Learning Pathway DesignGEM’s Approach to Credit TransfersRwanda, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Lebanon
SNHU | Global Education Movement (GEM)Author: Agnes Burume and Nina Weaver
SNHU’s Global Education Movement (GEM) offers refugees and others affected by displacement the opportunity to pursue US-accredited bachelor’s degrees while gaining professional skills and work experience. We enable refugee graduates to become leaders in their workplaces and communities. In collaboration with local partners, GEM leverages cutting-edge learning technologies and provides robust student support through our innovative blended learning model. This combination develops graduates’ technical and professional skills needed in both local and global job markets.
GEM’s evidence-based, student-centred approach fuels our mission to offer a comprehensive, context-sensitive, and scalable solution to bring high-quality tertiary education to refugees and marginalized learners across the globe.
In 2013, SNHU partnered with Kepler University Program in Kigali, Rwanda and added a location in Kiziba Refugee Camp in 2015. Beginning in 2018, GEM launched programs in South Africa, Kenya, Malawi, and Lebanon.
Students that are completing different courses or certificates over a period of time may struggle to translate those courses into credits that are recognized as part of a degree program. In addition, students that want to switch programs or are resettled can have a difficult time receiving recognition for their prior learning.
Credit transfers between institutions and programs are important because they can help students to move more quickly in a program and avoid repetition of learning. Additionally, recognizing prior learning is an important way to acknowledge students’ abilities and past educational experiences.
For resettled students in particular, it can be difficult to enroll in other university programs, and to receive transfer credits from previous programs.
GEM has worked hard to ensure that we are both recognizing students’ educational experiences prior to our program and to ensure that students who move on from our program due to resettlement can have their credits recognized at other institutions.
At GEM sites in Malawi and Kenya, where we work with JWL as our partner, graduates from the Regis University diploma program can receive transfer credits into the SNHU degree program (up to 30 credits, or 60 competencies). In Lebanon, graduates from UNRWA’s Siblin Training Centre two-year degree program enter the SNHU degree with up to 60 credits, or 120 competencies. This recognition has been made possible by close collaboration or cooperation between SNHU and our partners and other universities, including Regis University.
In addition, SNHU has worked with other universities in the US and internationally to ensure that students who completed their associate degree degree through GEM at SNHU (halfway towards a bachelor’s degree) are able to receive transfer credits into new university programs. Resettled GEM students in Australia, Canada, and the USA have received transfer credits from their SNHU degree courses for their post-resettlement university programs.
Transfer credit approval requires a long process of verification and review on the part of universities. SNHU’s registrar office has dedicated many hours and staff time to ensuring that our students can have their learning recognized
Limitations, Challenges, and/or Lessons Learned:
- In the US, accredited competency-based degree programs (including SNHU’s competency-based degree) can only take in transfer credits in “blocks” of course credits (not individual course credits), which means that not all credits are able to transfer in
- The university registrar has to be willing to do transfer credit assessment and evaluation. It can take a lot of time/capacity from the team.
- In the same program, some students have transfer credits and some don’t, it can create feelings of resentment within the cohort and/or impact programmatic planning.
It can be complex and difficult to navigate different policies and systems to ensure that students’ prior learning is recognized. Of not offering a full degree program, organisations should ensure that the certificates and courses they offer are accredited by a university that is willing to put the time and effort into finding ways to accept credits from other institutions and to support students who transfer to have their credits recognized by other institutions.