What is Saylor Academy and what are its benefits?

What is Saylor Academy? Does it provide free or low cost college courses? How does it work? How is the quality of the course content? What are its pros and cons? These are some questions we will be answering here.

Overview of Saylor Academy

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. They curate content from the vast amount of learning content from reputed universities and colleges such as MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Carnegie Mellon and many more. Though Saylor began operations in 1999, most of the credit eligible and other courses have been available for students since 2008.

 These are courses with proctored assessments at the end along with a certificate of completion. Some courses offered by Saylor also carry ACE or NCCRS college credit recommendation, which a number of colleges across the US recognize for college credits.

ACE stands for American College on Education and NCCRS stands for National College Credit Recommendation Service. For a list of colleges that recognize ACE, take a look ACE Credit College & University Partnerships.

For a list of colleges that recognize NCCRS, take a look at Cooperating Colleges and Universities for NCCRS.

The list of Saylor courses that are recognized by ACE or NCCRS is available in the Current Recommendations page at Saylor. Before starting a new Saylor course, be sure to check this page as the information may change periodically.

Saylor Courses

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 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.

For more information, refer to the video from Saylor on the online proctoring service.

In case you are unable to use the online proctoring service, there is a way to request in-person proctoring by arranging proctoring of your test at a local library or college in your area.

This 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.

Transferring Saylor Credit

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.

The Saylor transcript can be requested here and the ACE transcript can be ordered here. In case of issues with the links, directly check the Direct Credits page at Saylor.

Typically, students are earning around 20 to 30 college level credits via Saylor towards their accredited US college degree.

Pros of Saylor

1) The cool thing about Saylor is that the courses are readily available for students to enroll in completely free of charge. For many students who are struggling to pay for college, Saylor is a real blessing and it helps students to save thousands of dollars on their education.

2) 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.

3) 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.

4) The courses are very simply designed for students to study independently and at their own pace. There are no tens of external resources to refer to and no distractions in an online community. It’s just plain textbook type online learning and assessment for a certificate of completion and/or college credits.

Cons of Saylor

1)The Saylor interface is somewhat rudimentary and there is almost negligible interaction with fellow students and very little community-like environment.

2) Though students can ask important overall course-related questions, there is no way to engage with tutors in ongoing subject-related questions.


There are many free learning sources all across the web such a MIT Open Courseware, Coursera, edX and so on. Harvard and Yale also provides a lot of free content for global access to students.

But there are three important things Saylor provides that are unique:

1) Saylor believes in re-using the vast content of the web and rather than duplicating any content, Saylor simply curates (or gathers and organizes) the content for easy access and learning for students.

2) No other online platform is able to provide such a large number of courses that award college credits with zero tuition.

3) The site is kept intentionally simple so all you energies are focused on learning the subject matter with negligible ramp up time for anyone who is new to Saylor.

If you are in college or considering college, or if anyone in your family or friends is looking for college courses, then Saylor is a good bet for fast learning and college credits.


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