On serving students

“Measuring learning was left to the discretion of individual teachers and professors,” said Elena Silva, a senior associate at the foundation and co-author of the report, for Campus Technology. “Given the great diversity in goals and activities in the U.S. educational system and the autonomy enjoyed by faculty, particularly in higher education, creating an alternative to the Carnegie Unit poses formidable challenges. While the Carnegie Unit has many limitations, it does provide a minimum guarantee of student access to opportunities to learn.” In other words, the elimination of the credit hour could result in disadvantaged students facing greater risk; the thinking: that “learning takes time,” and an environment in which time is a variable could result in perpetuating their disadvantages, writes Dian Schaffhauser.

“It is not a foregone conclusion that CBE programs will save money for all students, wrote the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in a recent report . “Federal regulations do not allow students attending many of the most innovative programs to receive federal financial aid. For students with financial need, the net price of a CBE program may be higher than that of a traditional program, accounting for financial aid discounts. Also, if a student progresses too slowly through a CBE program, the price of the program may exceed that of a regular program.”

“…assessments of student learning must be designed in ways that are compatible with the purposes for which the university exists. To measure student learning in ways that are abstracted from the lifeworld in which skills take on meaning, are practiced and are developed would erode the moral and intellectual foundations of the university. It would treat skills as ends, not as means to an end” described Reem. “Any move beyond the credit hour, then, must be grounded in the particular, must move beyond general competencies and must take seriously the specific knowledge gained by studying particular things with particular people.”

On alternatives

The time isn’t right to kill the credit hour, in part because competency measures are an inadequate replacement, said Carol Geary Schneider, AACU’s president, to Inside Higher Ed. However, the Report still “didn’t answer what could be added to the credit hour ecology.”

You’d have to come up with something else that would walk, talk, and smell like a credit hour” in order to solve the practical and logistical problems before the credit hour could be eliminated, explained Jane Wellman, author of How the Student Credit Hour Shapes Higher Education, to the Chronicle.

Institutions that are innovating need to do a better job of sharing what they’ve learned,” said Laitinen, “so higher education can move forward. Why should everybody have to redesign the wheel? Let’s learn from each other.”


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