[blog_update customblogupdate=”Visit https://www.saylor.org/degrees/ for the latest on this program — since 2014 (when we wrote this post), we have been able to bring the cost down even more.”]
I’m sure it seems that every time I step in for Sean to pen a blog post, I sling the idea of college credit for one of our free courses. For many of our students who are primarily interested in lifelong learning (and we love them!), credit opportunities may not feel relevant.

But many within the Saylor community do not yet hold a degree, while many more who are seeking degrees have not yet heard about Saylor.org. With these students in mind, I am very excited to share news of the Open Course Option, an entire Associates Degree program that utilizes the free courseware available on Saylor.org.

What is the Open Course Option?

For the past six months of so, our team here has been working with our friends at Thomas Edison State College to sequence a full program that recognizes non-traditional learning as a valid means towards an Associates of Science in Business Administration degree. You can see all of the juicy details here, but I’ll provide some of the highlights now:

  • 19 of the 20 degree requirements are matched with at least one Saylor.org course option (one degree requirement must be fulfilled with a TESC course);
  • All potential courses have been reviewed and approved by Thomas Edison Subject Matter Experts (SME’s);
  • The program is self-paced and courses can be taken in any order (though we have mapped out efficient pathways);
  • All Saylor.org courses and resources used towards the degree will continue to be free — the only costs to a student are paid to Thomas Edison or others, and are related to enrollment or assessment fees;
  • All courses, including TESC’s PLA100/200, can be taken fully online;
  • US and International students are eligible;
  • Successful completion of requirements will result in an accredited degree for a fraction of the normal price.

It should also be noted that students do not have to pursue an ASBA degree to benefit from Saylor’s open courses. All of the courses that could be used in the 2-yr degree could be applied towards completion of a 4-yr degree as well, depending on that degree’s requirements. Read more about the general Open Course Option here.

Why Should You Care?

Probably for the same reasons the Ragin’ Cajun would have in 1992 — it is time to start embracing innovative changes that address the economic realities of higher education in its current state. The innovation here is that a school which for 40 years has recognized informal learning for credit, has now gone even further and crafted a full degree around it. Whats more, the material can be learned for free, anytime, anywhere (our contribution). The result is that a student who may otherwise take a more traditional route to a Thomas Edison Associates Degree could save around $8,000 using this flexible Open Course Option. If only 125 new students choose this path (though we are hoping for more), it could equate to a savings of $1,000,000.

The possibilities, however, are far greater than that. Other schools can replicate this model for affordable full degrees, especially those that already have experience in assessing prior learning. Or perhaps traditional schools can adopt a PLA approach to their online programs for hybrid students. Say, for instance, that instead of charging regular tuition for an online course, more institutions followed the example of Thomas Edison and allowed students to take vetted and reviewed online courses offered by others for free, only having to pay the school for assessment. Using Phil Hill’s analysis of the recently released IPEDS data, even if those 2 million public sector students who took some online courses in 2012 were allowed to take only 1 available free online course instead, it could still result in student savings of over $1,000,000,000 (yeah, that’s “billion”).

I’ll let you do the math on what that number could be, if one course turned into 20…or 40.

Read More:

Open Course Option for ASBA (Saylor Academy)
Open Course Option (Thomas Edison State College)

We’ve also put together a sample pathway through this degree program, which you can view below:

Open Course Option ASBA

photo credit: dreamsjung via photopin cc