The Carnegie Unit, which measures learning based on time in class rather than actual learning, may be on the way out. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which developed the measure in 1906, will study ways to measure competency using a $460,000 Hewlett Foundation grant.
. . . the unit is a gauge of the amount of time a student has studied a subject. For example, a total of 120 hours in one subject, meeting four or five times a week for 40 to 60 minutes, for 36 to 40 weeks each year earns the student one “unit” of high school credit.
The Carnegie Unit was developed to push for higher standards, not to measure learning, says researcher Elena Silva. “It is not a good universal measure for student progress. … We are curious to know how it might be changed and more aligned with better, richer tools for measurement.”
It’s about time to rethink the credit hour, writes Matt Reed, a community college administrator.
It’s now normal for degree programs to specify student learning outcomes, and to be able to measure them. That’s huge.
Online education has thrown the whole concept of “seat time” into question, too. Since most online instruction is asynchronous anyway, it’s becoming harder to say with a straight face that learning has to happen in 75 minute chunks.
Now, MOOCs are starting to raise issues about the notion of “credit” itself, even independent of the “hour” part.
. . . At the same time, the federal financial aid programs are actually getting more persnickety about the most backward-looking elements of the credit hour, in response mostly to abuses in the for-profit sector.
Financial aid and faculty contracts are based on credit hours, at least in part, Reed writes. Figuring out an alternative will require a lot of work. So let’s get started.