Try before you buy? University offers free, credit-counting online courses

Instead of attending open days and submitting applications to prove your worth, how about turning the tables and trying out a university before committing?
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

All students have been through it.

The brochures, the open days where we are carted around by former freshers, and the decisions concerning whether to place ourselves in debt or spend the parents' hard-won cash for several years. Universities try to make themselves as attractive as possible; in the same way that top-notch hotels hate having empty beds, educational institutions need as many students as possible to stay profitable--or in many cases, to try and claw their way out of debt.

However, the only warning we have about educational standards comes from league tables or the references of past students, who often simply impart helpful tips about how to stop the smoke alarm in the dorm going off or where to hide your hot plate to avoid confiscation.

Surely for those students not simply looking to avoid work for a few more years and who are instead actually interested in how they are taught, there's a way to give them a sample--without costing the university a fortune?

(Credit: MOOC2Degree)

It appears so. Forty universities in the US, including the University of Cincinnati, Arizona State, and the University of Texas, have begun offering prospective students such a taste--through an online module that, not only is free, but can count as credit.

As reported by the New York Times, students considering these universities are now able to sign up, with Academic Partnerships, to take the first course on a degree program for free--and in their own time.

If you decide you like the course, then you have the option to go ahead and join the university, pay your fees, and have the online course count as credit towards your qualification.

Prospective students do have to wait until spring to sign up for this "freemium" education project, but offering an introductory course in such a way may save students from dedicating both themselves and their finances to a course that isn't actually their cup of tea. Not only this, but it could be another way to entice additional students into further education--a much-needed boost to revenue streams of struggling universities.

Editorial standards