It's not OER but Texas State Promotes Free MOOC 1st year of study

The OERu is not alone in progressing the concept of a free 1st year of study

Via Rory McGreal:

The Texas State University System announced a “Freshman Year for Free” program in which students could earn a full year of credit through massive open online courses offered by edX and coordinated by a new nonprofit called the Modern States Education Alliance. The only costs to students would be either Advanced Placement or College Level Examination Program tests, which would be passed after completing various MOOCs. Appropriate scores would be required on the tests to receive credit from Texas State campuses.

While there will be no tuition fees, it will be interesting to see what it costs students to be examined.


Agreed, the cost of assessment for advanced placement is something I will be watching with keen interest. That said, CLEP examinations, which are mentioned in the announcement, are not too expensive. I believe they cost around $80. I also wonder what “appropriate scores” are required in order to receive credit from Texas State?

We should also keep track of how virtual mobility and credit transfer will work in this scenario.

This is really a Modern States initiative, not far off from what we are doing (and my own institution has been trying to do as well): they are using MOOCs offered via EdX that they have identified as aligning with certain CLEP and AP program exams to grant credit. Students complete a particular MOOC, then upon completion, they take an exam that would award them credit upon successful completion.

Texas State is promoting this opportunity, but other institutions are partnered with Modern States as well. Arizona State University has a similar arrangment with EdX to accept certain MOOCs (in which students’ identities have been verified, and their exams completed in the presence of a proctoring service) for credit–this is called the Global Freshman Academy (link here).

To be honest, this sort of option is already available to enterprising students in the US: Saylor Academy courses carry credit upon completion of a proctored assessment, and in fact, my institution has developed an associate’s (2-year) degree that can be completed using Saylor and a couple of other free or very low-cost online resources, including the one Unisa course we adopted via OERu. What has been lacking is the packaging and promotion of these options.

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Hi Marc

Thanks @Marcsinger1, appreciate the update and your insights.

The fact that our courses are assembled from OER is a key point of difference when compared to the EdX MOOC offerings but this is not the case when compared to the Saylor courses which are published as OER. However, you do highlight the need for OERu to do a better job of packaging and promotion of our options.

I do think the OERu network has something unique to offer as an international network of “like-minded” institutions (eg internationalisation and virtual mobility / credit transfer solutions) and assembling courses using more robust and innovative pedagogies (including the potential to design courses for reuse and offer these as “open boundary” courses with free OERu learners studying in parallel will full-fee registered students.)

Of interest, the Curriculum and Programme of Study working group is in the process of drafting a programme specification for the OERu 1st year of study in preparation for the October meetings. (This initiative builds on the concept of a 1st year general education component we discussed at the November 2014 partner meetings - note that the green rows indicated OERu courses under development or completed which can contribute to the 1st year of study.)

I think its important for OERu to prioritise a programme of study which leads to one or more exit credentials rather than a smorgasbord of nominations that don’t seem to lead anywhere at this stage of development. Do you have a link to the associates degree you mention in your post? The OERu should aim to assemble and reuse courses in our 1st year of study which aligns with your associate degree.

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Wayne–Here is the link to our associate’s degree, which is in Business Administration: Open ASBA. We call it the Open Course Option, though it is not entirely open yet. We have identified a couple of additional courses that we will be able to add shortly, including an Open version of our Public Speaking course (we are considering a couple of options for the required speech component of the course–either peer assessment or having a staff member provide some guidance to students).

Because it is a business degree, it may not suit the goals of OERu. We designed this in part because we had already developed a number of business-focused TECEP exams, and because Saylor seemed to have many of the right courses on their end. But it is still in progress, and we hope to create other degree pathways using as much OER as possible. So far, about 500 students have taken Saylor courses with an eye toward earning a degree from us, though only about 75 have actually enrolled at Thomas Edison State College (which they know not to do until they have completed as much of the Saylor courses as possible, so that they can save on the annual fee we would charge them).

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Thanks Marc,

That’s extremely useful and the curriculum and programme of study working group need to look at this closely when assembling options for the OERu 1st year of study.

While the TESC open course option is a Business Administration degree, there are potential areas of overlap - for example:

  1. In theory, all the courses for the Business Administration degree should be able to transfer for a Bachelor of General studies should a learner wish to pursue this learning pathway.
  2. The OERu 1st year of study envisages a number of courses in the Business and information communication technologies area.

I see this initiative by Texas State as really quite significant and a possible forerunner to many other competing options in the so called ‘free’ and ‘open education’ space. As Marc indicates his own institution has been moving in this direction for some time and I note that the concluding paragraph about the Texas State Free Freshman Year names quite an impressive list of other systems and institutions aligned with this movement.
Yes, it does emphasise the need for OERu to prioritise the development and offering of a first year program. I agree Wayne that the international collaboration of OERu and potential credit transfer is a point of difference. Even so, we could see the sort of Free Freshman Year now on offer at Texas State become a model adopted by institutions in our own national systems. Australia appears to be trailing the US in this regard but it wouldn’t take much for a brave institution to trigger an avalanche in this direction.

For most CLEP tests, one must have a scaled score of 50 to take credit. The formula to derive that from one’s raw score is designed such that to pass one must do as well as a typical university first year student who scored a C on the final exam. This is not particularly difficult: eleven years ago when I went back to school to finish my first degree I made liberal use of CLEP tests, they got me out of a year’s worth of study.

2 posts were split to a new topic: General forum

Thanks for providing certain links. You were indeed a great help. Thanks and keep in touch.