Doing the numbers - The economic imperative for OERTen and OERu to lead the way

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Wayne Mackintosh

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May 25, 2011, 12:39:15 AM5/25/11
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I promised a brief update on the OER Tertiary Education Network and next steps working towards the implementation of the OER university (OERu) concept. We need your help in recruiting institutions from around the world to join our network -- more information below.

The economic imperatives for successful implementation of the OERu are clear (With apology for the long post referencing some of the numbers).

Clearly the existing models of provision cannot respond to the projected demand for post-secondary education. Moreover, these models are too expensive to scale and sustain. However, though collaboration networks and openly licensed learning materials the OERu concept will provide free learning opportunities to all students worldwide with a sustainable model for assessment services and awarding credible qualifications.

Existing models of post-secondary provision cannot realistically meet future demand

UNESCO's world conference on Higher Education projects that post-secondary education will need to provide places for an additional 98 million learners over the next 15 years. Stated differently, this would require "require more than four major universities (30,000 students) to open every week for the next fifteen years". (Daniel 2011.)  Realistically, this is not going happen, however projects like the OER university can leverage existing assets to respond to the challenge.

The OERu could provide free learning opportunities to +650,000 learners per annum

Speaking conservatively, if the OER university were to provide learning opportunities for only 10% of the projected additional demand for post-secondary education -- that would amount to an enrolment of  + 653,000 learners per annum for the next 15 years. This provides a sustainable base to ensure operational costs for institutions participating in the OERu network because the recurrent institutional costs for assessment and credentialing services for OERu learners will be provided on a cost-recovery basis. Of course the OERu model is scalable and will definitely be able to provide learning opportunities for more than 10% of the projected demand.

The traditional model is too expensive and too inefficient to scale for meeting the additional demand.

We are witnessing significant cuts to higher education budgets around the world. Consider for example: the proposed budget cuts of around 50% to the four state-related institutions in Pennsylvania in the USA or the student protests in the UK as a result of government tripling tuition charges to up to £9,000 a year. Moreover, it is estimated that about one third and perhaps up to half of all university courses in the UK are not breaking-even and cross subsidised by other courses.

The OERu concept is based on two significant business enablers for building sustainable education futures:
  • the marginal cost of replicating digital learning materials is near zero, and
  • sharing course design and development costs among institutions is cheaper than doing this alone.
Therefore, collaboration networks are a prerequisite for the model to function -- hence the need for a collaboration network.

Introducing the OER Tertiary Education Network (OERTen).

The OER Tertiary Education Network (OERTen) is the international innovation partnership of accredited universities, colleges and polytechnics who are and will be collaborating on the implementation of the OER university concept.  A few points about this new network:
  • The network will include universities, community colleges and polytechnics -- in this way we avoid unnecessary duplication of infrastructure (i,e, OERu policies, processes etc.)  across these sectors while recognising the unique differences of these institutions.
  • The network is co-ordinated by the OER Foundation -- an independent non-profit entity.  As a non-profit, the OERF does not compete for students and is able to facilitate collaboration across the university and community college sectors.
  • The OER Foundation subscribes to open philanthropy which means the planning activities and supporting documentation for the OERu will be developed openly and transparently to facilitate wide international participation and sharing of ideas.
  • Implementation and operational decisions will be made by the OERTen anchor partners. A Management Committee comprising senior leaders appointed by the anchor partner institutions will be responsible for decision-making. As the network matures and grows, the Management Committee will develop appropriate governance solutions for managing the network.
  • OERTen anchor partners must:
    • be formally accredited institutions (sorry, no degree mill or diploma mill organisations allowed)
    • subscribe to the core principles of engagement for the OER university initiative
    • be a silver or gold members of the OER Foundation.
  • The OERTen is international and will facilitate cross border and transnational accreditation models. Taking existing anchor partners into account, the network would now be able to provide accreditation for OERu learners in New Zealand, Australia and the US. As more anchor partners from different regions of the world join OERTen -- we will be able to widen the geographical reach of formal accreditation for OERu learners.
  • We are targeting an initial OER network of ten institutions and planning to host the first meeting of Anchor partners late August or late September 2011. Date to be confirmed. 
OERTen working agenda and immediate priorities

  • Recruit a critical mass of founding anchor partners for the OERTen. We are aiming to achieve 10 participating institutions. You can help by encouraging your own institutions to join the network. Feel free to distribute our information sheet: 5 Things you should know about the OER university network plan to help us achieve a critical mass of anchor partners.
  • Prioritise and select the inaugural qualification under the open curriculum initiative. This will be influenced by what existing anchor partners can bring to the table. Over the next few weeks we will commence with discussions, ideas and proposals in the wiki.
  • Commence work on developing and structuring the planning process. Over the next few weeks will will commence work in the wiki to facilitate the planning process including time lines, priority sub-projects / activities for the different initiatives in the logic model etc.    

