Thomas Edison State College’s Open Course Option Opens Doors for Adult Learners
Thomas Edison State College’s Open Course Option Opens Doors for Adult LearnersStephen Phillips, Assessment Strategist and Marc Singer, Vice Provost, Center for the Assessment of Learning at Thomas Edison State College
As an institution of higher learning whose primary focus is adult and non-traditional students, Thomas Edison State College is committed to the idea that it doesn’t matter where a student has learned something as long as they can demonstrate that they know it. For decades, we’ve been granting credit to students for learning that they have acquired through workplace training, professional certifications, and military service.
We rely heavily on the College Board’s CLEP program to validate students’ prior learning. This year, we received over 4,000 CLEP score reports from the College Board that we were able to apply toward students’ degree programs. We were also an early pioneer in online, asynchronous learning. The flexibility of our programs allows us to serve students who may not necessarily be well-served by the traditional college experience. To that end, Thomas Edison State College has partnered with the Saylor Academy – a DC-based non-profit organization committed to driving down the cost of education – to provide students with an affordable pathway to an Associates of Science in Business Administration degree.
The Thomas Edison State College Open Course Option allows motivated, self-directed students to leverage what they learn working through the free online courses offered by the Saylor Academy, and on their own, using up to 10 CLEP exams and our own exam program to earn real college credit. The Open Course Option is entirely self-paced, which means that students are able to complete their studies entirely on their own schedule, completely independent from semesters and deadlines. One other great advantage of this program is the price. Students can earn an ASBA through the Open Course Option for as little as $3,100 for in-state students and $3,400 for out-of-state students. That’s a savings of over 85% when compared with the average cost of an Associate’s Degree in the United States.*
When students complete their Saylor coursework, they return to Thomas Edison State College ready to demonstrate what they have learned by successfully completing one of the many assessments used to validate college-learning, such as portfolio assessment, CLEP, or one of the Thomas Edison State College Examination Program (TECEP®) exams. In some cases, students can earn credit via Saylor Academy’s own NCCRS and ACE CREDIT reviewed exams. Once a student successfully completes an assessment, the credits can be applied towards the student’s degree.
The Saylor Academy courses have been crafted by experienced professors using entirely free resources such as video lectures, textbooks, and online activities. Many have been augmented with both formative and summative assessments. Before Thomas Edison State College launched this program, each Saylor course underwent an intense review process to determine its alignment with the college’s own programmatic and course-level objectives. In some cases, we worked with Saylor to revise the relevant course areas. Many Saylor courses have also been aligned with CLEP exam content coverage. This has helped to provide our students with a seamless experience.
So far over 225 students have enrolled at the Saylor Academy and begun taking courses aligned with the Open Course Option track. Of those, 38 have gone on to enroll at Thomas Edison State College and started working towards their degree. Still others have used the flexibility of our program to advance their educational goals beyond the scope of an Associate’s degree. One student, Rodney Morris McCoy, was interviewed about using our Open Course Option to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. He said, “Like most people, my schedule is filled with multiple responsibilities from work and family. Just finding the time to study can be a challenge in itself. I enjoyed the freedom that the Open Course Option gave me in completing the courses.” We believe that this model can be duplicated at other institutions and that it can be used effectively to bring down the cost of tuition, while simultaneously providing students with additional flexibility.
*According to the College Board’s Trends in College Pricing Report, the average two-year Associates Degree costs $17,310 for in-state students and $21,706 for out-of-state students.