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Podcast: Interview with American Council on Education


The ACE Credit program, part of the American Council on Education, evaluates adult learning opportunities and endorses them for college credit. Director Sarah Godsey explains the program and why ACE decided to add digital badges to the mix.

Listen to the full interview here:



Susan Manning:  Welcome to The Credly Podcast, where we touch base with our issuers, earners and partners and explore themes of interest in digital credentialing. I'm Susan Manning.  Today I'm talking with Sarah Godsey. Sarah is the Director of Credit, which is a program of the American Council on Education. So welcome Sarah.

Sarah Godsey:                       Thank you so much for having me.

Susan Manning:                   I think that our listeners, first of all, need to understand the breadth and scope of CREDIT. Can you explain the program to me?

Sarah Godsey:                       So the College Credit Recommendation Service is what CREDIT stands for and it was started in the 1970s. And the program is really designed to evaluate formal learning that takes place outside of higher education institutions and evaluate that credit to see if there are any equivalency to the learning that takes place in higher education. And so the goal really is to provide learners with an opportunity to have formally recognized learning applied to their college degree programs and ultimately be able to complete those degree programs in a shorter timeframe and at a lower cost.

Susan Manning:                   And this learning is workplace learning. So it's training that might happen on the job, correct?

Sarah Godsey:                       Yeah, absolutely. That's really just one aspect of what we evaluate. A large portion of it is workforce training, so large employers on the training programs that they provide to their employees. But we have a huge variety of other organizations that participate with us as well, from Credit by Exam providers, which many know the Clap programs or AP. And then we also have corporate entities, nonprofit, government, military, certification, professional entities. It really kind of spans across all learning that could take place outside of higher education.

Susan Manning:                   So how do you go about determining then what learning is worth academic credit?

Sarah Godsey:                       Yeah, that's a huge part because we have to make sure that people feel comfortable that it's been evaluated and that learners are being set up for success most importantly. And so we use college faculty who are currently teaching in the content areas that they're evaluating. We really feel like faculty are the best people who can help translate this learning into higher education because they're in the classrooms every day teaching the content.

Sarah Godsey:                       And so we have three pillars that we use which is content, scope and rigor. And I'll break those down a little bit

Sarah Godsey:                       So for content, we're really looking at what the material is covering in the course to make sure that there's a higher education or equivalency, so that it's really represented in coursework that exists today.

Sarah Godsey:                       The second part of the scope is the actual content, so the depth and breadth of the material that we're reviewing. Because it's not enough to just cover the information when you're looking at the collegiate level, it's obviously very important that it's going into depth at the same way and that the way that they're evaluating the learning is comparable to a collegiate level.

Sarah Godsey:                       The third part is the rigor and within the rigor we're talking specifically about the assessment pieces, so how the individual learner is demonstrating the information that they are achieving in the courses. Again, because the purpose is to ensure that learners are setup for success once they enter into the college program.

Susan Manning:                   When an organization comes to you and says we have this learning experience and we'd like you to evaluate it, how long does that process take? And then for how long is the recommendation for credit good?

Sarah Godsey:                       Sure. So that's a great point. We don't do individual learner evaluation. Organizations need to come to us with the learning programs that they have. And in that process it takes about three to six months. We do have a very rigorous eligibility process and really that's for the protection of the organization and for the learners. We want to ensure that the reviews are set up for success and that organizations aren't spending too much time going through the process for us if their courses aren't going to be equivalent.

Susan Manning:                   When an organization is approved for credit, how long is that approval or that endorsement?

Sarah Godsey:                       Right. So our credit recommendations are good for three years. And it's important to note that with our credit recommendations they are recommendations. And so colleges and universities will evaluate those to see how they apply into the degree program and for the specific individual learners. So accreditation is not a term we use, but it is the recommendations. And what AC Credit does is follow the same evaluation process that any college or university would follow if they are evaluating for prior learning assessment is the terminology used most commonly.

Susan Manning:                   So are many of the recipients adults?

Sarah Godsey:                       Yeah. Honestly, nearly all of our participants in this are adults. It can have a wide variety of reasons. It could be that they are trying to finish some general education courses as the last couple of courses that they need to complete their degree or they could be mid career level and have decided that now's the appropriate time to return to the university. And I said return because that is what we see with most of our learners. Many of them have attempted college previously and so when they're coming to us as a way to kind of bolster the credits that they've already received, probably from other formal higher education experiences.

Susan Manning:                   And a terrific time and money saver as well.

Sarah Godsey:                       Absolutely. That's the whole point of the program is really the impact to the learners. It's great that obviously we have the organizations who come to us and need that so that they're learners have the opportunity, but truly we're looking to impact the learners and give them a chance to reduce the cost, which we know is a huge problem and shortened the time period, which for working adults is imperative.

Susan Manning:                   So a few years ago you added digital badges to the mix. What were you trying to solve? What problem were you trying to solve with badges?

Sarah Godsey:                       Absolutely. So that just really came about because we recognize the fact that there were a lot of learners who couldn't take advantage or didn't want to take advantage of the credit recommendation and that could be for a variety of reasons. Maybe they've already obtained a degree, maybe that's the degree is not important in the area of workforce that they're in.

Sarah Godsey:                       So we wanted badges to be a no cost option for learners and it also puts the learner's record in their hands so they're able to share it, whether that's on LinkedIn or other social media. And they're also able to share it with employers. So if there is an opportunity for them to explain and advocate for themselves about how it impacts their abilities and skills in the employment world, they're able to have a format to share that and not have to incur the cost of an official transcript.

Susan Manning:                   Excellent. So if somebody wanted to know more, either as an earner or an organization, what should they do?

Sarah Godsey:                       So we have a couple of different websites and really the easiest way to get the information that you need regardless of whether you're a learner or an organization or even a higher education institution is to visit us on AC's official website.

Susan Manning:                   And for organizations they also may be interested in seeing the 140 various organizations that participate in this program too. So they can get an idea, as you said, of the variety of opportunities that are available out there.

Sarah Godsey:                       Yeah, absolutely. So aside from going to the AC official website and finding information, we also have a national guide. And that's where we publicly publish all of the organizations and courses that we have evaluated. So that's a great tool and resource for somebody who's wanting to learn more and understand what organizations are included and potentially if you're a learner, to see if maybe your organization already participates.

Susan Manning:                   Excellent. Well thank you so much for bringing us up to date on what Credit's doing and how badges fit into that story.

Sarah Godsey:                       Thank you so much.

Susan Manning:                   Thank you listeners for joining us. If you'd like to suggest upcoming topics, feel free to write us at