For this week’s blog on Lifelong Learning, our Founder, Ron Slee, tackles one of those pesky, behind-the-scenes aspects of education: Academic Credits. Please note that this blog post will be published in English, Spanish, and French.
As an IACET accredited provider, Learning Without Scars has certain very specific rules to follow. For instance, to earn an official CEU we have to have ten hours of learning. This gets a touch more complicated when we look at the US Department of Education requirement of fifteen to sixteen hours for a single CEU. However, they bury the lede in that statement. This is all modeled on traditional, in-person learning. So many hours of face-to-face instruction, and so many hours of homework. 1 hour of facetime, 2 hours of homework. That has been the “rule of thumb.” This cannot be “mandated” by the federal government here in the United States, it is only a guideline. However, in order for students to be able to obtain Federal loans or grants, the school MUST follow these rules. Since the United States federal government is secondary to state laws and policies, the number of course “hours” for Academic Credit can vary from state-to-state. Even further, the states give institutions of learning their own latitude when it comes to determining those course “hours.” That means each school can establish their own criteria for Academic Credits.
That is where it gets complicated for all of us here. Our classes offer six and a half hours of “face-to-face,” but asynchronous, learning. Albeit, it is not in a traditional classroom, it is on the internet. That means that there are six and a half hours of specific learning per class. We have been told that we must add a “homework” component to make it easier for the “Academic Credit” schools to add our classes to their curriculums. In line with that we are creating homework assignments for each of our classes following the “rule of thumb” of two hours of homework for each hour of face-to-face learning. In other words, for each class, we are adding thirteen hours of homework.
I have had a problem with this with several schools in that I have always asked questions about how the schools track that the students did the homework? The answer I consistently get is “we don’t.” That doesn’t account for the fact that an individual instructor may very well be tracking the homework. Or, an individual instructor might be following research-based practices and realizing that homework is not an effective tool for understanding. That research has been guiding a movement to phase out homework. I anticipate that this will also shake up the course hours model that is so widely varied here in the U.S.
I, as an educator, have always been more concerned that the student leaves my classes with a solid understanding of the subject matter. I use quizzes, snap exams, oral debates in other words everything I can to give the student the opportunity to show me that they “get it.” Caroline is of the same mind which led us to perhaps a different approach on the homework we assign. We provide the homework hours as “Close Reading and Annotation” assignments. If you follow research-based practices, reading is solid method for increasing knowledge and understanding. For each element of the assigned reading, we provide a “Check for Understanding.” This we do with a Quiz for each homework assignment. Obviously, we score the Quiz and provide that feedback to the student. We have established a level of 60% or higher as proof that our “Check for Understanding” goal has been met. This is another step we take to make us different from the traditional education model in use across the world and establish our internet-based learning as a viable model to be used everywhere by everyone.
Through each of our Subject Specific Classes we have a similar structure and methodology. From the enrollment of the student from our website, or from the registration process at a school, the student receives from us the notice that they have been registered in one of our classes. They receive an email with a short slide show with audio explaining how the learning experience works. They will then receive an email allowing them to establish a password to our Learning Management Software system. From there they will see the full Learning Without Scars homepage. Once they have signed in, they will receive another email explaining what that home page is showing them and how it works. They can then proceed to their class.
Each class is a series of videos. Each video can be started and stopped multiple times and the student will always be brought back to their last position. We have short videos all of which end with a Quiz. That quiz is to test comprehension of the subject matter – it is a “Check for Understanding.” There is a quiz at the conclusion of each segment of the class. At the completion of each class, we have a twenty question, multiple choice, Final Assessment that the student has to pass if they want to obtain their certificate. The passing grade is 80%. The student can take the Final Assessment. Then we ask the student to give us their opinions on the class they just took. Finally, they then can get their certificate.
Now we are adding the Homework piece. We are selecting books that are pertinent to the class and providing the students with this list of books. Once this has been completed then we will add another check point prior to the receipt of the certificate. The student must have achieved 80% on the final assessment as well has receiving 60% on each of the “Check for Understanding” quizzes for each homework assignment.
We are truly providing a “school” experience with our internet based Subject Specific Classes.
Each LWS Class consists of 6 ½ hours of classroom and 13 hours of homework.
Two of our classes then earn an academic credit consisting of 13 hours of face-to-face learning and 26 hours of homework providing 39 hours of education to the student. That works for most schools but there will be others that have different requirements. We will adapt to the conditions and situations we come across so that our Classes will qualify everywhere. We already have Accreditation Internationally so that will allow us to continue with our work to offer all of our classes in English, French and Spanish. We will expand that language offering as required.
We continue to push forward. We have audio tracks to match our class reading assignments. We have closed captioning for all of our film clips. We have the multiple language platform underway. We are adding now the homework element. We have come a long way. That is true. However, we still have a long way to go and many more learning elements to add to our portfolio. Next is “Half” classes. We will address that more in the coming months.
The Time is Now.