I envisage a few busy weeks in preparation for the first planning meeting of OERTen anchor partners.

Have we missed anything? What else do we need to consider over the next few weeks? Ideas, and suggestions welcome.

Exciting times! 2011 is turning out to be a quantum shift year for the mainstream adoption of OER.

Cheers
Wayne


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Jim Taylor

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May 29, 2011, 8:30:28 PM5/29/11
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A few thoughts on the Open Curriculum and an associated outline of an Anchor Partner Participation Scenario, which I hope will expedite proceedings at the forthcoming Anchor Partners Planning Meeting, to be scheduled in late September 2011:

Potential anchor partners are naturally interested in how each institution might best contribute specific courses to the OERu initiative.  In preliminary discussion among existing partners we have used the Australian context of the USQ Diploma of Arts (DART) as a potentially useful starting point: http://www.usq.edu.au/handbook/current/arts/DART.html  The DART program aims to provide students with an introduction to study in Arts disciplines and programs, and to provide a basic qualification for credit transfer/exemption in other programs.  In effect, the Diploma of Arts is available as an entry point for most USQ programs not subject to auditions and interview requirements. This program should appeal to those students who want to sample a range of university subjects before embarking on a more specialised degree program. The program offers substantial choice and flexibility, allowing entry to a wide range of career and study options, including transfer to other degree programs.  For example, the DART provides articulation into the following USQ undergraduate programs:  Bachelor of Arts; Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Business; Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science ; Bachelor of Creative Arts; Bachelor of International Studies; Bachelor of Communication; Bachelor of Social Science.  In many respects, it could be regarded as a step towards a transdisciplinary foundation year.

Diploma of Arts Program Aims

The program aims to provide students with an introduction to university study by a free selection of courses from across the University and to produce diplomates who have:

·         demonstrated competencies in communication skills necessary for further academic study in appropriate discipline areas

·         acquired basic knowledge in one or more disciplines in a relevant degree program.

Diploma of Arts Program Objectives

To produce diplomates who have:

·         an awareness of the nature of study in the arts, humanities, and social sciences

·         developed foundation knowledge, skills and competencies in at least one discipline area

·         a fundamental ability to express thoughts with clarity and coherence in written and/or oral forms

·         acquired sufficient knowledge to make informed choices about possible further study.

 

To explore the current range of courses from which students may choose, please review the program structure:  http://www.usq.edu.au/handbook/current/arts/DART.html#programprogram.structure

 

In the broader context of OERu, in the first instance anchor partners in the OERTen could contribute a small number of courses at the foundation level.  For example, with just 4 partners offering 3 courses each, there would be a total of 12 courses with students able to select 8 from12 to gain a Diploma of Arts, equivalent to the first year of a Bachelor’s degree.  With more anchor partners it would of course be possible to extend the range of courses offered across disciplines to extend the transdisciplinary nature of the Diploma.  Again using the Australian context as a reference point, with 10 institutions offering just 3 courses, students could have a choice of studying 24 from 30 courses for the equivalent of a three year Bachelor’s degree in transdisciplinary studies.  The structure of the open curriculum will be discussed in detail at the forthcoming Anchor Partners Meeting to be scheduled in late September in New Zealand.  Associated issues of guaranteed cross credit between anchor partner institutions, and relevant national qualifications frameworks will also be on the agenda.


Regards,

Jim Taylor.

 

=========================================

Professor J C Taylor AM

Australian Digital Futures Institute

University of Southern Queensland

Toowoomba  Queensland  4350

Australia

 

Phone:  +61 7 46312279

Fax:  +61 7 4631 1493

Skype: DVCGLS

Homepage:  http://www.usq.edu.au/users/taylorj/

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Wayne Mackintosh

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May 29, 2011, 9:53:51 PM5/29/11
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Hi Jim,

The course specifications for the Diploma of Arts (DART) specifies that the credential is the equivalent of a first year of study for a Bachelors degree.  (Different qualification and accreditation authorities may use a different nomenclature for the credential eg diploma, certificate etc, -- depending on the jurisdiction and sector.).

