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Transfer Credit for Online and Distance Education Courses

Generally, institutions regard courses taken online or though distance education as equivalent to the same courses taken in a classroom setting. However, requests for transfer credit involving online or distance education courses may face difficulties if the evaluator is not familiar with the norms of an online or distance education environment or does not see the value of online learning, or learning in non-traditional formats. There may also be institutional policy regarding the equivalency of online or distance education courses, or components of those courses.

Such requests become problematic when, in the absence of reliable information and processes for assessing equivalence, faculty or administrators with concerns about online or distance education deny transfer credit to students who have successfully completed these types of courses. However, the same principles used to assess transfer credit should apply to the assessment of all courses for which transfer is requested, regardless of the method of delivery.

There may be circumstances in which a receiving institution requires additional information in order to assess transfer credit for a course that is completely online or offered through distance education, or which has online or distance education components.  As is true for any course outline submitted for transfer assessment, the sending institution should ensure that the outline contains all relevant information for the receiver to make a fair assessment.  It may be relevant, for example, to include information on how students might satisfy the lab component of a science course (e.g. a student could take the course online but could be required to perform lab-based assignments in a face-to-face institution).  However, the principle of respecting disciplinary expertise also should be upheld. If, based on their expert knowledge of the subject, an evaluator determines that an online or distance education version of a course is not equivalent to the course in another format, that decision should be respected.

As previously mentioned, BCCAT does not recommend that method of course delivery be recorded on a student's transcript with any special notations. These notations may cause difficulties for the student in having the course recognized for transfer credit at other institutions.

Method of Course Delivery

Normally, how a course is taught is not an issue in assessing its equivalency, but there are some cases in which the structure and delivery of a course is integral to mastery of the course content. For example, at SFU, in order to assign a 'W' ('writing intensive') designation to a transferred course, a committee assesses the course for the nature and number of opportunities for students to write and revise. Some institutions will choose not to grant transfer credit for specific science courses if the laboratory component of the course was conducted online rather than in an actual laboratory setting. If conditions such as these will affect how a receiving institution will evaluate a transfer request, the receiving institution should notify sending institutions of any policies related to course structure or delivery that may affect the transferability of a course.