With so many different types of credits and credentials, it can be hard to know what you’re actually buying. I’ve made a quick reference list using plain language to help you sort it out.
If you think everyone else understands these terms except for you, you’re WRONG. My March 3rd Inside Higher Ed Newsletter had a huge article that reported on the confusion by employers, colleges, and students about different credentials and credits.
“the large, growing microcredential market is strong, but learners also struggle to make sense of offerings. By one count, the United States is home to more than one million unique educational credentials, which represents a more than threefold increase since 2018. (Some are offered by nonacademic providers.)”
Since there are very few hard rules that companies and college follow, we are going to ignore all the terms and names. Every type of credit can really be grouped into 3 categories. College Credit, Noncredit, Potential college credit.
Actual College Credit
In short- two things to be sure, college credit will be taught by a college and the record will be held by the college. A third “iffy” requirement is the issue of a letter grade. Most of the time college credit generates a grade, but not always. Sometimes colleges offer pass/fail options. If a course EVER issues pass/fail, dig in and be sure it’s actually college credit.
Noncredit is almost always the default category for classes. In fact, assume everything is noncredit unless you can prove otherwise! Certifications, certificates, CEU, digital badges, digital credentials, MOOCs, continuing education, adult education, professional development, etc. These are all variations that mean you’re NOT getting college credit. Price or provider have nothing to do with it. Two things to remember (a) noncredit can still be excellent at filling your needs, and Homeschooling for College Credit parents can always award high school credit anyway (b) it is almost never convertible into college credit!!!
Potential College Credit
When a company or vendor use a third-party to evaluate their course (ACE or NCCRS), you end up with potential college credit. Everything that is college credit “because” it is ACE or NCCRS evaluated is potential college credit. If you look at the master list / directory of 30 ways to earn college credit, you’ll find everything that isn’t Type 1 is actually potential college credit. Potential college credit is only actual college credit when a college accepts it and gives you credit. If you transfer out of that college, it must be evaluated from scratch. Read more about credit laundering.
The #1 winner for ultimate confusion and lack of transparency is…..
Completely undefined and may fall into any of the 3 categories based on who is offering it. Used by college and non-college providers, may range from 1 short class to dozens of larger classes. May be free or very expensive. If you are considering something called “Microcredential” you’ll want to dig deeply to learn what it really is. If it’s being taught by a college, don’t assume that it is worth college credit because some microcredentials are taught as “continuing education” or CEU units, and not worth college credit. If it’s not taught by a college, don’t assume it isn’t worth college credit! Some non-college providers have sought third party evaluation for “potential” college credit when used in some context.