I think that the DART concept is an excellent candidate for the first credential to be developed by OERTen for the OERu because:

  • Most institutions should be able to cross-credit the equivalent of a first year of university study within existing policy frameworks.
  • Many distance education providers already cater for a "Bachelors of General Studies" -- and the DART should also be relatively easy to accommodate within existing Assessment of Prior Learning frameworks at these institutions thus making it easier for Anchor partners to resolve course articulation and cross-credit transfer. 
  • The credential provides a "good fit" for the OERu intended target audience -- that is, learners who are currently excluded from the formal sector. The qualification provides the flexibility for OERu learners to sample a range of disciplines before embarking on a more specialised field of study.
  • The credential would be less threatening for institutions who may be concerned about student recruitment associated with OER because a Diploma of Arts would not compete with the requirements for institutional matriculation when conferring a degree. However, the model is flexible enough for institutions who have more progressive policies in place for recognition of prior learning and less restrictive matriculation requirements.
Brilliant suggestion for the first qualification for the OERu imho.

Open questions for members of the list:

  1. Would your institution be able to cross credit the first year of Bachelor degree study?
  2. What is the maximum number of course credits that can be transferred in order to matriculate at your institution?

Ramesh Sharma

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May 29, 2011, 10:21:46 PM5/29/11
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Dear Jim
The concept of DART program is interesting and sure will enable many students to go in for higher programs.
I am thinking about the issue of foundation courses in those regular undergraduate BA programs, if the course content of DART is fit enough whereby other programs do not need to cover those areas again. Of course, I understand that since DART is already in effect, so care has already been taken of this aspect.

with best wishes
ramesh sharma
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Wayne Mackintosh

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May 30, 2011, 12:53:08 AM5/30/11
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Hi Ramesh,

A very pertinent reflection. This emphasises the importance for Anchor partners of the OERTen to deal with and address the cross-credit issues because we do not want or expect OERu learners to redo work which has already been credentialised!

The cross-credit and recognition of prior learning protocols will definitely be on the agenda of the first Anchor Partner meeting in September and will be discussed and developed in the wiki under the Open Credential Services initiative of our logic model.

Another reason why the DART proposal is a good candidate for the inaugural credential in my view, because we have a partner institution who has already resolved the issues associated with course articulation of general first year subjects into existing degree offerings. Credits awarded for the DART at USQ are credit bearing for the specified degree programs.  

How are inter-discipilnary and trans-disciplinary courses integrated into existing degree programmes at other institutions?

Cheers
Wayne

Ramesh Sharma

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May 30, 2011, 3:46:12 PM5/30/11
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Dear Wayne
thanks. Yes, the initiative by USQ will sure be a model for others to reflect upon and adopt.

At IGNOU recently we have also started some academic programmes which are inter-discipilnary and trans-disciplinary. These programmes are launched both in-house and in partnership with external collaborators. In-house offerings include Master of Arts in Labour and Development, Master of Arts in Social Anthropology, Master of Arts in Gandhi and Peace Studies, and Diploma in Folklore and Culture Studies.

A range of interdisciplinary programmes like Aurobindo Studies, Integral Studies, Sanskrit language and Astrophysics have been launched through collaborations and Memorandum of Understanding with the National Council of Rural Institute and Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research, the Chinmaya International Foundation, the International Centre for Integral Studies, the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, BHASHA, and Mahanirvan Calcutta Research Centre.

There are some research programme in interdisciplinary areas ranging from folklore, tribal studies, ethnic conflict and conflict resolution, Gandhian Philosophy and its contemporary relevance.

Then there are various options for internal and external credit transfer.
Just for example, see  for Bachelor of Computer Appl
Credit Transfer / Exemption Rules for External candidates of BCA

1.    Credit transfer/exemption can be considered only for the courses at the same level, e.g. undergraduate, post-graduate etc.

2.    A student should have successfully completed the course(s) for which the credit transfer/exemption is required as per  IGNOU’s passing criteria ( in case of IGNOU, the passing marks in BCA/MCA courses are 50% )

3.    A student must specify the number of credits of the courses(s) wherever applicable, against which the credit transfer/exemption is/are being requested for.

4.    The credit transfer for a course can not be allowed, if the corresponding course of BCA/MCA of IGNOU has more credits than the credits for the corresponding completed course by the student from other universities/institution.

