Skip to main content

Evaluation of the Community College Consortium for Bioscience Credentials (c3bc): Final report (Alamprese et al. 2017)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Alamprese, J. A., Costelloe, S., Price, C., & Zeidenberg, M. (2017). Evaluation of the Community College Consortium for Bioscience Credentials (c3bc): Final report. Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Community College Consortium for Bioscience Credentials (c3bc) redesigned courses on course completion rates.
  • The authors used a nonexperimental design to compare course completion outcomes of c3bc participants to a matched comparison group.
  • The study found that enrollment in c3bc courses was significantly associated with lower course completion rates.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the c3bc redesigned courses; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

The Community College Consortium for Bioscience Credentials (c3bc) Course Redesigns

Features of the Intervention

The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program provided $1.9 billion in grants to community colleges to improve skills and support employment in high-demand industries, notably manufacturing, health care, information technology, energy, and transportation. Through four rounds of funding, DOL awarded 256 TAACCCT grants to approximately 800 educational institutions across the United States and its territories.

The Community College Consortium for Bioscience Credentials (c3bc) was designed help increase skillsets in the biosciences. Forsyth Technical Community College led the formation of the c3bc. Under the redesign, Biology 111 and Chemistry 131 were offered online. Additionally, the consortium created course modules that included text, video, images, animation, audio, practice activities, and self-assessments. Students participating in the c3bc program at Forsyth Technical Community College worked with a liaison who counseled them on the science courses available and helped them create individualized learning plans.

Features of the Study

The authors used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of students who enrolled in the c3bc redesigned courses between Fall 2013 and Fall 2015 to those who were enrolled in the non-c3bc versions of the courses during the same time period. The authors matched c3bc participants to similar nonparticipants for each course using propensity scores developed from demographic information, prior education level, and baseline outcome data. The c3bc enhanced Biology 111 course treatment group consisted of 218 participants and the comparison group consisted of 340 participants. The c3bc enhanced Chemistry 131 course treatment group consisted of 97 participants and the comparison group consisted of 107 participants. Using data from the colleges’ administrative school records, the authors conducted statistical models to examine differences in completion rates (defined as obtaining a D or higher).

Findings

Education and skills gain

  • The study found a significant negative relationship between c3bc course enrollment and completion rates for Biology 111, with lower completion rates among students enrolled in the c3bc enhanced course compared to students enrolled in the traditional course (61% versus 79%).
  • The study found a significant negative relationship between c3bc course enrollment and completion rates for Chemistry 131, with lower completion rates among students enrolled in the c3bc enhanced course compared to students enrolled in the traditional course (54% versus 69%).

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The authors created a matched group of non-participating students to compare to the c3bc students. However, the authors did not account for other factors that could have affected the difference between the treatment and comparison groups, such as pre-intervention degree of financial disadvantage. These preexisting differences between the groups—and not the c3bc redesigned courses—could explain the observed differences in outcomes. Therefore, the study is not eligible for a moderate causal evidence rating, the highest rating available for nonexperimental designs.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the c3bc redesigned courses; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

May 2020

Topic Area