When Erick Dillard made the decision to get his online bachelors degree from Excelsior College back in 2002, he was working and raising two children. He didn’t have the luxury of going to school full-time, and he wanted to get his degree on his schedule. The 48-year-old Army veteran made the decision to test out of some of his online course specifications. By the time he completed it, he would save lots of money and obtained credit for 15 courses in his strategic communications degree, all without getting the formal classes. “I would come home and study all night and all evening,” says Dillard, who sometimes completed two courses a month through credit by exam.
Earning a degree doesn’t always have to be a huge time or investment decision. Progressively, older students like Dillard are speeding up their education and cutting expenses by using programs that award credit for past learning, says Pam Tate, chief executive and CEO of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. Earning credit by exam can be a great choice for adults who have already learned the course material through previous jobs or military experience, experts say. And it can be a particularly eye-catching choice for online students, who enjoy versatility and who are acquainted to a regimented, self-guided approach to learning.
“It’s popular” among online students, says Bill Stewart, associate vice chairman for Institutional Advancement at Excelsior College, which allows students to test out of class. “And some individuals use them to a significant degree and some individuals use them to complete holes in their specifications to meet their degree.” The idea of examining out of school courses is not a new idea. The College Level Examination Program, applied through the College Board, started giving students the choice to get credit for a range of programs in the late Sixties. When students take one of the 33 CLEP assessments, such as chemistry or American literary works, they are first provided a list of information they should understand before the evaluation. It’s up to the student to track down research materials and prepare for the analyze, which expenses about $80 plus a examining fee.
“We are realizing that some of the biggest on the internet colleges, like Thomas Edison State College, have a very strong cohort of exam-takers,” says Suzanne McGurk, senior assessment administrator at the College Board. “I think that really resonates with online students who are used to doing things at their own speed.”