Looking at the vast number of MOOC courses out there, I only wish they were available when I was a college student years ago! Since a lot of MOOC material is targeted towards college students and professionals, it would be nice to have at least some of this learning directly translate to college-level credits.
Most MOOC courses do NOT offer college credits, but these steps can increase your chances of earning college credits:
- Enroll in a college that has a liberal credit evaluation policy, then
- Signup to MOOC courses that are ACE/ NCCRS accredited, or
- Enroll into individual MOOC courses that are part of an online degree
MOOC courses have been widely popular since around 2010 and more students are signing up to them with each passing day. MOOCs are a huge advantage for college students to increase their knowledge and skills, along with a chance to earn college credits.
Are MOOC Courses Accredited?
Some MOOC courses are accredited, whereas a vast majority of MOOC courses are not accredited. The non-accredited MOOC courses can still be evaluated for college credits if the college is able to evaluate non-accredited learning via a portfolio or prior-learning assessment.
You can DIRECTLY earn college credits via a FREE credit transfer for ACE/ NCCRS accredited MOOC courses, and for MOOC courses that are part of an online degree program. But for all other MOOC courses, there are additional STEPS and a low, per-credit COST in evaluating them for credits via a portfolio/ prior-learning assessment.
Here are further details on ways you can earn college credits for MOOC courses:
- Signup for MOOC courses that are ACE or NCCRS accredited
ACE stands for American Council on Education and NCCRS stands for National College Credit Recommendation Service. ACE makes course credit recommendations that are recognized by many US colleges for college-level credits
- MOOC courses that are part of college degree programs often have online certificate courses. These can more readily earn you college credits since they are already part of their degree curriculum. Eg:- Udacity’s Software Testing program
- For greater chances of credits, obtain the final course completion certificate by paying a small fee, taking the final tests, and by submitting any required assignments to the course tutors
- Before starting the MOOC course, check with your college on whether they accept ACE-accredited or other MOOC degree courses for credits transfer. You can alternately enroll into colleges which more readily provide this option
Ultimately, the final say on whether an MOOC course can earn you college credits rests with the college you are enrolled in/ plan to enroll into. Therefore, it’s best to enroll into a college that has liberal credits transfer and prior-learning evaluation policies
Even when MOOC courses are not ACE or NCCRS accredited, and are not part of a degree program, there are ways to get them evaluated for college-equivalent credits.
Here are some ways to get non-credit MOOC courses evaluated for college-equivalent credits:
- Choose a college or degree program that provides a prior-learning assessment or a portfolio assessment service. This service is used to evaluate learning that is not directly credit-eligible but which has the required learning or course content that meets the curriculum requirements of a college-level course
- For a list of colleges that provide a portfolio/prior-learning assessment, please refer to my post on Top 25 Cheapest Online Colleges for Bachelor Degrees
- For your degree program, find out the detailed course curriculum requirements. In case of any doubt, check with your college student counselor or ask the student office for a brochure detailing your degree course requirements
- Next, find MOOC courses that satisfy the curriculum requirements of your chosen college degree program. Be sure to pay the fee and write the final test so as to obtain a course completion certificate for each of your MOOC courses
- Once you have completed a list of MOOC courses for your degree program, signup for the prior-learning assessment at your chosen college. There might also be a fixed or per-credit evaluation fee for your portfolio/ prior-learning assessment
- Portfolio assessments can take multiple weeks or even months to complete. So be sure to ask for updates and provide any additional information required by the assessment evaluator
Note that many colleges award a Pass/fail and NO letter grade for courses that are part of a prior-learning assessment. So its best to clarify this with your student office on whether a letter grade or percentage score is possible.
If it will be only a Pass/fail, you can plan on improving your score or grades in other non-MOOC college-level courses you complete
Coursera for College Credits
Coursera is among the earliest and largest of MOOC platforms. Most courses on Coursera would require a special evaluation for obtaining college credits at select colleges. However, some of their certificate courses that are part of a degree program may DIRECTLY translate to college credits via a FREE credits transfer.
Coursera hosts college-level and skills-based courses from some of the world’s most reputed universities. Sometime in 2013, Coursera received ACE-accreditation for 5 of its courses. But since then, the site has moved away from this model of offering individually-accredited college-level courses.
