At the Saylor Foundation, we’re excited to provide hundreds of college-level courses that are freely available for anyone with an Internet connection. We aim to provide the high quality resources for individuals that face barriers to acquiring an education in a traditional sense – and because we work with professors to build out courses, students can gain the same level of knowledge available at traditional institutions. For students that study a course and pass the final assessment, we currently provide a certificate of completion so that students have something to show for their great efforts.

On occasion, we get queries that say: “Hey, these courses are great. Is there any way I can get some college credit for the work that I’ve done?” Because is not an accredited institution, we are unable to directly provide college credit and diplomas – however, thanks to a group of educational institutions, students studying from some Open Educational Resources (OERs) will soon have the opportunity to gain official college credit for only a fraction of the cost of a traditional college credit.

Here’s the scoop

OER University (often referred to as “OERu”) is a “virtual collaboration of like-minded institutions committed to creating flexible pathways for OER learners to gain formal academic credit.” According to OERu’s planning site, the process a student would encounter with OERu is as follows:

  • He or she would first access courses based solely on OER.
  • Throughout his or her studies, the student can receive support via the “academic volunteers international”.
  • Once complete with the course, the individual can go to a participating institution to take an open assessment (for a fee).
  • Upon passing that assessment, the participating institution will grant college credit.
  • In the end, the student will be awarded with a credible degree or credential.

By providing college credit for studies done using OERs and only charging students a fee for assessments, the folks behind OERu hope to offer degrees for up to 90% less than what students might pay at a traditional institution.

This initiative is very much a global force, with founding OERu anchor partners (click here for a complete list) – accredited institutions – located in Africa, Asia, Oceania, and North America. According to a recent Creative Commons blog post that covered OERu’s recent progress, these anchor partners have shortlisted eight college-level courses to be developed as prototypes for refining the OERu delivery system:

  • College Composition
  • Art Appreciation and Techniques
  • Regional relations in Asia and the Pacific
  • A Mathematical Journey
  • General and Applied Psychology
  • Critical Reasoning
  • Why Sustainable Practice
  • Introduction to Management

These prototype courses are slated to start beginning with the Fall 2012 term.

What does this mean for students? 

This means that accredited institutions are considering accepting freely available courses like those on in lieu of the traditional classroom time that lends to high tuition costs in consideration for college credit. For example, in the list above, Thompson Rivers University will be preparing the Art Appreciation and Techniques course based off of’s ARTH101B.  We applaud all individuals behind this great initiative, and we hope that this is the first of many courses – and courses from like-minded organizations – that will be recognized for college credit.

We’ll be sure to keep you posted as OERu continues to develop. In the meantime, you can keep tabs on the group’s progress at WikiEducator.