Saylor Academy offers free online courses in a variety of subjects such as English, Mathematics, Social Sciences, Business Administration and much more.
Many of Saylor Academy’s free online certificate courses are eligible for college credits, via ACE or NCCRS accreditation, and through their college partner programs. Though all the courses are completely free to take, there is a small fee for the online test proctoring and certificate.
Though the Saylor courses are free, this free comes at a price and some students find Saylor courses to be much harder to complete than courses at other MOOCs or paid college course providers.
Saylor Academy Courses
Saylor Academy was started in Washington D.C by Michael Saylor in 1999 as a non-profit organization to provide affordable college education with open access to all students across the world.
Saylor curates or gathers content from the vast amount of learning resources from reputed universities and colleges such as MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Carnegie Mellon and many more.
Saylor: Subjects Covered
The largest number of Saylor courses belong to the business & management, and professional development subject areas. There are also several courses in STEM, and also in social sciences & history. Apart from a handful of courses in economics, there are not much courses in finance or in the humanities, languages and so on.
There are also some english and english as a second language courses and a few courses on study skills and college success. Creative arts and psychology courses are largely missing except perhaps a single introductory course each.
As for technology, there are courses on computer science & technology of which there are a 11 foundational type courses on computer architecture, data structures and so on. This listing of courses is likely to expand and change over time.
Saylor Course Outline
Saylor courses usually require a lot of learning in the form of articles, videos and quizzes to be completed. For each unit, a detailed course syllabus is provided, along with an approximate number of hours it will take to complete the unit. Instead of the articles, some courses refer to free textbooks that are provided with the course.
There is a study guide toward the end of the course that goes over all the key topics before the exams.
Since late 2014, Saylor students have been able to participate in a discussions forum upon registering with Saylor. This provides opportunities to collaborate with other students and to get additional help from the Saylor education coordinators.
Saylor Course Experience
Each course moves progressively from introductory concepts to more advanced topics on the subject. There are small tests around the end of each chapter just for testing your understanding. These chapter tests are not graded. You can take a course entirely on your own schedule and there are no strict deadlines to adhere to.
If you have questions, you can ask questions in the forum which has links towards the right of the courses screen. These questions are visible to other students and Saylor staff who will address any questions you ask of them.
Once you have completed studying the course content, there are two testing options:
1. Take the test for a Free Certificate. This is a timed online test which will be graded and you will be given a free digital certificate of completion upon earning 70% or more on this test. This certificate is automatically available for download as soon as you successfully complete the test.
2. Take the proctored test by paying $25. This option is only available for courses that carry ACE or NCCRS college credits recommendation.
Proctoring Saylor Exams
For the courses that are eligible for college credits recommendation, students can take a proctored test. By default, all students are eligible for online proctoring with a service called Proctor U.
To get ready for the test, choose a separate room with a desk and have a single laptop or desktop computer for the test. Remove all distractions or other books or electronic devices from the room.
The test will require the Chrome or Firefox browser, along with a ProctorU browser extension. Currently only Windows and Mac OS systems are permitted for ProctorU. Linux OS or mobile devices or chromebooks are not permitted for taking the ProctorU Saylor tests.
For more information, refer to the video from Saylor on the online proctoring service. Also check out this article on Getting Started with ProctorU. Here are the detailed equipment requirements. You can also test your equipment much ahead of your test to ensure everything goes smoothly on test day.
In case you are unable to use the online proctoring service for any reason, there is a way to request in-person proctoring by arranging proctoring of your test at a local library or college in your area.
But please note that online proctoring is the simplest way to take your tests with ProctorU.
The in-person proctoring service option requires further approval from Saylor. Once you refer your in-person proctor to Saylor, he or she will further communicate with Saylor and get the approval. For more information, refer to the In-Person Proctoring page at Saylor.
Saylor Courses: College Credits Transfer
For the credit recommended courses, there are 2 transcripts available. The Saylor Academy transcript is free of charge once you take the proctored test. This transcript might be sufficient for NCCRS recommended credits. It is sent by regular mail and might take a bit longer to reach you.
The ACE transcript is available for the ACE-recommended courses and this requires a fee of about $20 for first registration and a transcript fee for every other ACE transcript request. This is a digital transcript received from ACE.
It is always preferable to submit the ACE transcript to your college for ACE-credit eligible courses. This is best for faster acceptance of your Saylor course credits for credits transfer into your degree program at your college.
Benefits of Saylor Courses
1) The cool thing about Saylor is that the course lessons are completely free of charge.
2) Many of the Saylor courses are accredited and can therefore earn students college credits. For many students who are struggling to pay for college, Saylor is a real blessing and it helps save students thousands of dollars on their education.
3) The courses are of high quality and Saylor hires experienced professors to prepare and organize the course material and assessments. Subsequently, the courses and assessments are peer-reviewed by a team of educational consultants for completeness and further improvements.
4) International students are also able to study with the online courses at Saylor for career skills development. Some international students are also able to take the Saylor direct credit courses for earning college credits towards a US college degree. For example, here is a student from India who completed 18 college credits at Saylor for Earning a US College Degree from India.
5) The courses are very simply designed for students to study independently and at their own pace. There is no need for multiple external resources and no distractions from a loud online community. It’s just plain textbook and videos type online learning and assessment for a certificate of completion and/or college credits.
Drawbacks of Saylor Courses
1) Some of the Saylor courses are very long and therefore take students very long (a few months) to complete. This is not the case with all the courses though. So be sure to check the syllabus and study materials required thoroughly before starting each course.
2) There are occasionally some broken links or references in some of the Saylor lessons such as in Environmental Ethics. This is likely because the educational content is created elsewhere and Saylor simply organizes the content into a series of lessons.
3) Since Saylor courses cover a lot of information, it can be very difficult to go back and reference all the material before the tests. The best way to overcome this issue is by constant note-taking while learning from the Saylor lessons.
4) The Saylor interface is somewhat rudimentary and there is almost negligible interaction with fellow students and very little community-like environment.
5) Though students can ask important overall course-related questions, there is no way to engage with tutors in ongoing subject-related questions.
Saylor Courses: Is It Worth It?
Typically, students are earning around 20 to 30 college level credits via Saylor towards their accredited US college degree. As a free option, Saylor certainly rises to the top.
There is no other single provider that is able to deliver quality online courses for zero cost, with an option for US college credits.
But when compared to other paid online course providers such as Sophia or Study.com, Saylor definitely has room for improvement so as to be more beginner friendly and easy to use.
Though student interaction is somewhat supported with a discussion forum, it would help to have more built-in communication features as students progress through the courses. This would also give students an opportunity to collaborate and do group study so as to further solidify their understanding of the subject matter.
A more user friendly Saylor learning platform will surely bring in millions of additional students who are missing out on this amazing opportunity of free, online US college courses and more.