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Most students are aware of Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school that offer college level placement and course credit. AP courses are a great way to get a head start on college credit while saving money on tuition at the same time. But did you know that there are similar options even if you’ve left high school behind? With massive open online courses (MOOCs) and credit by exam, it’s entirely possible to earn college credit online without paying tuition.
If you need to brush up on what MOOCs are (and some of their pros and cons), we’ve got you covered.
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Through the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), students are able to receive college credit for knowledge earned outside of the traditional college classroom. Similar to CLEP are DSST programs, credit-by-exam tests that originated with the Department of Defense. DSST tests offer college credit, often at more advanced levels than CLEP tests. The availability of these two programs allows students to use work experience, independent learning and even MOOCs to get a head start on college credit.
MOOCs offer students the opportunity to study with the world’s best universities online for the incredibly low price of free. With complete sets of lectures, course materials and worldwide classroom discussions, MOOCs provide the resources for students to learn as much as they would in a university’s physical lecture halls. Though MOOCs typically offer completion certificates for students who have kept up with the class, options for MOOC-based college credit are limited. But there is another option: students who have completed the work and genuinely learned from MOOCs can earn credit for introductory and even advanced-level courses by taking CLEP and DSST exams.
While taking a MOOC-to-placement exam approach isn’t likely to save you time, it is certainly an opportunity to save money and make your online college experience more affordable. The College Board has found that students who earn 15 prior learning credits typically save between $1,600 to $6,000 in tuition and fees. Compare that to CLEP and DSST exams, both of which are usually available for $80 each.
Nearly 3,000 educational institutions accept CLEP and DSST credits, including many online colleges and universities.
Earning credit by exam with MOOCs is a valid educational option for independent learners, but how exactly can you go about putting it all together? When used in conjunction with textbooks and learning resources recommended by CLEP and DSST, MOOCs become a powerful tool for mastery of a subject. A surprising number of CLEP and DSST exams have corresponding MOOC courses, and we suggest exploring the following exam and MOOC pairings:
Business and Finance Credit By Exam MOOCs
- Financial Accounting (CLEP): CLEP’s Financial Accounting exam calls for a knowledge of accounting concepts and terminology, as well as the ability to use and analyze accounting data. Learn all this and more with An Introduction to Financial Accounting. provided by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. The course is designed to enhance students’ fluency in financial accounting, including analysis and informed financial decision making.
- Introduction to Business (DSST): A broad understanding of business is required for this exam, which includes economic issues, business ownership, financial management and marketing. Foundations of Business Strategy from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business offers instruction in many of these concepts, as it teaches students how to analyze organizational strategy.
- Money and Banking (DSST): Money and Banking requires knowledge of monetary systems and policies, banks and economic concepts, all of which can be acquired in Economics of Money and Banking, offered by Columbia University’s Barnard College. This course series delves into payment systems, money markets and connections with foreign exchange and capital markets.
- Organizational Behavior (DSST): You will need to understand the science and analysis of organizational behavior to master this DSST exam, and you can get started with Stanford University’s Organizational Analysis course. This course offers an introduction to the theories of organizational behavior, and the opportunity to apply them to cases of organizational change.
- Personal Finance (DSST): DSST’s Personal Finance exam will test you on the basics of responsible financial management, including credit and debt, taxes, investments and insurance. Many of these concepts can be explored in the University of Michigan’s Introduction to Finance, a course that introduces asset management and financial decision-making on both a corporate and personal level.
- Principles of Finance: This exam requires an understanding of finance, from time value of money and financial planning to valuation, risk and return. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business offers the best course for this exam, An Introduction to Corporate Finance, which covers value techniques, financial decisions, capital budgeting and more. The University of Michigan’s Introduction to Finance is also a useful course for this exam, as is Columbia University’s Financial Engineering and Risk Management.
- Principles of Financial Accounting: Financial statements, liabilities, accounting cycles and other important accounting concepts are tested in this exam. Master them with the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business course, An Introduction to Financial Accounting, which offers an understanding of the essential principles and applications of corporate financial accounting.
