Seat Time Academic Credit: What Does It Really Measure?
The history of the “semester credit hour” and academic credit—the “currency” of higher education—is analyzed and described from the perspective of the twenty-first-century needs. Also described is the widespread use of credit hours for measuring nearly every function in the academy from student progress toward a degree, faculty workloads, budgets for departments and colleges, and even the “flow of dollars from state coffers to the bank accounts of public universities.” The serious weaknesses of academic credit for such measures and purposes are discussed as are the several attempts at replacing it with a measure that is valid, reliable, and easy to use. The complicit role of the nation’s accrediting bodies is described as is the need for reform in higher education accreditation policies. It is in this context that the European model, the Bologna Process, is described and its potential for improving American higher education accreditation.