Credit for Life ExperienceBy Julie Hart
Let's face it. Life has a knack for throwing us curve balls. We're able to hit some balls out of the park. Many, however, only get us to first base, while others cause us to strike out altogether. Take your education, for instance. How many times have you committed to completing a degree program, only to be thrown out of the game by other responsibilities? Once? Twice? Three times or more? You're not alone. Most working adults find it extremely difficult to fit traditional classroom education into their busy lives.
But, fortunately, all that's changed. E-learning, a revolutionary method of anytime, anywhere learning, offers mature students the convenience and flexibility they need to earn their degrees and enhance their careers. And, because e-learning allows you to design your own learning schedule and leverage your own learning style, you're better able to continue moving forward with your education - despite those pesky curve balls.
In addition, a lesser-known entity - life credits - is making it easier than ever for motivated e-learning students to complete a degree program. Life credits offer the potential for you to reduce e-learning class time required to complete your degree. For older students, this removes an incredible roadblock to continued education.
But what are life credits, and how can they help you achieve your goal?
Earn College Credit For What You Already Know
Simply put, colleges and universities recognize life experience - often gained through the workplace, military or through public or community experience - when conferring college credits. This acceptance of life credits helps to accelerate your e-learning college experience, while enabling you to earn a fully accredited degree. Please note: Not all schools offer credits for life experience. Check with the institutions you are interested in.
If you look closely at your own life experience, there's a good chance that you've already batted home some of your college requirements. But each college and university independently designs and proctors its life credit program. So it's important to research potential programs to determine their relevance to your education objective and life experience. You should also make sure that the institution you're considering is fully accredited.
How Do I Demonstrate My Knowledge?
You won't have to perform a Civil War reenactment to show you know American history. Nor will you have to churn out computer code to gain life credit for a computer course.
Instead, review curricula for the degree program you've selected. If you already have in-depth knowledge for a particular course, simply apply for life credit. Just be prepared to 'prove' your knowledge through various sources, such as:
- Attendance of seminars/workshops/conferences
- Licensure or certifications
- Professionally authored books or papers
- Community service
- Military service
- Specialized training
- Work experience
- Various tests or other assessments
If the knowledge you attained was strictly through work experience or community service, you may need to provide evidence of your skills. For instance, the college or university may ask you to submit letters from your employers, or other applicable entities, that confirm your job duties. The institution may also ask for a copy of your resume.
For knowledge demonstrated through published books/papers and licensure/certification, you may be asked to submit copies of these materials. For military service, be prepared to submit a letter from your commanding officer outlining your work experience, military training and specialty. If you're a former services member, expect to submit a copy of your DD Form 214, or other applicable documents, showing training and work experience.
While the process of applying for life credits may require a bit of legwork, don't throw in the towel. It may be the most worthwhile contribution you can make to fulfilling your educational dream. And, remember, if the college or university agrees with your life experience assessment, you've just scored your first home run.
Competency-based Degree Programs
Western Governors University, an online university founded by the governors of 19 western states, approaches life experience indirectly because its entire model is competency based, not credit based. "'Just prove it!' is the essence of WGU's entire degree structure," says Patrick Partridge, WGU Vice President. "Students progress through their degree programs based upon passing various assessments. If they've acquired their competence through life experience, they may be able to pass the assessments more easily or quickly. Specific courses aren't required, but we will make sure you know your stuff."
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