- Principles of Management (CLEP) and Principles of Supervision (DSST): To master CLEP and DSST’s management and supervision exams, you’ll need to understand the essentials of management and organization. With IE Business School’s Critical Perspectives on Management, you can develop knowledge in the key concepts of management practice, as well as imagination and lateral thinking. Case Western Reserve University’s Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence is also useful, offering resources for building strong leadership relationships.
Humanities Credit by Exam MOOCs
- College Composition (CLEP), and College Composition Modular (CLEP): These two introductory composition exams from CLEP test a student’s familiarity with writing principles, research and reference skills. Mt. San Jacinto College’s Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade Coursera offering makes it possible to will learn the basic tools of writing for a great foundation in the writing principles needed to pass CLEP’s composition exams.
- Ethics in America (DSST): DSST’s Ethics in America exam requires an understanding of ethical traditions and analysis, as well as practical application of ethical concepts in contemporary issues and relationships. Harvard University’s Justice and Yale University’s Moralities of Everyday Life provide a perfect pairing with this exam, examining ethics and justice as they relate to today’s hot-button issues.
- Foundations of Education (DSST): You’ll need to demonstrate an understanding of issues and influences in education to pass this exam. With the eight-part Foundations of Teaching for Learning series from the Commonwealth Education Trust, budding educators can expand their knowledge of teaching for mastery of the exam and beyond.
- Principles of Public Speaking (DSST): This exam covers the fundamentals of public speaking, including a persuasive speech component that will be scored. Develop your public speaking skills with the University of Washington’s Introduction to Public Speaking, a course that studies the principles of public speaking and offers opportunities for interactive practice. You can further hone your persuasive speaking skills with Duke University’s Think Again: How to Reason and Argue.
- An Introduction to the Modern Middle East (DSST): Tel Aviv University’s The Emergence of the Modern Middle East is a great resource for DSST’s introductory exam on the same subject. By exploring the emergence of the modern Middle East from the fall of the Ottoman Empire to contemporary revolutions, students of this MOOC will be well prepared to take on the DSST examination.
- General Anthropology (DSST): This exam tests theoretical perspectives and applications of anthropology, much of which is covered in Wellesley College’s Introduction to Human Evolution. The course shares an anthropological overview of human evolutionary history, including human fossils, archaeology and genetic records.
- Introductory Psychology (CLEP): CLEP’s Introductory Psychology exam tests students on the basic facts, concepts and principles of psychology. Udacity’s Introduction to Psychology is a strong resource for learning the fundamentals of this field and gaining a better understanding of human thought and behavior. Students may also enjoy the University of Toronto’s Introduction to Psychology, which highlights the most important and interesting experiments in the field of psychology.
- Principles of Macroeconomics (CLEP): Students looking to score well on CLEP’s Principles of Macroeconomics exam have two MOOCs to choose from to help them gain mastery of this subject. The University of Melbourne’s Principles of Macroeconomics examines the major theories of macroeconomics in national economies, as well as the international economy, while the University of California Irvine’s The Power of Macroeconomics: Economic Principles in the Real World explores the major principles of macroeconomics as they apply to real life.
- Principles of Microeconomics (CLEP): Students have two great choices to help them prepare for CLEP’s microeconomics exam, with two MOOCs available from leading universities. The University of Illinois offers Microeconomics Principles, a course that takes economics beyond the study of money, and the University of California Irvine offers The Power of Microeconomics: Economics Principles in the Real World, a course in applying microeconomics principles to real life.
- Substance Abuse (DSST): Substance Abuse will test your knowledge of substance abuse, addiction, screening, diagnosis and more. Ohio State University’s Generation Rx: The Science Behind Prescription Drug Abuse explains many of these concepts and investigates the rise of prescription drug abuse.
Science and Mathematics Credit by Exam MOOCs
- Astronomy (DSST): Study the solar system, galaxy and life in the universe for DSST’s astronomy exam. With the University of Rochester’s Confronting the Big Questions: Highlights of Modern Astronomy, you can cover these topics and more with an overview of the universe and its biggest unresolved questions.
- Biology (CLEP): CLEP’s introductory biology exam requires knowledge in molecular and cellular biology. organismal biology and population biology. UC Irvine’s Preparation for Introductory Biology: DNA to Organisms provides students with a strong foundation in the molecular and cellular biology; offerings including MIT’s Introduction to Biology – The Secret of Life, University of Melbourne’s Animal Behaviour and Duke University’s Introductory Human Physiology offer supplementary learning materials for the CLEP biology exam.
