Published on 2013/11/01

A Week Dedicated to Non-Trads

As universities and colleges around the country mark the beginning of National Non-Traditional Student Week (November 4-8), many institutions continue to work toward improving adult learner access to higher education.

Of critical importance to this group is the recognition of prior learning experiences and informal methods of learning. To this end, increasing numbers of institutions are accepting non-accredited classes for credit at their institutions.

During the past month, low-cost online course provider StraighterLine added to its growing list of higher education partners, with online institutions Touro University World and Azusa Pacific Online University expected to begin offering credits to students who complete StraighterLine courses. Additionally, institutions like the University of Maryland University College and the American Public University are granting students credit upon the completion of certain Coursera and Udacity courses that have been recommended by the American Council on Education.

The trend for higher education institutions to recognize informal and non-accredited learning is gaining traction in the industry. Supporters of informal education, including the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), argue that allowing adults to earn credit for college-level learning gained from work experience could vastly increase the number of degree holders in the United States.

To meet this growing demand, new prior learning programs are being launched at postsecondary institutions nationwide to help encourage non-traditional students to enroll and complete their education at a college or university. The Lumina Foundation, for example, recently began funding such a program for the Texas A&M University (TAMU) System, and CAEL is expected to support its launch.

“This program enables adults to advance their pursuits within higher education based on real life experience and learning — it is both timely and appropriate,” John Sharp, chancellor of the TAMU System, said in a release.

“It is important that we help adults — many of whom have college experience — find the right avenues to help them complete their college studies,” Pamela Tate, president and chief executive officer of CAEL, told the Valley Morning Star. “Knowledge comes from more than just a course, a classroom or a lecture.”

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