Get College Credit for Your Military Spouse Life

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

What if you could turn the hours you've spent running a unit Family Readiness Group (FRG) into college credit for a Management 101 course? Or have the time you've devoted to caring for your Wounded Warrior be recognized as credit for a health care class? Is there a way your life skills and work experience might reduce the costs and time it takes to pursue your continuing education goals?

Thanks to a new initiative from the Spouse Education and Careers Opportunity program of DoD's Military Community and Family Policy office, the answer is, "Yes!" SECO recently announced the start of its pilot LearningCounts program. In a partnership with the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), military spouses can turn their volunteer, work and life experiences into college credit.

As I recently learned from Lee McMahon, a SECO program analyst, LearningCounts is available to any spouse eligible for SECO programs. She told me that DoD was looking for an education resource for spouses who didn't qualify for MyCAA benefits, but it can also help those who are using MyCAA or who may have maxed out their MyCAA scholarship. It is hoped that LearningCounts will help any military spouse finish school by reducing costs and the time it takes to earn needed credits.

The free program works two ways. You can choose between an instructor led, 6-week on line course or a do-it-yourself on line tool. Either option allows you the freedom to complete the work on your own time, at home, or on your lunch hour. McMahon explained that once connected with LearningCounts, spouses will work with CAEL experts on building a learning portfolio designed to translate your experiences into equivalent undergraduate college credit.

LearningCounts will best benefit those who are already pursuing a degree or are planning to attend school in the near future, and must take general education or foundation level courses McMahon told me. Counselors can help spouses match their previous experience to a particular course subject offered at their school, she said. For example, have you been the web master for a club or FRG? You may be able to have that work count as a basic computer course. Maybe you have been handling publicity for the installation Red Cross office or other organization. Your efforts could lead to credit for an equivalent Business Communications or Marketing 101 class. Been the treasurer for a scout troop, church or club? Showing what you've done through the learning portfolio may add three credits for Accounting 1 to your transcript.

She explained that the 6-week on line course requires participants to log in a few times a week to view instructor lessons and to get assignments which are due every Sunday. McMahon said the course work could take 10-15 hours per week. For spouses choosing this more structured option, they will also earn three credits for completing the course, in addition to the credits earned from their portfolio. For those who are comfortable working on their own, the self-paced, on line program might be best. There are 8 modules to complete that could take 4-6 hours to finish and then 5-10 hours of research and writing work to complete the learning portfolio McMahon said. She added that you don't need to have documented hours or references, but should have copies of any work you've done to include in your portfolio.

The first portfolio building sessions start January 26 and February 9, 2015. Interested spouses just have to call MilitaryOneSource - 800-342-9647 - and ask to speak with a SECO career counselor. They will evaluate your current education level or help get your continuing education started. McMahon said the counselors will then assist you with signing up for LearningCounts and match you with the portfolio course that meets your experience and needs.

"Spouses are often surprised about how much life experience they do have that can translate into college credits," McMahon added. "LearningCounts can help any military spouse pursuing undergraduate degrees, especially with the foundation courses everyone has to do. Making that call to MilitaryOneSource could be a way to expedite your education and lower your costs," she said. Be a part of this exciting pilot program and contact MilitaryOnceSource today. Start earning credits for your military life!