- Calculus (CLEP): Demonstrate an understanding of limits, differential calculus and integral calculus, and you’ll pass CLEP’s calculus exam. Through The Ohio State University’s Calculus One, students can learn introductory differential and integral calculus; Calculus Two teaches sequences and series. An alternative is the University of Pennsylvania’s Calculus: Single Variable, which covers differential and integral calculus. For students who need help reaching the level of understanding required for calculus MOOCs, The University of California Irvine offers Pre-Calculus, designed to prepare students for single variable calculus by teaching algebra and trigonometry concepts.
- Chemistry (CLEP): CLEP’s exam requires a general understanding of chemistry, which MIT covers in Introduction to Solid State Chemistry. For a more advanced understanding, try Rice University’s Chemistry: Concept Development and Application Part I and Part II.
- College Algebra (CLEP), and Fundamentals of College Algebra (DSST): CLEP’s and DSST’s tests require an understanding of concepts in college algebra and a demonstration of basic algebraic skills. Develop your understanding of college algebra with Udacity’s College Algebra course, which helps students gain an in-depth understanding of algebraic principles. If College Algebra proves to be too difficult, try Udacity’s Introductory Algebra Review first.
- Environment and Humanity: The Race to Save the Planet (DSST): This exam asks students to demonstrate an understanding of the environmental factors that impact the future of the human race. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of knowledge available in this subject. The University of Florida’s Global Sustainable Energy: Past, Present, and Future MOOC discusses work and energy in modern society, while Harvard University’s Human Health and Global Environmental Change examines the causes and health consequences of environmental changes. Additional options include the University of Melbourne’s Climate Change, Penn State’s Energy, the Environment, and Our Future and the University of Illinois’ Introduction to Sustainability.
- Here’s to Your Health (DSST): The Here’s to Your Health exam requires a broad understanding of human health, both physical and mental. Master this test with The University of Toronto’s Introduction to Psychology, which covers mental health and human behavior, and Duke University’s Introductory Human Physiology, which teaches the basics of integrated body function.
- Introduction to Computing (DSST): Introduction to Computing is a demanding exam from DSST, requiring knowledge in hardware, software, development, data management and even artificial intelligence. But there are MOOCs to cover it all, starting with MIT’s Introduction to Computer Science, which offers a broad, brief introduction to many topics in computing. A deeper understanding may be gained through Udacity’s Intro to Computer Science programming course, Princeton University’s Computer Architecture and the University of Washington’s Programming Languages.
- Information Systems and Computer Applications (CLEP): Focusing on business information systems, CLEP’s exam tests knowledge, terminology and basic concepts in information systems. Harvard University’s Introduction to Computer Science offers ample preparation, teaching algorithmic thinking, resource management, security, software engineering and more.
- Precalculus (CLEP): The CLEP precalculus exam assesses your mastery of the skills and concepts you’ll need to be successful in a calculus course. Take the University of California Irvine’s Pre-Calculus MOOC to prepare for and ace this CLEP exam.
- Principles of Physical Science (DSST): Students hoping to ace this physics and chemistry exam are in luck: seemingly endless relevant MOOCs are available. Udacity’s Intro to Physics Fundamentals Course presents a good opportunity for laying a foundation, while Georgia Tech’s Introductory Physics I with Laboratory explores motion in the real world using fundamental physics principles. Further understanding of physics concepts and applications can be gained through MIT’s Dynamics and Electricity and Magnetism, as well as Stanford University’s Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity.
- Principles of Statistics (DSST): This exam will test your knowledge of the principles and concepts of statistics. Be prepared with a comprehensive introduction through Princeton University’s Statistics One course or Udacity’s Introduction to Statistics. Berkeley’s statistics series offers a more advanced understanding, with courses on inference, descriptive statistics and probability.
Can you really ace a CLEP or DSST exam without ever setting foot in a college classroom? With the right tools, preparation and dedication, it’s possible. Take MOOCs seriously and learn to channel them into a for-credit effort, and you can turn them a valuable resource to help make an online college education affordable.