5.    An attested copy of syllabi of the course(s) against which the credit transfer/exemption is/are requested is to be provided along with the application.  It should be attested by the University/institution from where the course has completed.

6.    Student should clearly specify the type (theory/practical) of the course(s) for which transfer/exemption is claimed.

7.    In order to get a degree of BCA/MCA from IGNOU, a student will be required to earn at least 50% credits from the curriculum prescribed by IGNOU.

With regards
ramesh sharma


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Wayne Mackintosh

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May 30, 2011, 6:40:56 PM5/30/11
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Hi Ramesh,

That's valuable feedback. IGNOU as one of the worlds largest universities, already has a number of inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary programmes (as does USQ and other distance education providers.)  Therefore, it is fair to say that the OER university idea  to consider the Diploma of Arts as an inaugural qualification with pathways to a variety of degree programmes is fundamentally doable because many institutions already have policies in place to support this approach.

I also note that in the case of IGNOU for BCA/MCA degrees it is possible to transfer-in up to 50% of the credits. So conceivably, in the case of IGNOU it would be possible to transfer up to 50% of the credits conferred to OERu learners by the participating institutions.  Is that correct?

Question to members of this list - -at your institution, what is the maximum number of credits which can be transferred in for a Bachelor's degree?

Wayne
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Ramesh Sharma

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May 30, 2011, 11:58:45 PM5/30/11
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Dear Wayne
thanks,
based on the passing marks limit of 50% and what kind of course curriculum was covered, conceivably it is possible.

I agree with you to find about what other institutions offer?

sincerely
ramesh

rory

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May 31, 2011, 10:44:28 AM5/31/11
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ALL
 For a Bachelor of General Studies, you can transfer up to 90 credits (3 credits = 45hrs) at Athabasca University - Canada's Open University. This is a complete  3 yr.  Bachelor's degree. There is a rigid assessment process and Prior Learning Assessment is also possible.
Rory
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Ramesh Sharma

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May 31, 2011, 10:47:59 AM5/31/11
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Thanks, Rory,

We can compile this information for different places, which will be useful for finalising our proposals at OERu.

regards
ramesh

pheo martin

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May 31, 2011, 12:20:25 PM5/31/11
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Thanks Jim!  I have been impressed with the clarity and organization of materials from OERU, and this shows the same needed quality.  This will help us in securing anchor partners.  Pheo :)
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Maryanne LeGrow

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Jun 1, 2011, 8:21:23 AM6/1/11
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Sorry to be a bit late in responding to this question.  My college requires students to take only one course with us for an Associate (2-year) degree, two courses for the baccalaureate.  These are an orientation course and, for baccalaureate candidates, a capstone course – equivalent to a senior project.  All other requirements may be met by transfer of courses from regionally accredited institutions or some form of prior learning assessment (e.g., standardized exams, institutional exams, credit from non-collegiate training or education programs that have been reviewed by our institution or one of the nationally recognized review programs, prior learning portfolio assessment, etc.).

 

Maryanne

 

 

 

Maryanne R. LeGrow, Ph.D.

Assessment Coordinator

Charter Oak State College

55 Manafort Drive

New Britain, CT 06053-2150

Phone: 860-832-3846

FAX: 860-832-3999

www.charteroak.edu

 

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Wayne Mackintosh

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Jun 1, 2011, 5:52:33 PM6/1/11
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Hi Rory,

That's a progressive example of openness.

So in theory, a learner could apply for cross credit / credit transfer for 87 credits and take the remaining three credits at Athabasca University for the Bachelor of General Studies (assuming they meet the other requirements for the split between Arts/ Science. Applied studies subjects.)

Clearly a strategic advantage for credentialising OER learning.

Cheers
Wayne

Wayne Mackintosh

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Jun 1, 2011, 5:58:51 PM6/1/11
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Thanks Maryanne,

This is good news for the OERu concept.

Institutions like Charter Oak State College would in theory be able to recognise OERu assessed learning (assuming the credits are awarded by an accredited and recognised institution, proper transcripts etc) and matriculate at Charter Oak requiring only two courses to be taken for a baccalaureate.

Therefore, if anchor partners of the OER Tertiary Education Network pre agree the learning outcomes and assessment requirements for say the "Diploma of Arts" curriculum at the University of Southern Queensland -- we are able to operationalise assessment and credit for OERu learners without major changes to existing institutional policies.

Looks promising.

