Onsite Course Reviews

​​​​​​​Courses consist of a set curriculum with measurable outcomes, rubrics, and validated student assessment instruments. Courses may include lecture, small group work, case studies, skills lab, clinical, practical exercises, computer-based delivery, and discussion boards.

The team will assemble the morning of the evaluation at the hotel at the direction of the American Council on Education (ACE) staff. Even if you are local and do not need a hotel room, please plan on meeting the team in the hotel lobby at the designated time. Depending on the culture of the organization you are reviewing, you may be asked to meet by 6:45 a.m. or as late as 8:45 a.m. The team will travel to the review location together.

​​Step 1: In-Briefing

The in-briefing is the organization’s opportunity to welcome the team and talk about the organization, mission, faculty, and courses. The organization may send one individual or an entire staff team. During the presentation, consider the course(s) being reviewed in the context of the organization’s mission and goals.

The ACE leadership will provide an overview of the review process and will ask team members to introduce themselves. Your introduction should include your name, your institution, and your area of expertise, as well as any experience that is relevant to this review. The in-briefing also provides a forum for the team members to ask general questions about the courses being evaluated. Sometimes, the organization provides a tour of the laboratories and facilities.

After the in-briefing, the team may move to a different work room for the actual review. Materials may be presented on computers or in paper form. Note: If the in-briefing is held in the same room as the work room, please refrain from touching or reviewing the materials until directed.

Step 2: Team Meeting

The ACE staff will make sure that the organization contacts have left the room. Together, the team reviews the disposition list of courses and identifies the first, second, and third reviewers for each course. Each course is reviewed by a minimum of two to three evaluators.

Step 3: Review Process

For each course, the faculty evaluators examine instructor materials, student materials, and assessments, including the course outline, syllabus, instructor’s manual(s), presentation slides, student texts, handouts, and assessment instruments.

Assessments are absolutely critical to the review process. They may be tests, papers or projects, but the team must see 100 percent of the actual assessments and evaluative rubrics, not just the assessment plan, before making a credit recommendation. On some reviews, you may need to ask the ACE staff to request that assessments be brought in to the work room for review.

Your job as a faculty evaluator is to determine if the course materials have enough content, scope, and rigor to align with courses currently being taught at accredited institutions. The process is collaborative and often interdisciplinary. Coming to a consensus can sometimes be a challenge with the diversity of the team. Your willingness to engage in discussion and your respect for your colleagues on the team are crucial. The ACE staff ensures the integrity of the process and may ask probative, thought-provoking questions.

ACE teams use Bloom’s Taxonomy (461 KB PDF) to help them analyze their alignment of credit recommendations and validate the learning outcomes. They also use rubrics (36 KB xlsx) assessment reference (112KB PDF) tools, and other checklists (120 KB PDF) and guidelines​ (143 KB PDF).

In addition, you may need to consult with instructors and course managers for additional information. Alert your ACE staff to set up meetings with the instructors or course managers. All of the faculty mem​bers evaluating the course should participate in the meetings.

Step 4: Documentation

Faculty evaluators document their work on Team Consensus Sheets (TCS) supplied by ACE staff (Military) or edit course data forms provided by the organization (CREDIT).

You should bring copies of your institution’s course catalogs and curricula (or links to these documents) to share and reference during team discussions.


The decision to recommend credit will be based on the team's consensus. No formula exists for making the judgment on credit equivalency. If the consensus is not to recommend credit, the team is still required to identify the learning outcomes, methods, and topics of instruction, in addition to providing a short justification for why the team is not recommending credit.

Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes are an essential component to the review process. Each credit recommendation will reinforce the learning outcomes and topics covered. ACE requires learning outcomes to be clear, concise, and measurable.

Semester Hours

In determining the credit recommendations in semester hours (SH), please consider:

  • Evaluators are selected based on their qualifications to recommend credit in their area(s) of expertise. Teams consist of professionals representing a variety of disciplines. The final credit recommendation is a team decision.
  • There is no simple arithmetic conversion of the number of instructional hours to the number of credits recommended.
  • Learning outcomes and the amount and complexity of covered content material are the key factors when deciding the number of credits to recommend.
  • Credit recommendations do not need to be equal to a full college course in any one subject area, but may fulfill partial course requirements. A recommendation of one or two semester hours is acceptable.

Credit Categories

There are four credit categories:

  1. Vocational certificate: normally found in non-degree programs; not generally transferable; occupational in nature; practical application.
  2. Lower-division baccalaureate/associate degree: typically found in the first two years in college degree programs; focus is on basic principles and analytic skills.​
  3. Upper-division baccalaureate degree: found in the last two years of a BA/BS program; focuses on critical thinking; more advanced level in scope and depth.
  4. Graduate degree: must have independent research, critical analysis, and scholarly application; overall course pass rate must be 80 percent.

You can recommend credit in more than one category, but not for the same subject area. For example, you may not award both lower- and upper-division credit for the “management” subject area.

Special Notes

  • Keep in mind that these organizations are providing training/professional education courses to meet their organizational missions, visions, and goals. We, ACE, honor and respect that.
  • For a CREDIT evaluation, the team is encouraged to use “Reviewer Notes” to identify strengths and weaknesses of the course. If the course is “close” to receiving a credit recommendation, but there are some missing elements, the team can make a conditional recommendation. However, this must be discussed with the ACE staff.
  • For Military evaluations, it is not appropriate for the evaluation team to suggest that a course be redesigned to make it more comparable to postsecondary curricula. Military review teams do not write recommendations for enhancing a course, or make conditional credit recommendations. As needed, the team will make notes for internal use only in terms of the content, materials, concerns, or reasons for changes in credit recommendations (for courses previously reviewed) or if no credit will be granted.
  • It is the quality of the credit recommendation (not the quantity) and its alignment to current college credit (consider usable credits) that enhances the training or professional education for the adult learner.

Step 5: Exit Briefing

At the end of the site visit, the team will meet with the organization’s representatives for an exit briefing to discuss general findings. The ACE staff will complete and distribute an exit briefing tool that outlines an unofficial sum of the amounts of credit recommended for each course, not the specifics of the subject areas. As an evaluator, you should have your notes ready so you can respond to questions under the guidance of the ACE staff.

The organization may ask for comments on the quality or nature of its educational program. Consider:

  1. ACE teams do not serve as consultants to provide value added to the corporation’s training efforts.
  2. The team members do not make judgments on how well organizations meet their specialized needs with their educational programs.
  3. An excellent training course may receive no credit recommendations because it has no academic equivalency. This is not a judgment on the effectiveness or quality of the program.

Step 6: Final Report

After the evaluation, ACE staff conducts an internal review of the Team Consensus Sheets, or course data forms, enters the review results into a database, and prepares the draft final reports.

The organization will receive a draft final report within 30 working days of the evaluation and will have two to three days to correct any errors or ask questions. In case of any questions, KEEP YOUR COURSE REVIEW NOTES FOR AT LEAST 30 DAYS!

Once the corrections are made, the final reports will appear in the Military Guide for military courses or the ACE National Guide for CREDIT courses.