Curricular Analytics: Basic Terminology

A curriculum for an academic program consists of the set of courses that a student must complete in order to earn the degree associated with that program. By successfully completing a course, a student should attain the learning outcomes associated with the course, while also earning the number of credit hours associated with the course. For instance, most associate degree programs require a student to earn a minimum of 60 credit hours, and most bachelor's degree programs require a student to earn a minimum of 120 credit hours.

In order to attain the learning outcomes associated with course B, a student may first need to attain some of the learning outcomes associated with some other course, say A. In order to capture this requirement, course A is listed as a prerequisite for course B. That is, students may not enroll in course B unless they have successfully completed course A. More generally, we refer to these types of requirements as requisites, and we differentiate between three types:

  • Prerequisite - course A must be completed prior to attempting course B.
  • Co-requisite - course A may be taken prior to or at the same time as attempting course B.
  • Strict co-requisite : course A must be taken at the same time as course B

A degree plan is a term-by-term arrangement for taking all of the courses in a curriculum, layed out so as to satisfy all requisite relationships. A term is typically offered either in the semester (two terms/academic year) or quarter (three terms/academic year) format. It is common for schools to offer two-year degree plans for associates degrees and four-year degree plans for bachelors degrees.

There is a one-to-many relationship between a curriculum and the degree plans that satisfy the curriculum. I.e., many different degree plans can be constructed to satisfy a single curriculum. Furthermore, it is likely that some of these degree plans are better suited to the needs of articular students. In addition, it is important to note that a degree plan may contain more courses than are stipulated in a curriculum. For instance, a student may not have the background necessary to take the first math course in a curriculum, necessitating the addition of a prerequisite math class as a part of the degree plan.

Example

Consider the Basket Weaving curriculum, consisting of the following four courses:

  • BW 101 : Introduction to Baskets, 3 credits
  • BW 101L : Introduction to Baskets Lab, 1 credit; strict co-requisite: BW 101
  • BW 111 : Basic Basket Forms, 3 credits; prerequisite: BW 101
  • BW 201 : Advanced Basketry, 3 credits; co-requisite: BW 111

The following degree plan completes this curriculum in two terms while satisfying all of the requisite relationships:

  • Term 1: BW 101, BW 101L
  • Term 2: BW 111, BW 201

A visual representation of this degree plan is shown below. The solid arrow in this figure represents a prerequisite relationship, while the dashed arrows represent co-requisite relationships.

Basket Weaving Plan