Contributors: Janeu Houston and Danny Kainer, Lonestar College; Bridgette Kirkpatrick and Carole Twichell, Collin College
Introduction to Biotechnology I and II are highly rigorous courses that offer students a balance of theoretical concepts and practical laboratory skills development. Course descriptions are below.
Introduction to Biotechnology I BIOL 1414
Course Description: Overview of classical genetics, DNA structure, the flow of genetic information, DNA replication, gene transcription, protein translation. Principles of major molecular biology and genetic engineering techniques, including restriction enzymes and their uses, major types of cloning vectors, construction of libraries, Southern and Northern blotting, hybridization, PCR, DNA typing. Applications of these techniques in human health and welfare, medicine, agriculture and the environment. Introduction to the human genome project, gene therapy, molecular diagnostics, forensics, creation and uses of transgenic plants and animal and animal cloning and of the ethical, legal, and social issues and scientific problems associated with these technologies. Relevant practical exercises in the above areas,
Introduction to Biotechnology II BIOL 1415
Course Description: Lecture to focus on an integrative approach to study biomolecules with an emphasis on protein structures, functions and uses in the modern bioscience laboratory. Students will investigate the mechanisms involved in the transfer of information from DNA sequences to proteins to biochemical functions. The course will integrate biological and chemical concepts with techniques that are used in research and industry. Critical thinking will be applied in laboratory exercises using inquiry-based approaches, troubleshooting and analyzing experimental data. Lab required.
In 2006, Collin College began the task of integrating these courses into the Academic Course Guide Manual (ACGM), which would allow the courses to count as academic and not workforce credit. This was a concerted effort between multiple institutions (including 4-year universities) to transform the courses to true academic status and rigor, not just simply a change the names and numbers.
The importance of classifying these courses as academic was multi-faceted:
Transfer to relevant, bachelors-level, university programs, which have historically served as popular choices for Biotechnology graduates.
Academic credit appealing to serious, highschool STEM students considering pursuit of degrees in life sciences upon entering college.
Many students who directly enter the workforce must return to school for additional courses/higher-level degrees in order to remain current in theoretical constructs and rapidly advancing technology pertinent to biotechnology education.
The academic rigor of the courses more closely resemble STEM courses currently listed in the ACGM rather than the workforce courses in WECM.
In a very methodical, two-stage process, Introduction to Biotechnology I (BIOL 1414) was added to the ACGM in 2008. Then, in 2010, Introduction to Biotechnology II (BIOL 1415) (with a syllabus and course objectives jointly written by faculty from 8 institutions) was also accepted. These courses were accepted with freshman-level course numbers. However, they are intended to satisfy a dearth of academic preparation for upper-level courses that cover cutting-edge, life-science- related knowledge and skills. The pace of 21st century scientific discovery has resulted in a rapidly changing landscape with which curricula have struggled to keep pace. This is particularly true at the lower level, where modern molecular biology and genetics are sparsely represented. One only needs to look at transfer guides to notice these glaring deficiencies.
This list is not exhaustive but includes programs to which students have transferred the Biotechnology course(s): University of Texas-Austin, Texas State University, Texas Tech, Stephen F. Austin, St Edwards, University of North Texas, Auburn, Texas A&M, TAMU-Central Texas, MD Anderson, Oklahoma State University. Community college biotechnology students/graduates who complete these courses routinely successfully transfer to and graduate from highly rigorous university programs (including Biology, Biochemistry, Environmental Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Medical School, Molecular Genetics Technology, Clinical Laboratory Science, Cytotechnology, Cytogenetics Technology, and Histotechnology programs). In many cases these students are actively recruited for the programs because of the knowledge and skills obtained in these introductory courses.
Though 2010 may seem a long time ago, these courses have only recently been added to cores of institutions such as, Del Mar in 2012, Lone Star College and Austin Community College in 2014. Moreover, within the past year, TAMU-Texarkana added these courses to their core curriculum as offerings within their B. S. in Biotechnology Degree (FALL 2016). Instituting these courses in the core curricula of individual colleges typically requires each program to satisfy multiple stakeholders before such integration can occur. These important stakeholders include college administrators, advisory boards, and curriculum teams. More problematically, at large institutions, such integration requires the synchronization of multiple campuses. All of these processes requires time and considerable coordination of all those involved in the processes. Therefore, even though Collin College was the first of several colleges to pursue the conversion of these courses for academic credit, it took considerable time for the other programs and individual colleges across the state to implement the same processes at their own institutions.
The juxtaposition of the time requirements for the conversion of these courses to academic status versus the time provided by THECB for that conversion are incompatible. In 2015, THECB placed both courses, Introduction to Biotechnology I (BIOL 1414) and Introduction to Biotechnology (BIOL 1415) on a list that scheduled these courses for deletion by the Summer of 2017. The timeline became even more truncated considering some colleges, such as Lone Star College and Del Mar, had only had BIOL 1414 in its core curriculum for one year prior to the scheduled deletion. Even more distressing was the work involving, BIOL 1415. With regard to Lone Star College and others, efforts were in the beginning stages to pass this course through the institutional framework for approval to the core, but were stalled because of the scheduled deletion. Attempts at articulation of the courses have also been stalled until the deletion issue is resolved.
It is our contention that the courses should never have been scheduled for deletion in the first place. The following is taken directly from the Texas Administrative Code, Title 19, Part 1, Chapter 9, Subchapter D, Rule §9.73:
Current communication from THECB indicates the decision to delete BIOL 1414 and BIOL 1415 was based upon “low enrollment and lack of transfer institutions.” However, from a statewide perspective of biotechnology programs, a contrastive analysis of individual programs’ conversion processes demonstrated a high degree of variability in the stages of implementation of these courses. The stark reality was that each program was at a different stage in the conversion process. This indicates there just wasn’t enough time to generate a reasonable quantity of relevant data to support whether the deletion was a proper decision. There was also no relevant data to show that THECB had ascertained information regarding the stages at which each college had progressed.
It is probable that THECB was unaware of the differential states of progress among the state biotechnology programs. However, under the Texas Administration Code listed above, it appears the requirements were met for retaining these courses within the ACGM. Further, a cross-listing of courses between ACGM and WECM was not a specified criterion for deletion of these courses.
The data that THECB utilized in making this decision may have erroneously shown the courses were underutilized. Specifically, the databases and/or search tools that link to the THECB website produced results that were incongruent with actual offerings at colleges. These circumstances became apparent when various biotechnology program representatives followed THECB appeal instructions that directed colleges to use these links in order to collect data for an appeal. However, had accurate data been available to THECB at the time the courses were considered for deletion, we are confident that a different conclusion would have been reached.
Many informal articulations have existed for years between biotechnology programs and their university partners. An early impact of this incomplete conversion process was the numerous conversations between community colleges and university partners which included these courses. Several of the community colleges have reached out to university partners, such as Texas A & M – Texarkana (TAMUT). Since THECB approved both BIOL 1414 and BIOL 1415 in the core curriculum of Texas A&M-Texarkana (TAMUT) just this past Fall (FALL 2016) this appears to show that THECB recognizes the academic value of these courses and begs the question of why they are being deleted from the ACGM.