How To Get College Credit For Online Learning

education gradesWe spent a lot of time this past fall looking at how MOOCs are starting to change the landscape of education. While the MOOC supporters out there tout the fabulousness of free access to awesome class material, there has been a lot of discussion as to how the distance-based, free MOOC model might be amended to offer university-level course credit to interested students.

The MOOCs

We mentioned awhile back that that Colorado State University’s Global Campus was the first US based institution to offer course credit for a MOOC offered through Udacity, and that edX was partnering with Pearson to offer in person exams for some of their MOOCs (not required for the course, but available if a student is interested).

And now we’re hearing that more and more students are using services to get college credit for online learning. They’re taking a course or two and then taking the officially-sanctioned tests (like CLEP and DSST) to get course credit.

The CLEP

gretestThe College Level Examination Program (CLEP), which is offered by The College Board (you know, the people behind the SAT, PSAT, and AP exams), is basically a program offering examinations in certain subject areas, which are designed to measure a student’s understanding of the material for granting college credit. For more advanced high school students, these exams could help them earn credit at their college and skip right to some of the more advanced classes. About 2,900 institutions are currently offering credit for CLEP exams.

Since the tests are only $80 (plus a small fee from the testing center), these exams are an extremely cheap way for some students to take a free course like a MOOC, and apply the knowledge for credit. There are a few other options on the horizon, too. Straighterline is an online course platform (includes testing) designed to offer transfer credits, and it looks like the Saylor Foundation is partnering with Excelsior College to bring online course takers testing and credit options.

The DSST

typing in schoolYou can also take a DANTES Subject Standardized Test (DSST) which are credit-by-exam tests designed for the Department of Defense’s DANTES program (Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support). These exams are accepted at over 2,000 colleges and universities, and despite their origins in the Department of Defense, are available to civilians for a fee. DSST test offer the additional plus of offering credit for more advanced level work (compared with the CLEP which is designed for mainly beginner level courses).

We haven’t seen a lot of this in practice, admittedly, so it isn’t clear right now how easy or hard it is to transfer credit, especially at institutions that don’t already offer transfer credit for things like the CLEP and DSST. We’re curious to see if more universities jump on the bandwagon and offer transfer credit in the future, and what services and companies will become the most used!