Tools of the Trade | January / February 2018

Tool for credit transfer, online hub for digital teaching and learning, and more open-access options for researchers.


Interstate Passport, a program designed to improve access to higher education, has expanded across the United States to streamline transfer of credits between different colleges and universities. The process is designed to reduce the time required to verify credits and to eliminate the possibility that students will be unable to transfer the credits they have earned.

The 24 participating institutions have agreed on learning outcomes ahead of time. Courses that meet the learning objectives are indicated as Passport-approved on students’ transcripts. When students with Passports are admitted to other member schools in the network, their approved credits transfer as a complete block. In 2016–2017, the system’s inaugural year, nearly 28,000 students at 16 institutions earned Passports.

“Students face many barriers when they transfer from one institution to another, especially when they transfer to an institution in a different state,” says Patricia Shea, director of academic leadership initiatives for the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), which manages the network.

Interstate Passport’s creators hope a streamlined credit transfer system will help participating institutions increase student enrollment, retention, and degree completion rates, while giving students proof that they have taken courses that have developed their skill levels and job-readiness.

Launched in July 2016, Internet Passport was created by administrators and professors from institutions in multiple states. The work was supported by a US$2.99 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Interstate Passport will allow the first 100 institutions to join its network at no cost for the first five years. After five years, the institutions will pay annual dues. Membership is open to any two- and four-year regionally accredited university. Visit


The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) has created an online research center on digital teaching and learning, including instructional design and leadership in the field. Intended to be a hub for the research community, the OLC Research Center for Digital Learning & Leadership offers research opportunities, consulting services, and podcasts. It also houses the OLC’s peer-reviewed journal and promotes outreach to doctoral students through its Emerging Scholars Program. Visit


Emerald Publishing in the U.K. has launched Emerald Reach, an open access program designed to allow authors to extend their reach with tools that increase discoverability. Emerald also is introducing a new “green” open access policy by removing embargoes across all journals, allowing authors the option of making their accepted manuscripts free and openly available. Visit