Since college education tends to usually be expensive, Coursera has instead begun offering online courses in the form of an online college degree. There are also other courses on Coursera that are not part of a degree program but which are simply targeted towards improving the knowledge and skills of students and working professionals.
Here are the main types of courses/ programs offered by Coursera:
- Individual beginner-friendly courses
- Certificate courses that combine one or more courses
- A Key Specialization such as for example, Career Brand Management
- Online College Degree Programs at the Masters level and some at the Undergraduate Bachelors degree level
Since earning college credits for MOOC courses is no longer possible with Coursera, your best option would be to take certificate courses and then enroll in a college that can evaluate them via a prior-learning/ portfolio assessment for college-equivalent credits. These colleges typically charge a per-credit evaluation fee for this assessment.
edX MOOC for Credits
In addition to a MicroMasters program, edX has a special collaboration with Charter Oak State college which provides students the option to apply for college credits for all of edX’s certificate courses. Once awarded, these college credits can be transferred via free credits transfer at many colleges.
To be eligible for these credits, the courses should be certificate courses. There is a $100 per credit fee charged by edX for this assessment and the credit evaluation and transcript will be from Charter Oak State college. Charter Oak is an accredited public college in the State of Connecticut.
edX’s MicroMasters program details are as follows:
- The courses in this program are credit eligible and the whole program is equivalent to about a quarter of a Masters degree at a top university
- Each program has a corporate sponsor such as IBM, Microsoft, Boeing and many more. Therefore, it is suitable for both earning masters-level college credits and also as a professional qualification for career advancement
- The cost of the program varies across programs but on average is around $1000
Udacity Course Credits
Udacity’s courses cannot be used for directly earning college credits since most of their courses are provided by industry professionals and not by colleges or universities. However, many of their courses are developed in collaboration with leading organizations and these may be more suitable for a special portfolio/prior-learning assessment for credits.
Udacity’s courses are not educationally accredited by ACE or any other educational body. The courses seem much more geared towards developing skills and in providing better career opportunities.
Developed in collaboration with top organizations such as Google, AT&T and many more, the courses help students to highlight their professional credentials. It might be possible to earn college credits if you get your Udacity course/ transcripts evaluated through a portfolio assessment at a suitable college.
Udacity has individual courses and a Nanodegree program where students spend about $400 per month for a period of 6 to 12 months. Therefore it is definitely on the more expensive side of most online MOOC courses.
FutureLearn for College Learning
Most FutureLearn courses are provided by UK-based, European or Asian universities and would require a foreign credential evaluation for obtaining college credits in the US. Any FutureLearn courses that are part of the college degree curriculum at the partner institution can easily earn you college credits.
FutureLearn supports three types of learning namely, short courses, micro-credentials and online college degrees.
More information on the FutureLearn platform and their costs can be found in our post titled FutureLearn Review – Is It Worth It?
Saylor Academy: The Credit-based MOOC
Saylor Academy is an online non-profit course provider with about 100 accredited college level courses. The courses are completely free to take but there is a small fee for online proctoring of the final exam for each course.
Saylor is the only MOOC platform that provides accredited college-level courses that can be directly transferred to US colleges for college credit.
The courses are accredited by ACE or NCCRS. More information on Saylor Academy’s benefits and course credit recommendations can be found here.
MOOC for College: Final Thoughts
Of all the MOOCs, Saylor and edX’s credit-eligible courses are likely the best options for college-level courses that you can earn college credits for. In many of the degree-completion colleges which we’ve highlighted, these courses can directly get you college credits free of charge.
FutureLearn is the next best option since the courses are accredited, but this would require a one-time fee for a foreign credential evaluation in the US.
Though the Coursera courses are not accredited for credits, the fact that these courses are conducted by top-notch universities makes Coursera a good option for earning credits with a prior-learning evaluation.
Udacity seems more suitable for developing professional skills and career growth but still has some possibility of a portfolio evaluation for college credits. Udacity’s courses could take longer to evaluate and both Coursera and Udacity would involve additional expenses for a portfolio evaluation.