Provost's Newsletter – October 2018

Teaching & Learning

Across Campus

Faculty decide what courses will transfer

Indiana’s public policy promoting the timely completion of college degrees has led to an emphasis on making transfer of courses across institutions more straightforward and seamless. As part of this effort, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (CHE) has established the Core Transfer Library of commonly taught courses across universities and community colleges in the state. 

Dating to 2005, the CTL is a public resource describing the 88 courses — most of them general education courses — that have been reviewed by faculty from each institution to determine their transferability to their respective institutions.

Systems in place prior to this central repository required additional work for faculty and uncertainty for students. Now, with course reviews completed and publicly shared, students can plan ahead when they are considering how a course will transfer from one Indiana state college or university to another.

While the solution may sound simple, execution of the process is a bit more complex. CHE arranges recurring meetings where representatives from each institution discuss processes and issues. Dr. Candiss Vibbert, associate provost for special initiatives, is the liaison from Purdue West Lafayette and she works closely with her counterparts from other institutions and CHE to determine which subject areas and courses need to be reviewed each year. Typically courses are reviewed on a five-year rotating cycle. 

Each institutional liaison is responsible for obtaining syllabi for courses under review and for identifying faculty members who will review syllabi submitted from other institutions. At Purdue, the request for a faculty member typically runs through the department head, who suggests a faculty member with experience developing or teaching the subject matter. 

Faculty who review courses from other institutions receive the following information: course description, goals, learning outcomes, texts used, assignments, and an explanation of how grades are assigned. This provides sufficient information for faculty to determine whether a course submitted from another institution is substantially equivalent to the course taught at Purdue West Lafayette. 

While most of the 88 CTL courses are taught on all campuses and clearly articulate across the state, there are three exceptions:

  1. A student seeking to transfer a biology, chemistry or physics course sequence that includes a lab must complete the full year of coursework at one institution in order to transfer the course sequence.
  2. Seventeen of these courses are not taught at Purdue.
  3. In some cases, a course itself may not be deemed as equivalent by a particular university — e.g., students seeking to transfer credit for Ethics (PHIL 11000) from Anderson University or Trine University receive only undistributed credit at Purdue West Lafayette. Such restrictions apply to 17 additional courses in the CTL (different from those described in item number 2 above). These restrictions are described in the Notes column of the receiving institution’s list in the CTL.

"The determination in all cases is made at the departmental level at each university, not by CHE or the university's liaison," said Dr. Frank Dooley, senior vice provost for teaching and learning. "Courses that do not transfer are still accepted as undistributed credit." 

This year, 20 courses offered on the West Lafayette campus will be reviewed. This is the third year of a three-year cycle to add four independent colleges to the Core Transfer Library — Ancilla College, Anderson University, Trine University, and the University of St. Francis.

Also this year, at the request of CHE, Purdue Global for the first time will have courses considered for inclusion in the CTL. Just as all institutions do, Purdue Global will submit course syllabi for faculty review — 15 this year and about 15 next year. Faculty at each participating institution will evaluate whether the Purdue Global courses should be transferred as equivalent to their own. 

"The process will be the same for every institution," Vibbert said. "Purdue West Lafayette faculty will decide if the courses are substantially equivalent to the Purdue West Lafayette courses based on the information provided. The ultimate question is whether students have attained a level of knowledge that will allow them to enroll in subsequent coursework and be successful. This is a faculty decision. I am here to facilitate and answer questions.”

As with any faculty-controlled review process, faculty time and expertise are critical. "The Provost's Office is grateful for faculty contributions and their willingness to voluntarily participate in this process," Vibbert said. “Without faculty expertise and review, the Core Transfer Library would not work.”

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