Evaluating and Awarding Work and Experiential Credit for a Non-traditional IT Program
Leah Schultz Tarleton State University
Abstract One of the top things that adult learners look for when returning to college is credit for life experience (Hoover, 2010) and as competency-based education programs proliferate, some universities and colleges are trying to accommodate a large population of adult learners. The state of Texas allows universities to offer degree completion programs in a variety of fields using the Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences (BAAS). These programs allow students to use a combination of training and work experience to earn college credit towards a degree. Many of these credits are awarded for completion of courses at the community college that are not traditionally accepted for transfer credit to a four-year institution. These courses mostly reside in technical associate degree programs where the content and the applicability to the BAAS curriculum is readily apparent. However, the guidelines for the program also allow awarding of credit for previous training as well as work experience which can be more difficult to apply.
General guidelines have been proposed for awarding credit for work experience (Sharon, 1976) but the purpose of this research will be to determine a framework for the awarding of credit for prior work experience and training for a degree completion program specifically in Information Technology. Initially, the problem will need to be defined in relation to the unstructured nature of the credit being awarded. Different stakeholders may have different concerns about the analysis and awarding of credit and the initial phase of this research will be to survey various stakeholders for input. For example, faculty may be concerned about the rigor of awarding credit for work experience while potential students may be more concerned with the process of documenting prior learning. Administration may have concerns about costs as well as impact on various accreditation requirements.
Once the important issues from various stakeholders have been identified, existing options can be evaluated. There are many potential ways to evaluate prior learning credit and a multi-option approach may be needed to capture the various types of learning that may be submitted for consideration. National credit by exam and departmental exams can be used to assess a student’s gained knowledge in a certain field. Standardized systems that track military and vocational training can be used to track and analyze credits that might fall into this area. Finally, the presentation of portfolios for analysis can also be used by students to present a comprehensive list of the types of work and training that they are submitting for consideration.
Ultimately, this research plans to present a framework to help identify the best processes for analyzing credit for prior learning to allow more adult learners to complete bachelor’s degrees and fill vacancies in the technology field. This will benefit the students, will make the BAAS in IT more competitive, and improve the workforce in Texas.
Hoover, E. (2010, March 19). Where Life Earns Credit: “Prior Learning” Gets a Fresh Assessment. Chronicle of Higher Education, 56(27), A23–A24.
Sharon, A. T. (1976). A Model for Awarding College Credit for Work Experience. The Journal of Higher Education, 47(6), 701–710. https://doi.org/10.2307/1979123