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Groups Team Up to Turn Free Online Courses Into Cheap College Credit

The Saylor Foundation has been building an online catalog of free, self-paced college courses since 2010. But students who completed those courses could not typically earn credit toward a degree, since the nonprofit group is not an accredited institution. Saylor’s new partnership with the online course-provider StraighterLine seeks to change that, giving students an inexpensive way to earn academic credit using freely available materials.

The collaboration, announced today, will give students two different ways to save money when pursuing academic credit. Beginning in the fall, students can study free courses on Saylor.org and then enroll at StraighterLine to take an exam. After passing, they will receive American Council on Education recommended credit.  Students could also enroll in a StraighterLine program, using Saylor’s free course materials as they go along.

Alana Harrington, director of the Saylor Foundation, said her group’s repository of free online courses won’t go anywhere, and will still grant certificates of completion. But the partnership with StraighterLine will give students a way to get credit for low-cost online courses that’s more meaningful than a certificate.

“We understand the fact that to some students, the pure acquisition of knowledge or the certificate proving their competency isn’t enough,” she said. “Credit is a form of currency today.” The two groups have not yet decided which Saylor courses students can take for credit through the new program.

StraighterLine and the Saylor Foundation will also team up with George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College to offer students an easier method of transferring credits between the institutions.

[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by Tax Credits]

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