Requirements and
Academic Progress

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Academic institutions have long strived to document and curate requirements to complete credentials in their catalogs, online web resources and within their student information system augmented by their chosen degree audit application. The duplication requires institutions and the work behind the academic curtain to validate and maintain an authoritative repository with syndication of the information.

The hurdles to maintain a set of requirements per program of study depend on several factors.

  • Programs of study evolve with internal and external expectations of currency. Sharing course experiences between them may not always satisfy the pre-requisite to support further experiences.
  • Institutions often have overlapping Programs that must consider the internal comparability of courses and experiences that may or may not satisfy the Program of study expectations.
  • Exceptions and adjustments must be evaluated, documented, and referenced when learners petition.
  • What time period was the course completed compared to the relevancy of the current Program of study.
  • Addressing comparability internally and externally with other sources of learning.

Student Mobility and Academic Credit Portability

Learners who extend beyond the institutional offerings or enroll in courses elsewhere, such as taking a summer course at a local community college or studying abroad for a semester or a military learner taking a MOOC or online course, requires the student’s home institution to evaluate what are often called course equivalencies with the associated method of articulating the credit if the evidence of completion is presented. Academic credit portability can be described as the method and means of tracking how course and learning experiences could count or replace requirements associated with a credential.

Course Equivalencies are not all Created Equal

Course equivalencies are created and maintained by catalog dates and consider the source institution of study, academic department, rigor, learning materials, depth of the learning experience, grading, faculty level, seat time, credit unit, and learning outcomes articulated. Institutions track the assessment of courses and learning opportunities either when a learner's claim or petition initiates or when they proactively canvas offerings when called upon by academic or enrollment efforts.

Course equivalencies can be non-specific blocks of credit, associated with elective courses or specific to courses when comparability can be well documented. One of the often misunderstood realities is that course equivalencies may document a course or learning experience and may transfer for some academic credit but may not satisfy the Program of study requirements. Thus, many students are often caught not knowing in advance that courses they may have completed or may have contemplated, will impact their completion requirements.

The Importance of Credit Articulation

There are three methods that could address the limitations of informing learners how academic credit portability will impact their study plan. The first is to present a guided pathway, which could be a transfer agreement, program to program guide, or block credit agreement rendered by collaborating institutions so that the credit would be recognized as applicable for certain requirements. The second is the ability to prospectively view academic progress through the degree audit or checklist method revealing how the planned course of learning experience would be treated through articulation. The third is to review and assess course or learning opportunity plans and require approval, disclaimer, and guidance on how the planned coursework would count for the specific Program undertaken or the contemplated one planned.

The challenge to determine credit articulation prospectively or retroactively is the cost and time spread across a range of participants from the enrollment, registrar, and faculty. Systems are often lacking and institutions utilize paper processes to track the effort. The volume can also complicate the methods employed, especially as leaners have many alternative learning opportunities presented internally and externally that appear similar on the surface.

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