At first, James A. Nienow was skeptical of the idea. Why should instructors give students academic credit for something they had done outside a classroom?
Mr. Nienow, a biology professor at Valdosta State University, in Georgia, teaches an introductory course that freshmen call "biology boot camp." Known as a tough grader, he likes to peer through microscopes and work with data.
In other words, Mr. Nienow felt out of place when he attended his first meeting on experiential learning a couple of years ago. To assess the skills students acquired elsewhere seemed an imprecise task. To opt out of required courses, he recalls thinking, seemed like "a cheap way to get through."
Mr. Nienow has changed his mind, however. Today he considers evaluations of what educators call prior learning--which can include on-the-job training, military experience, or even volunteering--not only legitimate but necessary.