Class Central is not aware of any programs that allow learners to earn credit or an online degree for free. However, in some scenarios it is possible to earn academic credit through MOOCs.
There are now many online master’s degrees delivered through MOOC platforms. In this scenario, the only people who are eligible to earn credit are enrolled students who have gone through an application process and are paying tuition to the university. This is what we call credit for enrolled students. In other words, you can access the course materials for free, but will not receive official credit unless you follow normal admission procedures and pay tuition.
If you are enrolled in a degree program, it may be possible to earn credit towards your degree by taking MOOCs from other universities. We call this transfer credit. One example is TU Delft’s Virtual Exchange Program, which allows enrolled students to take MOOCs from other universities for academic credit. If you are enrolled or plan to enroll at an academic institution, you might wish to contact the administrative staff of your academic institution to find out if any programs allow enrolled students to earn credit through MOOCs.
Some programs exist that allow learners to convert their MOOC learning into credit, provided they enroll in certain programs at certain universities. Examples include The ASU & edX Global Freshman Academy and edX MicroMasters programs. As with credit for enrolled students, these programs require an application process and pay tuition. The main difference is, learners may be able to go through the admissions process after completing their coursework. Learners generally need to pay for their courses and earn verified certificates if they want the option of converting their coursework to academic credit.
You may also like to read the Beginner’s Guide to US Accreditations, European MOOC Platforms Plan New Generation of Microcredentials, and FutureLearn Announces Microcredentials under the Common Microcredential Framework.