Itasca CC Engineering Block Scheduling Model

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Publication Date



The engineering program at Itasca Community College in northern Minnesota has developed a learning model that has been very successful in preparing students in their first two years of engineering education to succeed in completing their engineering degree. Students who have started their engineering education at Itasca in the current learning model average 8.7 semesters to completion of their bachelor’s degree in engineering with a graduation rate of 54%. The Itasca engineering program is an open admissions program with approximately 1/3 of the student body ready to start their math sequence with calculus 1, 1/3 with pre-calculus, and 1/3 at a math course below pre-calculus. Students who complete ICC’s engineering program then transfer to 4-year institutions across the nation to complete their STEM degree. A majority of the students transfer to the regional institutions with engineering programs with which Itasca has strong partnerships and articulation agreements. The program has grown from 10 students in1993 to 150 students in 2010.Some of the key characteristics of the Itasca CC Engineering Learning Model are:* Block Scheduling - In 2002 Itasca Community College's Engineering program changed from a traditional 16 week semester to a "block scheduling" format with classes taught "one-at-a-time"in a 4-week class format. Then in the spring of 2005, the program changed again to a "two-at-a-time" in 8-week class format. This alternative course scheduling method is successful in providing students the ability to navigate through the pre-calculus and calculus sequences at different paces than in a traditional schedule yet have the ability to complete their engineering degree in four years.* Program Assessment – Itasca engineering has developed an annual program assessment tool to provide feedback on student learning that utilizes an annual “FE” type comprehensive exam to assess the student learning in program courses and a student portfolio to demonstrate their attainment of the programs “ABET-based” learning outcomes at the end of their second year.* Learning Community – Itasca has developed a very strong learning community where students and faculty develop strong working relationships that enhance the student learning in the classroom and improve student retention rates.The authors will present a comparison of Itasca engineering student success and time to graduation data to other institutions across the U.S. and a detailed description of the Itasca CC engineering learning model and its key characteristics.The wider application of the Itasca Engineering model is a learning community model that is transferrable to other institutions and can serve to increase the number of students in the U.S.who are completing an engineering degree. The model can be fully adopted or could be used for select courses, such as math, and still function within a traditional 16 week class format.Keywords Section: Learning Community, Program Level Assessment Methods, Block Scheduling, Alternative Course Scheduling


Integrated Engineering

Publication Title

2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition