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National College Credit Recommendation Service
Program Policies and Procedures
- Organizations who offer formal training and are not empowered to grant regionally accredited degrees may be eligible to have courses evaluated by NCCRS. Such organizations may include businesses, professional and trade associations, voluntary associations, instructional vendors, labor unions, government agencies, hospitals, private schools, religious organizations, or cultural institutions.
- Organizations may develop their own courses or purchase them from an instructional vendor. In either case, however, sponsoring organizations must demonstrate administrative control over the courses, meaning that the organization has final say over course content and maintains official records on students' attendance and performance.
- Organizations must ensure that official student records have been securely stored for at least the period covered by the credit recommendations and must also show capability to retrieve student records and send transcripts to colleges when requested.
Organizations select courses for evaluation in consultation with NCCRS staff. Learning experiences that meet the following criteria may be eligible for evaluation.
- Formalized learning experiences officially sponsored by the organization requesting the evaluation may be evaluated. Unsupervised on-the-job training that is not evaluated or graded. Formal learning experiences can take the form of traditional classroom instruction, computer-assisted instruction, online learning, interactive video, correspondence courses, programmed instruction, or examinations for professional certification or licensure.Individualized independent study (contractual learning) cannot be evaluated.
- Courses taught by vendors and that an organization neither keeps records for nor exercises control over cannot be evaluated; however, if the vendor keeps records on course participants, the vendor may have the courses evaluated.
- Learning experiences must be at the postsecondary level. Length or intensity alone does not mean that courses are comparable to college-level instruction. Organizations are encouraged to make a preliminary self-assessment by comparing their courses with course descriptions in college catalogs or in consultation with college faculty or other professionals in higher education. Finally, it is up to the evaluation team to determine whether courses are at the college level. NCCRS does not evaluate courses and programs that are exclusively designed for and offered to a K-12 youth audience.
- Classroom courses must include a minimum of 15 contact hours (50 minute hours), unless it can be demonstrated that learning outcomes are exceptional in proportion to instructional hours. Otherwise, shorter courses might be grouped with another course (or courses) in the same content area for the purpose of establishing credit recommendations. Conversely, 15 contact hours does not always equate to one semester hour of recommended credit. This is in part because noncollegiate courses often contain material that is very specific to the organization, in contrast to general or theoretical material. While this material may be vital to achieving an organization's training goals, it may not be considered comparable to college instruction. Therefore, the instructional hours that contribute to the credit recommendation may be less than the total number of contact hours in a course.
- Learning experiences must be taught by instructors with qualifications appropriate for college-level instruction in their subject areas. Instructors may be either employees of the organization or independent consultants hired to teach courses for the organization.
- Learning experiences must include some means of testing students' mastery of course content (e.g., written exams, reports, oral presentations, skill performance, role plays, supervised laboratory experience, or other assessments). For evaluation instruments other than machine scoreable tests, criteria for grading should be clear. For example, a computer program might be evaluated on efficiency, readability, clarity of documentation; written business communications might be evaluated on clarity of purpose, organization, appropriateness of tone, and conciseness; oral presentations should be evaluated using a checklist that includes points for both delivery and content.
- Course content must be documented through a detailed syllabus (course outline), textbooks, lesson plans, instructor's manual, student workbooks, completed homework assignments for at least three students. Samples should represent a range of categories: excellent, average and below average grades (technical courses should show the extent of calculations required of the student), graded exams from the same three students as the homework assignments, examples of any other student work that contribute to the final grade, class rosters, and grade lists. The organization should also indicate how all exams and assignments are weighted to calculate final grades for the course.
- If the learning experience has been offered in the same form for some time preceding the evaluation, and the organization would like past participants to be able to benefit from the credit recommendations, the team can backdate their recommendations up to five years. The content for past years must be clearly documented through exams, course syllabi, class rosters, student records and, when available, completed student work and instructional materials.
- Prior to the evaluation, sponsoring organizations submit information concerning their administrative practices and the courses for which they seek college credit recommendations. On the basis of this information, NCCRS staff decides whether the organization demonstrates sufficient stability and administrative and curricular control to present its educational programs for review.
