Many learners are curious to know whether MOOCs will allow them to earn academic credit towards a degree. At the present time, Class Central is not aware of any programs that allow learners to earn credit or an online degree for free. However, there are some scenarios in which it is possible to earn academic credit through MOOCs.
At Class Central, we define four types of academic credit that could be conferred through MOOCs. These include: credit for enrolled students, transfer credit, conditional credit, and standalone credit.
There are now many online master’s degrees that are delivered through MOOC platforms. Many times the very same courses that enrolled students take are also available to the general public. We list these degrees in our article 35+ Legit Master’s Degrees You Can Now Earn Completely Online. 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 there are programs that 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. We call this conditional credit. Examples include The ASU & edX Global Freshman Academy and all edX MicroMasters programs. As with credit for enrolled students, these programs do require that learners ultimately go through an application process and pay tuition. The main difference is that with conditional credit, learners may be able to go through the admissions process after completing their coursework. However, it is important to note that in most cases, learners do need to pay for their courses and earn verified certificates if they want to have the option of converting their coursework to academic credit.
Most of the time when people ask us about earning academic credit through MOOCs they are talking about what we call standalone credit, the idea being that learners could earn credit from MOOC coursework without being enrolled in any university. They could then use this credit towards any degree program that would accept it. Unfortunately, we are not aware of any universities or MOOC platforms that grant this kind of standalone credit for MOOCs.
You may also like to read the Beginner’s Guide to US Accreditations.