Wayne

Maryanne LeGrow

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Jun 2, 2011, 8:32:29 AM6/2/11
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Wayne,

 

In theory, students could take only our two courses for the baccalaureate.  However, their outside credit would have to meet all of the general education requirements (i.e., math, English composition, a biological science, etc.) and would have to include 36 credits in a core area of concentration that incorporates at least 18 upper (junior-senior year) credits.  There are some hoops to jump through, they’d not be able to claim a degree just by presenting a collection of any type of credit that totaled 114 units.  But our advisors work with students and the requirements are very flexible to accommodate students from a variety of backgrounds. 

 

One issue that will have to be worked out is establishing protocols for transfer of credit from a non-US institution.  I have seen a lot of discussion around the whys and hows of OERu learning, but an important issue from the perspective of the existing institutions of higher education -- and possibly I have missed those discussions – is how acceptance of OERu assessments will affect the standing of the educational institution that accepts such credit.  About 30-40% of our students go immediately on to graduate school in the US, and we have to adhere to the standards of regionally accredited institutions to ensure that they will continue to be accepted in quality graduate programs.  We would not want to agree to anything that might jeopardize our standing with our regional accrediting body.  But that’s not an insurmountable barrier, as we do have articulation agreements with a number of non-US institutions. There is precedent for accepting this type of credit, and I think that standardizing assessment requirements and student learning outcomes is the bedrock on which to build such articulation agreements.

 

Maryanne

Wayne Mackintosh

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Jun 2, 2011, 6:09:07 PM6/2/11
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Hi Maryanne,

We really appreciate your feedback and guidance. Thanks :-).

These are important issues for the OERu network and our discussions on this list will inform the agenda for the first meeting of Anchor partners in September. I agree, much of the OERu discussions to date have been about the whys and the devil is going to be in the detail and planning of the implementation. The implementation detail must be agreed by real accredited institutions working in the real world. That's why we have adopted a network approach for the OERu comprising accredited and respected institutions.

You're absolutely right, participation in the OERu network must not compromise the stature and accreditation stature of any participating institution. We owe this to our learners. Our anchor partners are esteemed and respected institutions and they will not jeopardise their good name or accreditation status within their national jurisdictions. However, we are committed to realising the benefits of OER for our respective organisations. 

Quality assurance and credible credentials is the flagstone for the OERu. The OERu must ensure equivalence and parity of esteem for qualifications gained through the OER university network.

A few reflections building on your ideas -- together we are shaping the future of the OERu:

  1. Institutions like Charter Oak State College and Athabasca University who already have more flexible credit transfer practices in place are likely to be more successful in the OERu network when compared to institutions who have more restrictive ceilings on the maximum number of credits which can be transferred in for matriculation. However, the OER Tertiary Education Network will be able to accommodate all accredited institutions in the model irrespective of the ceilings placed on credit transfer.
  2. In the OERu network, the degrees are conferred by the institution -- therefore, the degrees must meet all the local requirements concerning required subject choices, minimum number of credits required at each level etc. Assessment services and credit transfer agreements within the OERu network relate to the courses (based solely on OER) that make up the qualifications.
  3. One way of looking at the OERu network is to compare this with the traditional articulation agreements many institutions have with international institutions. The OERu network will agree the courses and graduate profiles, assessment requirements etc for OERu courses in advance -- so we're not innovating beyond the capacity of organisations to adopt the model.
I agree - -there are a number of existing precedents and policies which will become the enablers for the OERu concept. We'll get this right!

Given the experience and leadership of Charter Oak State College in these assessment issues -- I hope that you will join us as an anchor partner ;-).

Cheers
Wayne

pheo martin

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Jun 9, 2011, 3:47:13 PM6/9/11
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Maryanne,  do you think your college might be willing to  become a US anchor partner?  Your assessing work for credit is also a valuable piece because this will be a basis for giving credit in the OERU.

On Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 5:21 AM, Maryanne LeGrow <mle...@charteroak.edu> wrote:

Sorry to be a bit late in responding to this question.  My college requires students to take onlMy one course with us for an Associate (2-year) degree, two courses for the baccalaureate.  These are an orientation course and, for baccalaureate candidates, a capstone course – equivalent to a senior project.  All other requirements may be met by transfer of courses from regionally accredited institutions or some form of prior learning assessment (e.g., standardized exams, institutional exams, credit from non-collegiate training or education programs that have been reviewed by our institution or one of the nationally recognized review programs, prior learning portfolio assessment, etc.).




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