Credit hours or learning outcomes?

Is it time to dump credit hours?  Basing college credits on “seat time” is under attack, but some argue that it takes time to learn.

If higher education could start from scratch, it would assess learning outcomes, not time in class, writes a college president.

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  1. I guess it’s dependent on who decides what’s going to be measured.

    If you’re an administrator credit hours are a lot easier to measure then learning outcomes and, absent some overriding reason to the contrary, credit hours are the obvious choice.

    In the K-12 arena it’s birth date that’s easy to determine rather then learning outcomes, and lo!, it’s birth date that’s vastly preferred to the troublesome “learning outcomes”.

  2. How about enabling credit by examination for more than 30 credit hours for a bachelors and 15 for an associate’s degree.

    If you can prove you’ve mastered the material in question (through self-study or many years of actual work experience), there is NO reason to waste time and money parking your can in a seat just for the TIME based experience.

    In IT, we have certifications which are in some cases harder to earn than some degrees, but they signify that the person is what is know as a SME (subject matter expert) once they’ve obtained the certification (An example of this is Cisco’s CCIE certification)…

  3. Agreed. Having come from IT where certifications are required on top of any degree you might have, I really think it’s time to switch to assessment of knowledge and skill. I grade by standards in my math and science classroom, and it really helps students focus on what they are to learn rather than on how many points they can convince me to give them.

    That said, I think it will be really hard to do for K-12 what’s been done for the IT industry. Inevitably, some company will charge an arm and a leg for its standardized assessments which may, or may not, indicate student competence. I think this is an area that will take many years of painful growth before we come anywhere near getting it right.

    • Heh…I actually worked in IT for close to 22 years before I had a degree or certs, but you’re right, it wouldn’t work at the K-12 level, unless you’re talking about grade skipping at the ES/MS level.

  4. “Seat time” is actually seat time plus passing grades on tests/assignments. In ES/MS, if you show up you will usually be passed to the next grade even if tests indicate that you haven’t learned much. You might then get extra help, but retention is very rare these days. In HS, there is an attempt to make sure you are ready for the next level (i.e. you passed the previous level of the same subject) before you can enroll in that next level. But attendance is still taken seriously. In college, passing grades trump attendance. In a well-designed course, you’ll have a hard time passing w/o attending class, but it’s not rare for students to do that.