- Administrative information includes the following: a description of the administration of the organization's training function; procedures for selecting and evaluating instructional staff; procedures for curriculum development, evaluation, and revision; and procedures for insuring consistent quality in programs delivered at multiple locations.
- Course information includes: general background on the development of the course, the intended audience, and student-instructor ratio; a detailed syllabus (course outline) describing the learning outcomes, content covered in each session, schedule of instruction and testing, and other instructional information. These submissions become part of the NCCRS record on the sponsoring organization.
- For each evaluation, organizations provide the following information for each course or program submitted:
- Instructional materials: textbooks, syllabi, audio-visual materials, case studies, workbooks, problems, etc. In the case of computer-assisted instruction, interactive video, or for courses and programs delivered by television, examples of courseware and supplemental instructional materials.
- Grade samples of assignments, written exercise, skill performance, quiz, or exam that contributes to students' final grades.
- Instructors' qualifications (Resume or CV), including relevant education and work experience.
- Class rosters/grade lists documenting inclusive dates of student attendance and performance. All personal information (name, Social Security number, etc.) needs to be redacted.
- Student (and, if available, managerial) evaluations of instructors' teaching styles and methods, overall program, and sponsoring organization.
- For courses and programs involving other instructional approaches, (e.g., self-paced computer-assisted instruction, interactive video, correspondence, independent study courses, or proficiency examination programs) some of the foregoing information is not relevant. However, student achievement of learning outcomes in these courses must be documented by appropriate alternative materials.
- Participating organizations must maintain permanent official records of students' participation and performance in any course or program that is reviewed and sponsoring organizations must demonstrate the capability to store and retrieve student records for the period covered by the credit recommendations.
- All evaluation sessions are supervised by an NCCRS staff member.
- The initial evaluation session is held at the training site of the sponsoring organization. This is because the initial review process involves not only documentation of courses but also administrative practices. Subsequent review sessions, involving additional courses or revalidation of existing credit recommendations, may occasionally be held in a location other than the sponsoring organization's training site.
- Appropriate individuals from the sponsoring organization must be present to describe for the review team the process by which the curriculum is developed, evaluated, and revised, and to answer questions that may arise during the review of instructional materials.
- In conducting evaluations, NCCRS generally hires three subject-matter specialists in the field under consideration. Individuals slated to serve in this capacity are solicited from postsecondary institutions, professional and educational associations, accrediting agencies, and noncollegiate organizations. At least two of the three reviewers are college faculty members who teach courses in the discipline involved. The third team member may be a practicing professional, whose role is to confirm the comparability of the material in relation to current practices in the field.
- The following criteria are considered in selecting subject matter experts:
- Area of expertise: Individuals' formal training and experiences should closely approximate the area of courses or programs being reviewed.
- Possible conflict of interest: Care is taken to avoid engaging reviewers who might be personally affected (either adversely or favorably) by the outcome of an evaluation.
- Teaching experience: Preference is given to reviewers who have five years or more teaching experience (with the exception of the practicing professional).
- Assessment experience: Evaluators with experience in curriculum development (e.g., membership on a curriculum committee), evaluation of transfer credit, or portfolio assessment (with the exception of the practicing professional) are deemed most desirable.
- Educational philosophy: NCCRS seeks evaluators who are generally receptive to the view that it is sound educational practice to acknowledge and award credit for college-level learning acquired in noncollegiate settings.
In the exercise of their professional judgment, review team members consider the following factors in determining credit recommendations:
- Learner outcomes to be achieved, the subject matter, level of difficulty, and applicability to a range of postsecondary programs. These factors are of primary importance.
- Distinctive contributions of a noncollegiate learning environment. These include the wealth of practical experience instructors bring to the classroom, the opportunities for immediate application and reinforcement of classroom learning in students' jobs, and the motivational impact created when student performance is a criterion in job promotion or retention.
