any of the major changes (e.g. M.A. to M.S, B.A. to B.S., etc.) please consult with your Dean’s office and Donna Wiley in APGS immediately.  All of these changes require Chancellor’s Office approval.

How are semester course units determined?

The number of units to be assigned to individual courses in a degree program is a decision made by the faculty in each program. Using Title 5 guidelines and CSU Chancellor’s Office policies, many typical semester courses will be 3 units of credit (1 semester unit = 15 instructional hours per semester or 1 hour of class time per week), and a typical semester lab will be 1 unit of credit (3 hours of laboratory time per week).  Here is the link to the Quarter to Semester Unit Conversion Calculator.  For more information about the types of course classifications and hours they meet per week, see the CSU Course Classification System document in the Curricular Procedures Manual.

Curriculum Planning

What are the foundational questions of curriculum planning?

In Basic Principles of Curriculum Planning (1949, 2013), Ralph W. Tyler posed questions about curriculum planning that continue to be relevant today:

Key Questions

Curriculum Planning


  • What educational outcomes should we seek to attain?


  • Developing PLOs and SLOs


  • What learning experiences are likely to be useful in attaining these outcomes?


  • Designing pedagogy, including HIPS


  • How can those learning experiences be organized for effective instruction?


  • Curriculum mapping


  • How can the effectiveness of learning be assessed?


  • Course and program-level assessment

Source: Ralph Tyler, Basic Principles of Curriculum Planning, (1949, 2013)

How can I get a broad view from both the faculty and student perspectives?

pyramid showing progression of learning outcomes

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