What if you could turn the hours you’ve spent running a unit Family Readiness Group into college credit for an introductory management 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 office, in the Department of Defense Military Community and Family Policy directorate, 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.

According to Lee McMahon, a SECO program analyst, LearningCounts is available to any spouse eligible for SECO programs. She said that DoD was looking for an education resource for spouses who didn’t qualify for MyCAA benefits, and connected with CAEL. LearningCounts 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, McMahon added.

The free program works two ways. There is an instructor led, 6-week on line course or a do-it-yourself on line tool. Either option allows military spouses the freedom to complete the work on their own time, at home, or on a lunch hour. McMahon explained that once connected with LearningCounts, spouses will work with CAEL experts to build a learning portfolio designed to translate their 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 said. Counselors can help spouses match their previous experience to a particular course subject offered at their school.

For example, if you have been the web master for a club or FRG, you may be able to have that work count as a basic computer course. If you have been handling publicity for an installation Red Cross office or other organization, those efforts could lead to credit for an equivalent writing or communications class. Serving as the treasurer for a scout troop, church or club may add three credits for foundational math or accounting to your transcript.

McMahon 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.

You can be a part of this exciting pilot program by contacting MilitaryOnceSource today. SECO is committed to ensuring LearningCounts works for military spouses and they got the DoD to agree to a two-year test period. So if you are in school or considering more education, why not call and start earning credits for your military life!

by Alice Swan

Alice SwanAlice Swan writes for Comprint Military Publications in Washington DC. As a proud military spouse of 32 years, military parent of three Brats and now two active duty Soldiers, she is always on the lookout for stories on programs and people making positive changes in the lives of service families.