Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Measuring Courses by the Credit Hour: Is the End in Sight?

In 1906, the Carnegie Foundation invented the “credit hour”  as a way of measuring the value of courses. Now, that foundation may be having second thoughts. From Inside Higher Ed:

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching on Tuesday announced that it would use a $460,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to study the Carnegie Unit, which forms the basis of a time-based measurement of student learning. The credit hour calls for one credit per hour of faculty instruction and two hours of homework, on a weekly basis, over a 15-week semester.

A virtual gold standard in higher education, the credit hour is deeply ingrained as a measuring stick for academic quality, accreditation and access to federal financial aid.

But it is viewed by many as outdated and inadequate as a measure for student learning. Critics say the focus on “seat time” has stymied progress on promising approaches like online programs that are self-paced and competency-based -- where students earn credits for proving what they know, not for how long they spent on course material.

Legal Education is even more antiquated that Carnegie. The American Bar Association measure the value of courses by the number of “contact minutes.”  Standard 304(b) reads:

(b) A law school shall require, as a condition for graduation, successful completion of a course of study in residence of not fewer than 58,000 minutes of instruction time, except as otherwise provided. At least 45,000 of these minutes shall be by attendance in regularly scheduled class sessions at the law school.



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