- Duration and concentration of effort in relationship to the generally accepted practices for determining credit in post-secondary institutions. For learning experiences that are administered in a traditional lecture-discussion format, review teams use a baseline standard of one semester hour of credit for each 15 classroom contact hours, and one semester credit hour for each 30-45 hours (depending on the discipline) of laboratory work. However, credit recommendations made by reviewers are not derived by a simple arithmetic conversion. Learning outcomes, as demonstrated by student work on examinations and other assignments, are the foremost consideration in determining how much credit should be recommended. Credit recommendations might be revised downward if learning outcomes did not support the amount of credit suggested by the number of hours of instruction. Credit recommendations might also be revised downward from the amount suggested by the total instructional hours if a substantial amount of the material contained in the course were considered not comparable or applicable to similiar college-level instruction. Conversely, credit recommendations might be revised upward if one or more factors (e.g., advanced instructional delivery technologies, exceptionally low student-teacher ratio) suggest that course participants may be achieving more than would be typical in the specified instructional hours. Evaluators also consider the factors of pre- and post-course assignments, prior work-related experience, and the reinforcement of the instructional material gained in the subsequent work setting.
Credit recommendations are recommended in the following categories:
- Associate/Certificate Degree Category. This category represents course work normally found in curricula in two-year institutions leading to an associate degree in a vocational area, sometimes called the Associate in Occupational Studies. It also represents course work normally found in yearlong credit-bearing certificate programs designed to provide students with occupational skills. In both of these instances, course content is specialized, and any accompanying shop training emphasizes procedural rather than analytical skills.
- Lower Division Baccalaureate/Associate Degree Category. This category represents introductory-level course work normally found in the first two years of a baccalaureate degree program and course work in programs leading to the Associate in Arts, the Associate in Science, and the Associate in Applied Science degrees. The instruction stresses development of analytical abilities at the introductory level. Verbal, mathematical, and scientific concepts associated with an academic discipline are introduced, as are basic principles.
- Upper Division Baccalaureate Degree Category. This category represents course work of the type found in the last two years of a baccalaureate program. The courses involve specialization of a theoretical or analytical nature beyond the introductory level. Successful performance by students normally requires prior study in the area.
- Graduate Degree Category. This category represents course work with content of the type found in graduate programs. These courses often require independent study, original research, critical analysis, or the professional application of the specialized knowledge within the discipline. Students enrolled in such courses normally have completed baccalaureate work.NOTE: In some instances, credit is recommended in more than one category. A decision must be made by the college as to which category of credit best applies to a student's educational program.
Credit recommendations apply retroactively to the date a course or program was offered substantially in the same form as seen at the review, although credit recommendations are not made retroactive beyond five years from the time of review. Procedures for reporting and documenting students' successful completion of learning experiences must extend to the point to which credit recommendations are backdated.
Credit recommendations are kept current by the following procedures:
- NCCRS conducts an Annual Review, during which member organizations are asked to review the descriptions of their learning experiences in the NCCRS Directory, CCRS Online and report any changes in location, length, outcomes, or instructional topics. An indication of a substantive change in a course or program results in an end date being affixed to the credit recommendation. Another evaluation is necessary for the new version to receive credit recommendations.
- Credit recommendations are valid for up to five years from the date of the review, provided no substantive changes have been made in the course or program. At the end of this five-year period, learning experiences are re-evaluated to determine whether current credit recommendations should continue to apply. If so, credit recommendations are revalidated and new review dates are added to exhibits.
The revalidation process is similar to the initial evaluation and ensures the continued validity and timeliness of the credit recommendations. Evaluations are conducted with a team of college faculty, who review instructional materials and student completed examinations and any other means to assess student mastery for each learning experience. The team’s findings determine whether previous credit recommendations continue or whether new credit recommendations are warranted. The date when learning experiences were first reviewed (and each subsequent revalidation date) can be found at the end of the course exhibits in the NCCRS Directory, CCRS Online.
For learning experiences recommended for college credit, exhibits are published in CCRS Online. Prior to 2003, exhibits were documented in print editions of College Credit Recommendations, The Directory of The National Program on Noncollegiate Sponsored Instruction.
Exhibits contain the following information: course or program title, and course number (if applicable); location where the course is offered; length in contact hours and days or weeks; dates credit recommendations are active; instructional delivery format; learner outcomes; instruction and description of course content; credit recommendations in the appropriate degree category or categories and subject area(s), month and year of the first evaluation, and month and year of subsequent 5-year revalidation of credit recommendations.