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Alternative Course Credit

College students should receive college credit for a variety of experiences.

Photo of Gregory Wilson
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Because informal learning accounts for 75% of a person's total life-long learning (Source) and undergraduate students generally spend less than eight percent of their time in a formal classroom (Source), college credit should be given for informal learning experiences. 

What should students get credit for?

- Startups
- Industry projects/consulting 
- Learning a new disciplinary skill: Using it for a project or teaching to others
- Series of popup classes/design challenges 
- Travel based learning 
- Self-directed curated playlists
- Prior learning before beginning college
- Research

A portfolio should be the primary documentation that potential employers request instead of a transcript.

An example of this can be found at UMUC.

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

This can help college students graduate faster (saving money from potential debt) and stay motivated throughout their academic career.

This idea emerged from:

  • An individual

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Guidance on how this could be implemented in the real world.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Not sure. You would have to either convince colleges to do this or create a new college that implements this concept.

Tell us about your work experience:

I have experience in education, design, technology, and research.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Gregory.
I agree that students should have these alternative learning experiences and the value they bring to a student's overall development should be recognized. Maybe they should not be for "credit". Maybe these types of experiences should be part of the overall education path but be accounted for in a different way. I am not sure how, just thinking about how to incorporate two different approaches to higher ed within one degree.
Maybe there should be two parallel paths that combined lead toward one degree. Less "credits" will still cost less. The time commitment overall might be the same but students are engaged in these other activities for part of the higher ed years.
How might student participation in these activities be evaluated so that one can be sure they have achieved certain skills and goals? How best to protect students so that they get the best learning experiences, and the degree itself, so that employers know the value of this approach?

Photo of Gregory Wilson

Hi Bettina,

I like the model that UMUC uses where students have a portfolio in addition to their regular transcript. I don't think the activities in the portfolio replaces course credit but is used as a supplement.

To evaluate informal activities, a rubric could be established to set expectations of a given experience. I also like the idea of learning contracts (, where students and advisors determine what connected courses and informal activities the student will take to reach short- and long-term goals.

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