Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Carey Proposes an End to the "Antiquated Credit Hour"

Kevin Carey with a NYT op ed calling for an end to the “antiquated credit hour”:

The lack of meaningful academic standards in higher education drags down the entire system. Grade inflation, even (or especially) at the most elite institutions, is rampant. A landmark book published last year, “Academically Adrift,” found that many students at traditional colleges showed no improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing, and spent their time socializing, working or wasting time instead of studying. (And that’s not even considering the problem of low graduation rates.)

The rapid migration of higher education online exacerbates these problems. The notion of recording academic progress by counting the number of hours students spend sitting in a classroom is nonsensical when there is no actual classroom. Perhaps students themselves will decide what constitutes quality, as they choose among the so-called “massive online open courses” being offered free by brand-name universities including Harvard, M.I.T. and Stanford. I suspect those courses that will be most valued will be those where students actually learn.
But the most promising solution would be to replace the anachronistic credit hour with common standards for what college students actually need to know and to be able to do. There are many routes to doing this. In the arts and sciences, scholarly associations could define and update what it means to be proficient in a field. So could professional organizations and employers in vocational and technical fields.

Ending the antiquated credit hour would not only avert abuses involving college sports, but also prevent students of all kinds from taking the path of least resistance toward degrees that may be ultimately worthless.

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