Blurring the Distinction Between Credit and Noncredit Dos and Don'ts


While certainly not a victim of noncredit-phobia, I am undoubtedly securely attached to the credit aspect of our mission and slight leery of the unknown (aka "stranger anxiety"). Yet when the noncredit voice is ever-present at sacc (the system advisory committee on curriculum), when I hear one CIO asking another about combining credit and noncredit students in one classroom, and I watch my college refine its approval process for noncredit courses, the need to become truly knowledgeable about the role, function, and purpose of noncredit becomes apparent.

And it is very likely that the 2005-2006 academic year may come to be known as the noncredit year- while traditionally cast into the shadows, noncredit is currently in the spotlight and changes are coming.

At the same time as noncredit is lavishing in positive attention and its funding is being considered for augmentation, some colleges are revising their noncredit procedures in order to remain within established guidelines. While some colleges are cleaning up their handling of noncredit, there are also isolated instances of unrest involving noncredit - and certainly more to come if the proposed funding changes are implemented. In light of all this, it makes sense to stop and consider credit and noncredit courses and how they are "handled". A practice that I sense is growing, and, (in my humble opinion) should be embarked upon with caution, is the offering of credit and noncredit courses in the same classroom. After hearing a most-respected administrator on my campus speak of this as a wondrous activity in which we should engage, I had to stop and consider it more fully. When I first learned of this I was, honestly, aghast. but then after some conversation and consideration I came to terms with it. I can honestly say that I do not have an opinion one way or the other about this practice, but I can offer some dos and don'ts for consideration, influenced by curricular considerations and concerns about students. While this is certainly not concerns about students. While this is certainly not all-inclusive, it provides some pointers for those who are, or are intending, to walk the credit/noncredit line.

Do make it clear to students who are enrolled in a course as noncredit that they will not be receiving credit for the course and explain if and how their course participation will be recorded. as colleges vary in their handling of such things, I am leaving this intentionally vague.

Don't number credit and noncredit courses in the same manner. most colleges have some system that is used to differentiate between non-degree credit, degree-applicable, and transferable courses. Under no circumstance that I can think of should a noncredit course look like a credit course by virtue of its numeric designation.

Students should always be well aware of the fact that noncredit and credit are typically fundamentally different when it comes to grading and transcripts.

Do keep in mind the designated areas for noncredit and that while community service courses may be offered as noncredit, there are many community service courses that simply do not meet the designated criteria for noncredit.

Don't use a single course outline for your credit and noncredit versions of a course. assuming that you do include information on grading in your credit outlines, the use of a credit outline for a noncredit course may be misleading. Always keep in mind that the course outline of record is the contract to which you teach; reference to how grades will be determined should not be a component of an outline for a course in which grades will not be assigned.

Do provide guidance to your faculty about what noncredit courses are all about. Discuss the areas in which you might consider noncredit offerings and/or the types of noncredit courses you are currently offering.

Don't forget that there are distinct differences between credit and noncredit that should not be forgotten. Remember, for example, that the minimum qualifications differ for credit and noncredit faculty and that if credit and noncredit courses are being combined, the higher credit standards for minimum qualifications must apply.

Do consider the mission of your noncredit program and how it can best serve your community. Remember the values of the senate, the goal of open access, and seek innovative ways to be a truly inclusive operation as you serve your community.

Don't shirk your responsibility as a local senate to guide your curricular offerings.

Do keep all title 5 guidelines in mind and seek guidance as needed.

As time goes on, I am sure that new issues will emerge - and I am sure that there are issues out there already brewing (as there always are, right?). Keep in mind as you consider issues with respect to noncredit on your campuses that our primary goal is to serve our students - be sure that your local practices are designed to do this at all times.