MORE ONLINE DEGREE
AND DISTANCE LEARNING
What sort of online BA degrees can I earn
Both online bachelor of
science and bachelor of arts degrees
are offered in a wide variety of academic and professional disciplines in
the Liberal Arts, in Accountancy, Business Administration, Computer
Information systems, History, Nursing, Psychology, and in many other
disciplines. A number may be earned wholly or in large part by testing out.
Many online colleges and
distance learning universities, such as the University of Phoenix, offer
online courses and exams as their
primary vehicle for degree credit
accumulation. BA in 4 Weeks stresses the use of standardized proficiency
challenge examinations to fulfill these requirements. The focus of the text
is credit by examination.
Q What is credit by
A 1. For our purposes it can be defined as college semester hour
credit awarded for passing standardized proficiency exams of various
hues.Exams are offered by:
· CLEP -
College Level Examination Program
· DANTES -
Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Educational Support
Excelsior College Exams (AKA Regents Exams)
Graduate Record Exams (subject exams only)
· TECEP -
Thomas Edison College Examination Program
There are other exam programs, but these are the ones we'll be
Q ·Can I earn a
degree entirely by testing out?
A 2. Yes. You can earn an accredited bachelor degree
exclusively by way of proficiency
Q · Where
and how can I earn a degree by examination?
A 3. "Where", would be
· Charter Oak State College, CT
· Excelsior College, NY (formerly Regents College of the University of the
State of New York)
· Thomas Edison State College,
"How", is the subject of this series . . . read on.
Q · But are these "real" colleges
All three institutions are regionally accredited. Regional accreditation is
the standard of fundamental legitimacy for colleges and universities
in the United States. A variety of internet fora are consumed by debates
focusing on nuances of accreditation, which often quickly descend into
theology. However, you could do worse than adopt a utilitarian approach by
following the admonition: if it's a US school, it has to be regionally
accredited to warrant consideration.
Incidentally, if you are currently in an undergraduate program
at a U.S. non regionally accredited school, you may want to
consider British politician Denis Healy's First Law of Holes: when
you're in one, stop digging. There are many regionally accredited
distance undergraduate programs available rendering reliance
upon non regionally accredited offerings unnecessary. This point, of
course, has for years has been a mantra of the eloquent grandee of
Distance Learning, Dr. John Bear.
Further reading on the topic available on the Net:
Q · How many semester hours do I need to
get a bachelor degree?
Normally you must accumulate 120 semester hours of credit in the correct
ratios defined by kind (lib arts, science, etc), subject, and level
(upper and lower division), in order to qualify for degree conferral. If
all of the earned credit were to be derived from testing, this would most often
translate to between seven and thirty-five examinations
Q · At the higher end, is it really likely
I can pass all these exams?
A 6. It is entirely possible for
some to take and pass all exams necessary to meet the requirements for a BA
or BS degree without extensive study (details follow). For the rest (the
majority), some study and new learning will be required. How much study and
how much new learning will depend upon an individual's existing knowledge
base, how efficiently they study, and their native wit.
It is entirely possible for those adequately
prepared by life's experiences, through occupation, prior formal education,
general reading, personal interests (e.g. politics, history, physics,
literature), to review and test out in all necessary disciplines, in
Q · Is it practical? Are there enough hours in
the day to do it?
The average 3-semester hour credit takes 90 minutes to complete, not three
hours. It is easily possible to sit three examinations per day and I (and I
expect many others) have done so on many occasions.
Where 3-semester hour exams are three hours in length, it is still
possible to sit three exams per day. It is not true that if an exam is completed
in less than the allotted time, you cannot immediately move on to the next
exam, you can. Again, I have sat three 3-hour exams in one day (more
than once) that have taken an average of one hour to complete, and have
immediately moved on to the next exam, and I am no genius.
Q · Are there venues that will allow
multiple testing ?
Enough test stations will allow you to take more than two exams per day. US
military bases will allow you to take as many exams per day as you can cram
into their test station's hours of operation. All Sylvan centers (ECE
exams) will allow three 3-hour exams per day Monday through Friday. You can
knock off three ECE exams in about 3 to 4 hours. That's nine semester hours
The exceptions would be GRE subject exams where it is not possible
to sit multiple exams in a day, but in these cases, a total of 30 semester
hours can be granted for a pass above the 80th percentile. A score above
the 80th percentile is very doable. I have done so on two occasions, others
here have done so on three or four occasions. Those who can't meet
that requirement can still garner 18 or 24 semester hour credit with a pass
above the 40th percentile if enrolled in COSC.
Q · What are the costs?
The cost per 3-semester hour test varies by exam type, and prices are
always subject to change, but, including administration fees, average costs
2004 were in the ball park of $70, $70, $120, $150, $250, per 3
semester hours, for DANTES, CLEP, ECE lower division objective, ECE upper
division objective, ECE essay.
Note that further saving can be had by using CLEP General Exams at
around $70 per 6 semester hours, and GRE subject exams at around $130 per
30 semester hours. Note again that prices include an estimate
of exam administration fees.
The first set of exam results transcripts are sent to the
institutions you nominate at no extra cost. The issuance of subsequent
transcripts will involve additional charges.
If a learner enrolls in an Excelsior College program, there is no
fee for transcription of credits. The initial enrollment fee is around $995
and a graduation fee of around $495. The total amount paid to the college
therefore, need be no more than $1500 or there abouts (prices subject to
change). This then represents the fixed costs, to which must be added the
variable costs associated with garnering credit.
Total costs including books, exam fees, transcripts, and all
college fees, will be around $4000+, to complete a 120 semester hour
bachelor degree, from scratch in anywhere from four weeks to one year*.
Clearly, the more transferable credit you have in hand
going into the process, the less new credit you will require, and thus the
lower will be the variable component of total costs.
*If enrolled longer than a year there is a Student
Service Annual Fee and an Information Service Fee totaling
about $495 to consider
Q · Isn't it better to use portfolio
I had plenty of prior credit going into my first degree, and a bunch of
documented evidence to support any claim to credit via portfolio
assessment. After doing a couple of competency exams, I decided it was
clearly the way to go. Your mileage may vary. There's no doubt that it's
quicker to do the exam if you know the subject and if a suitable exam
exists. If not, portfolio is certainly a good way to go. Portfolio may also
be your best choice in the first instance. You must
*Note also that as of July 2001, CLEP is going
over to computer based testing (CBT). I don't know the details yet as far
as it relates to multiple day testing, but I think that positive side
effect is likely inherent in this change. I've tried the sample trial
test software, and it's similar to the ECE computer based tests and
nearly indistinguishable from the GMAT CBT. See update.
Web site copyright © Lawrie Miller 2002