Credit Interoperability

Last Updated: Spring 2023

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Interoperability is the ability of different information systems, devices, or applications to connect in a coordinated manner, allowing stakeholders to access, exchange, and use data within and across organizational boundaries.  An interoperable higher education system is one in which students can transfer seamlessly between institutions without accumulating wasteful credits and debt. 

Credit interoperability requires open standards and common ontologies/frameworks. These allow data in learners’ records to be machine-readable, exchangeable, and actionable across technology systems and, when appropriate, on the Web. It supports combinations of data from multiple sources and enables human interoperability and can be understood by people in different occupations and industries from diverse backgrounds. (Resource 1 below)

In an era of increasing data interoperability, the inability of students to seamlessly transfer credits from one higher education institution to another is evidence of a poorly functioning ecosystem. Higher education’s broken credit transfer system has plagued students and stumped policymakers for decades. Currently, 38 percent of first-time students who transfer within the first six years lose 43 percent of their credits, on average. This increases their time-to-credential, tuition costs, debt load, and opportunity costs. 

Interoperability would allow learner record data to be shared across multiple technology systems and sectors. American learners need ways to translate education, training, and work experience into records of transferable skills that help them qualify for higher-wage occupations. Employers need ways to communicate to potential applicants what skills and abilities they require.

Relationship to Ecosystem

Credit interoperability is vital to a well-functioning learn-and-work ecosystem.  Without interoperability of credits, learners often spend more time and money than necessary to complete programs, and too many fail to reach their goals.

Alternative Terminology

Learner Record Interoperability


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