Adult students that are considering an online college degree who have already earned some college credits during the course of their careers can decrease the time it takes to earn an undergraduate online degree by transferring credits from another school. Many institutions of higher learning, including online schools, allow the transferring of credits towards a degree. Since each online degree program’s requirements vary, check before you enroll to make sure transferred credits are accepted.
Transferring Credits and Eligibility
Transferring credits can shorten your online education and speed up the completion of your degree. However, a student cannot move from school to school and expect to easily transfer credits from one college to another. Depending on the specific school and program, as well as their accreditation status, not all credits are transferable.
If the registrar’s office will not accept the credits you want to transfer, this can be a source of great frustration, and so it is best to do your research about transferring credits prior to enrolling in a class.
What if you have taken courses at an online school that is not recognized or accredited? For these types of situations, where you have legitimate reasons to question the amount of credit you receive, you can gather all of your paperwork and petition the online college, but even with a petition, there is still no guarantee of a favorable outcome.
Earning Credits Before You Even Enroll
Before enrolling in a online college, adult learners may already possess college credits through courses, examinations or learning acquired in the workplace. Many undergraduate online degree programs, especially those designed for adults, give credit for knowledge and skills gained through life experience. Although the knowledge usually comes through paid employment, it can be acquired through volunteer work, military education and training courses, travel, recreational activities, and hobbies and reading.
There is a catch, of course, with transferring credits earned through experience. You must document the specifics of what you have learned. It’s simply not enough to say that you learned about marketing while selling widgets. Instead, you must demonstrate what you learned, for example, by showing plans for a marketing campaign that you created or implemented.
To earn credit for learning from life experience, assemble a file or portfolio of information about your work and other accomplishments. The file may include writing samples, awards, taped presentations or performances, copies of speeches, newspaper articles, official job descriptions, military records, works of art, designs and blueprints, films or photographs.
Your portfolio is then evaluated by an institution’s faculty member to determine the amount of credits you will receive—the specific amount will vary depending on the online university, and within the institution, the policies of internal schools, departments, and programs.
If you are interested in receiving credit for life experience, you may want to visit the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning website to receive more detailed information about assessment opportunities for adult learners.
Earning Credits by Taking Exams
Transferring credits through examinations is also another possible route to receive credit for prior learning. For example, if you worked in the human resources department of a large organization for years, you may know a lot about human resource management. If you take and pass a college-level exam in human resource management, you can earn credits towards your online degree without taking the course or paying tuition.
Although some online schools have developed their own equivalency exams for transferring credits, most online schools accept the results of examinations taken through national programs, such as those that follow:
- College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) is the best known of the national equivalency exam programs. It is administered by the College Board and recognized by 2,900 colleges and universities. Most of the CLEP tests are multiple-choice, with a few essays, and will cover what students typically take in their first two years of college. CLEP exams are also free to military service members.
- Excelsior College Examinations, formerly the Regents College Examination series, are similar to the CLEP. The series consists of about forty subject-area equivalency examinations, which are recognized by nearly 1,000 colleges and universities.
- The DSST Program offers exams by Thomson Prometric and are accepted or administered at almost 2,000 colleges and universities.
Credit for Work and Military Training
Since 1974, thousands of employees have earned college credit for selected educational programs sponsored by businesses, professional associations, labor unions, and government agencies. The American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service, offered through ACE’s Center for Lifelong Learning, evaluates such programs according to established college-level criteria and recommends college credit for those programs that measure up to these standards.
Service in the military, specialized training, and occupational experience also have the potential to earn credit. Many military programs have already been evaluated in terms of their equivalency to college credit. The institutions that belong to Service members Opportunity Colleges (SOC) have agreed to assess students’ prior learning and accept each other’s credits in transfer.
Maximizing Your Results
When transferring credits, it is important to have a clear plan beforehand to ensure that all of the credits you have earned will count towards the completion of your online bachelor’s degree. Explore all of your options for transferring credits, and do your research.
Students often wrongly assume that they can take courses from several institutions and that all of those credits will transfer towards an education online. Although consortia members typically work together to maximize the ability to transfer credits from one college to another, it is still up to you to ensure that credits earned elsewhere can all be applied at your new online college.